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Monday, 15 October 2012

The Joy of Mud

Yes, filth is fun! If only we’d allow ourselves the indulgence of wallowing in it, literally and metaphorically. I spent much of yesterday afternoon observing my fellow ramblanistas negotiating the sticky paths of east Somerset: a sort of ramblanista anthropology, if you like. It struck me as a little odd – perverse even – that so many of my comrades went to such great lengths to circumnavigate the girt humungous pools of thick, soggy sludge. They were all, to a man and woman, perfectly attired and shod in boots that cost the equivalent of several bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin, so why the avoidant-gymnastics that might have resulted in a twisted ankle? Or even a comedic arse-over-tit tumble into the dirty brown goo?

Head down, plough on through whatever obstacles nature puts in your path; that’s the ramblanista way.

So you think you know your mud? Here's sodden soil from the three counties of Wessex: Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire, can you guess which mud is from which county? Answers below.

Needles to say your correspondent sought to lead by example, embracing the saturated earth and splish-sploshing through the mires with a laugh and a care-free smile. Not my fault if I was taken for a madwoman! Trouble is, I bought my boots for the dry Spanish Meseta, not the sopping-wet Wessex countryside and, not for the first time, I paid a price for my wilfulness. But who gives a toss? I wore my dirt-splattered leggings like a badge of pride; by the end of a quite wonderful afternoon I was caked in layers of thick Somerset dirt, from head to toe.

Me and mud. We do like to get up-front-and-personal. But then we’ve got form; we go back a long way. It’s a little known fact that in my previous life I was briefly employed as a soil engineer and subsequently spent a fruitless year studying the esoteric delights of geotechnical (i.e. soil) engineering at the august institution that now trades under the rather splendid moniker of Bolton University – how I got from there to Latin American politics is anyone’s guess. And all this despite the fact that at the late and much-lamented Dorset Institute of Higher education I bunked all my soil lectures – well they were first thing Monday morning, I was a geography student, what else did they expect?

Ah well. Aren’t our truest loves the ones we used to hate. The story of my lust for mud is a long and complex narrative which might well be Jungian in its origins. But you know what? Sometimes you’ve got to give the theory a good hard kick in the cojones and send it home with its tail between its legs.

On with action! ¡No pasarán! 

Dorset mud: sophisticated, erudite and perfectly formed; the honest-to-goodness yeoman of Wessex soils. The mud-connoiseur's - and thus the ramblanista's - mud of choice.

Somerset clay is thick and red, very much like the cider. A rustic, buccolic mud; a peasant amongst soils, but none the worse for that!Okay, it's a bit of a give-away! Pilton Festival - that's Glastonbury to you - of course. But did you know  that the festival's location was carefully chose by Glastonbury-based (where else?) soil feng-shui expert, Strobe Chernozem? 

Wiltshire mud. Cloying and insecure, it sticks to your boots and holds on for dear life. A little bit aristocratic and a little bit twee; if Laura Ashley sold soil they'd source it from Wiltshire. 

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