I woke in mosquitoville wishing I’d made more of an effort to lock the blood sucking little buggers out of my net, rather than in. Lumps on my newly acquired “cankles” that are calling for deep vein thrombosis socks and throbbing like the house music I’m heading for. An early rise today on a day when I needed everything but. Tired from the previous day’s monumental progress and aching like never before. I pack up my home with perfect timing as the rain starts just as I’m compressing the last few items into my backpack. I’ve saved a lot of time by not having to spend the first quarter of the day drying out my tent, once again, on a day when I needed everything but. I’m cold, it’s cold! So cold it takes 20 mins to boil the water for my morning displeasure of Maxwell House. I push off into centre ville in search of blowing the previous day’s leftover budget on a decent cooked breakfast to warm up. I need it but that’s no different from any of the other mornings that I’ve settled for crisps and nuts instead.
France has got it spot on! Sunday’s a day of rest in the proper sense. Not a single sole in sight and nothing open. No cafes, no coffee houses. I agree with this methodology but, now, in my condition, it’s somewhat of an unwelcome revelation. I push along without my usual attention to the architecture and find nothing of course, each drop of rain penetrating my clothing and dampening my spirit but I’m in the decent sized town of Chateau de L’Olonne which means there must be a McDonald’s somewhere. By no means a preference.
I’m gonna go back to Barking now. In the five years I’ve been living on a houseboat there, one thing has never failed to catch my attention: Dave – from 7pm till midnight (much longer I’d have thought if the doors stayed open) I’ve seen an elderly, slender Englishman sat in the same seat of the local maccy d’s, wearing the same hat without fail, very slowly supping a coffee and reading books with his glasses teetering on the end of his nose, without fail, every single night I’ve passed it on my way home from the station. The only other time I’ve spotted Dave was him checking the return change draws of the telephone boxes in the tube station. I don’t really know why but I’ve been magnetised to this gentleman (and I say gentleman because there’s something about him that tells me just that – that he’s a gentle man).
My curiosity has led me, over the years, to pop in, order a large latte (that I’ve not been comfortable with the expenditure for my own satisfaction throughout the day), deliver it to his table with nothing more than a sentence such as “enjoy fella” or “this ones on me”. I must have bought him about 20 to date and, although he never opens the opportunity to tell me his story that I so want to hear, his simple nod of gratification always suffices the offer. It’s a shame that it was only couple of weeks before I left to go on this journey that I learnt his name.
Dave clearly isn’t homeless! I’m certain he’s got a room with a shower if nothing else but it’s apparent that he rarely makes use of the latter. But that doesn’t make his story any less of a temptation. My biggest question has always been “so Dave, what brings you to be here every night?”, a question with an answer I’ve sadly never learnt. And that’s it for my “Dave” story and I’m disappointed that I’ve nothing more to add.
So, here I am, sat in a McDonald’s slowly supping on a latte, wearing the same hat without fail, smelling like a hobo, keeping warm and out of the rain and slowly reading a few chapters of “the gun seller”…. A revelation it is not but I can’t help but feel a sense of companionship with this gentle man now, regardless of the distance between us, and would like nothing more than to be sharing this coffee with him.
Today is a write off! I can’t afford to get soaking wet, I can’t afford the risk of my flat left sole giving way on the road markings, bitumen joins and manhole covers and I certainly can’t afford another latte.
The rain lets up at 4pm (apparently) which will give me enough time to find a decent hedge and dive under the shelter of my tent before the heavens open again at midnight but tomorrow is going to mirror today, making yesterday’s progress null, void and simply not enough.
You might call it “a rollercoster ride” but once you slowly clickety clacked your way to the top, the down is supposed to be the enjoyable part. Myself… I’ll be using this phrase a lot less often from this day forward.