I have spent some time today listening to Radio 4 Extra Factual. One of the programmes that has held some attention was Tony Hawks and his tale of travelling around Ireland with a fridge. Naturally this particular adventure is not one I, or indeed any sensible person would normally wish to undertake, but for a drunken bet and the possibility of winning £100 Mr Hawks set off! Clearly he had fun and the Irish took him, as they would any other such eejit, to their hearts. Sad to say no trip I have ever taken has been so beneficial. The trip in itself is not one I identify with but the idea of hitchhiking, or some similar adventure is one we all have indulged in or wished we had attempted, when young.
Around the time I started secondary school I took to jumping on the green SMT buses, the ones that went out of town to far distant lands, and had a day trip to exotic places like North Berwick or Burntisland, even reaching Leven on one occasion. My folks did not object, although I never told them about the problems or acts of stupidity in which I indulged when out. This reasonable activity stopped when I took to following the Heart of Midlothian around Scotland. The hour and a half on the bus journeying in the days before motorways enabled me to see something of the country as we headed to a rain soaked defeat in Dundee, Motherwell or Paisley. Being out of town was sometimes, well often at that time, more enjoyable than sitting with the sleet in the face singing 'We shall overcome,' which we did, thirty years later.
On a few occasions I hitchhiked up the A1 in an attempt to reach Edinburgh on the cheap. So the story told by Mr Hawks of standing in the rain as cars race past, and I without a fridge remember, rang a bell. The drizzle on the face, the strange whining sound of the tyres, the silence between the bursts of traffic all added to the atmosphere, an atmosphere that got a bit wearing after a while. If only I copied the chap at the beginning of the M1 near London's 'Staples Corner.' he stood there with a large notice reading, 'Glasgow - or Else!' When I think about it the strange attire of the times, floppy hippy hat, long greasy hair, unwashed bar the rain, ill fitting trendy charity shop overcoat, it was little surprise no decent sort wished to stop. There were however those who did. One man, well travelled in this world, took me all the way near Baldock, wherever that is, and from there I made my way back towards the north. As rain descended a traveller on his way to line his pockets selling things nobody really needs gave a lift to myself and one other. We travelled up the A1(M) at an enormous speed in heavy driving rain until a gentleman from the law held us up and demanded to know why he had picked us up on a 'Throughway.' Satisfied, the custodian allowed Shumacher to continue his attempt to kill us all. My companion and I proffered our thanks, took a note of his number (blue Vauxhall Viva EFD 456) and celebrated living.
Dressing in such a
mess manner as 20 years are want to do did not always provide the best of taxi provision. Apart from the non stopping decent sorts, the lorries with uncaring drivers who only stopped for pretty girls and the rain which appeared only to fall on the spots I chose to frequent, weirdo's were an occupational hazard. The young man, a trendy who refused to fit into this world's ways, and now probably has become a millionaire by ripping off his workers after realising the middle class hippy dream did not pay, did at least take me almost all the way into Edinburgh, via the old Roman road over the Cheviots. Not a road I recommend in a Mini Minor. Dreamer he may have been, a dreamer who allowed me to pay for his breakfast, but he was not the worst. While I stood at the side of the road, brushing the water from my glasses, my head was filled with daydreams of buxom young women desperate for a prat healthy, almost, young man in the manner off those grubby films shown at the cheap cinemas. The nearest I got was a builder, a self made man, with a Geordie accent, south of Newcastle late at night. His gleaming new Rover, a good car at that time, reflected his success in life. His suggestion, worth £5, indicated all was not as it seemed! He kept his fiver and I made my excuses and left, not easy at 50 miles an hour I can tell you.
Years later, cycling from Edinburgh to London on the bike worth £18 I again hoped for high adventure and found lots of rain and wind against me and fifty miles of slog a day. Stopping unhappily in YMCA buildings until I changed to happier pubs or B&B's did not bring much excitement but did allow me to see life in odd places. The face presented by any town does not reflect what goes on round the back. Not only do most High Streets look the same, all the plastic shopsfronts deflect from the old buildings in which they are housed, but I suspect today the places I passed through have more charity shops among our wealth and large out of town shopping centres also. No ageing gayboys, weirdos or well travelled folks on that trip, just sensible people who thought I was weird for cycling all that way but remained friendly just the same. Mild beer became popular with me then also. I even had one of my panniers returned by the constabulary after it fell off unnoticed, and a small bottle of the 'water of life,' winged its way in return.
What an adventure for him, finding my dirty laundry!