WHERE do I start with something like this? This isn’t really the beginning because it feels more like the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end. Did Churchill say that? Probably. Something like that, anyway . . .
It feels like I’ve been waiting for ever on an empty platform for a train that’s running late. Then suddenly it’s shrieking through the station and I have to jump aboard, because if I don’t I’ll be standing there beneath the frozen hands of a British Rail clock for the rest of my life. And there’ll be nothing to read except yesterday’s papers and nothing to eat except those thin bars of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate from a machine that accepts only old money.
That’s what it feels like. Standing in an empty railway station. Notice I didn’t say train station. Thank you. It’s like standing in an empty railway station, smelling the smoke, the grime, and the grease on the sleepers, and waiting for the last train to God knows where. It’s a strange and disquieting feeling.
Why am I standing here?
A short while ago my wife and I made a decision – an almost spur-of-the-moment decision – to drive to Spain to begin a new life. It was an idea based on a dream, and for a while it didn’t seem real and it felt sort of unattainable – until the time came to pack possessions into boxes and remove pictures from the walls of our North Yorkshire house. Suddenly it seems very real. I can see the light on the front of the diesel as it roars into the station. Jesus, it’s moving fast.
My wife says this is our last big adventure, but that sounds a bit too fatalistic and final. I’ll settle for big adventure. And I keep telling myself that there comes a time in everyone’s life when they arrive at a crossroads and have to choose a new course to follow. But that’s not strictly true because most people are more than happy to continue along the same road and have no desire to branch off in a peculiar direction. They are content. And why shouldn’t they be?
This is me airing my doubts, just letting you know that I am not without my niggling insecurities. It’s a bit late now because we signed a contract today, selling our house to a nice couple from the other side of Richmond. And I bought a Big Road Atlas Europe 2015 from Halfords, in Darlington, and a tin of etch primer to disguise some of the rustier regions of the campervan, so it looks like a “restoration project with work in progress” rather than just a rusty campervan. These things are important.
And I’m typing this in a kitchen that echoes every key-stroke because the pictures have been removed from the walls and the shelves are empty. Our lives have been packed into cardboard boxes, ready to be stacked in a removals wagon and shipped to a storage facility in Chesterfield. It’s a strange and disconnected world. And I still have my doubts – but I suppose it would be odd if I didn’t.
Jesus Christ, that train’s approaching fast.