When the lights flash it’s cocoa time for me

CAR TROUBLE: It's way too cold to be sitting in a car park in a forest

CAR TROUBLE: It's way too cold to be sitting in a car park in a forest

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I first became aware of the activity known as dogging in 2006 when I made love to a complete stranger in a car park in Rawtenstall.

He was a lovely fella, though he had a very heavy beardline.

I’m jesting. Let me start again.

The first I became aware of dogging (a practise that, whether you’re appalled by it or not, is the talk of many work canteens after last week’s rather startling Channel 4 documentary) was when I trained for a long-distance walk a couple of years ago.

For a few months, a friend and I would pace the streets of the Fylde, often covering 30 to 40 miles and walking into the early hours. We would regularly spot suspicious activity at several car parks along the coast road lots of cars with headlights flashing, several men suddenly appearing behind a privet hedge.

It actually helped our training – you tend to walk a bit faster when you see stuff like that.

As we were walking along the pavement one night, about 2am, a police car pulled up alongside us.

‘What you up to lads?’ asked the officer.

We were wearing luminous tops, shorts, bright white trainers and rucksacks, and holding water bottles. We were either training for an event or the campest doggers of all time.

‘Doing a big walk in a couple of weeks time – 85 miles in 24 hours in the Isle of Man – so preparing for that,” I answered.

He eyed me suspiciously, as if wondering whether my glow-in-the-dark top and Nike Air Walk 2050 trainers were an elaborate ruse to throw him off the trail, before slowly driving off.

The whole experience was an eye-opener. I had heard about this type of stuff but had no idea it might be going on so close to home.

This thought came back to me as I watched Channel 4’s documentary, which was about dogging and the people who partake in it.

It really was bizarre (lots of people meeting in woodland car parks; one happily married bloke watching his wife romp with several strangers a night) and I found myself, like most right-minded folk I imagine, slightly bewildered.

But, on reflection, is dogging really much worse than what goes on in society anyway? A report the other week claimed that by the time we are 30 years old, 72 per cent of us will have had a one-night stand.

(I, by the way, and in case my mother is reading, am one of the 28 per cent who haven’t; it’s not for the want of trying, it’s just that over the years I’ve found my face to be an excellent contraceptive). Is going home with someone you’ve met in a bar an hour or so earlier much worse than turning up at an arranged spot and having your wicked way?

Probably not, though I suppose with one-nighters at least you’ve had a brief chat with the other person and asked what their favourite film is, whereas doggers only have time to say ‘nice car, is it the new Toyota Yaris?’ before getting down to business.

My attitude to dogging is they’re consenting adults, they’re not doing any harm, so as long as they are well out of the way from public view, let them get on with it.

As for me, it’s way too cold to be sitting in a car park in the middle of a forest, so give me a nice cup of cocoa and a good book any day of the week.