Beginning at the end . . .

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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.

IMG_0003 (2)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.

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17 thoughts on “Beginning at the end . . .

  1. Only one tin of etch primer? I was listening to Simon Armitage on Radio 4 recently. He was walking in the south west and doing poetry recitals each night to earn a living along the way (I suppose it wasn’t essential if he didn’t make anything on a particular night).

    But if the petrol money runs low, you could always stop in Bilbao and hold an impromptu storyteller’s night.

    Looking at the second photo you seem to possess a lot of fragile things. Bone china?

    Chris

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    1. Hi Chris. We have loads of fragile things and I’m one of them at the moment. You don’t realise how much clutter you possess until you try to cram it into boxes. And I’m on my third tin of etch primer, but still on the first tin of plastic padding.
      Cheers, Alen

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      1. Whenever I walk past a canal boat I think how much stuff i’d have to get rid of if I lived on a boat. I’d need a supply vessel behind me.

        And wouldn’t it be so much better if manufacturers made etch primer in vibrant colours?

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        1. If they did etch primer in red then my van would look like it had measles. At the moment it looks slightly bruised. Yellow would be nice, and far more relaxing.

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  2. Mien Gott ! As my mother-in-law would say. I am just back from Rio. The real Rio not as I told the Ubr cab Rio the night club in South Shields.( I thought the ferry crossing was taking somewhat of a time) Anyhow his meter seized up in the sea air en route to Brazil serves the bugger right ! I gave him a couple bob and he cleared off. Finding a need to get back I went to the airport and was just about to by a ticket when the steps to the plane were moved away and it fell on it’s side.(Should have known it was old-it had an outside bog !) I had to cycle back. Spain Eh! what news what news !!! I wish you and Lady wife every success in your venture.(seriously) First thoughts on the news was what the Chuckle Brothers do for an audience ? The staff have all sobered up, the Butler informed me that the emergency services searched for my body for almost 7 minutes around the pier before pronouncing me dead. (The council have put a Blue plack on the wall ‘Here Lived etc 1842-2015 A Legend in his own mind’ )I must give that some thought. Re: Gunnery Manual…I’ll get that sorted however I came across a US army manual on route march rules: Clean Feet. Clean Socks to be worn. To maintain ciculation..periodically stamp the feet on the floor of the Jeep. Good Luck and may your god go with you. pip pip !

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    1. Peter, where have you been these past months? I was contemplating sending out a search party. I had a good chuckle at the Chuckle Brothers line. Took my granddaughter to see them in panto at Darlington Civic last year and they were a really good turn. Made me laugh anyway.
      Brazil to Tynemouth is a long way to cycle. I don’t envy you that journey.
      All the best, Alen

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  3. Oh, the horror of the boxes. That’s why most of us don’t change direction – we may try to turn left, but the Stuff has so much momentum it keeps on going in a straight line. Probably straight down … So well done you.

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    1. It’s strange to see your life packed away into cardboard boxes. You begin to think things like: do they belong to me or do I belong to them?
      Cheers, Alen

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  4. Yes I too was looking at all those fragile boxes & am glad I’m not packing again! Not yet anyway! I’ve got loads of things to do here this summer. When we moved back here to NI ten years ago I was minded of all the places we have lived on these islands & according to that ad on the TV we’re only average having lived in 8 different flats/houses!
    Anyway I hope the two of you have a safe & peaceful journey. I look forward to all your new tales.

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    1. Ash, you must be made of stern stuff to have moved house so many times. This is only our third time – first for 19 years – and it is really stressing me out. It’s not the fact we’re moving abroad that’s the problem, it’s the drawn-out and seemingly endless process. But it’s nearly at an end!
      Cheers, Alen

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  5. Of course there is a train involved in your travel plans even if you plan to travel by car, Alen. I send you and your wife many good wishes on the first out of an entire series of adventures 🙂
    All the best,
    Hanna

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    1. Thank you for that Hanna. Trains are such romantic things – even old diesel engines. And I am happy to report that we will be crossing the Channel via the tunnel, so that will be a really adventurous train journey.
      Cheers now, Alen

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    1. Ah, fibreglass and plastic padding. I’ve done some of that lately too. The smell of it takes you right back to the 1970s, when cars rusted at the drop of a hat.
      Cheers, Alen

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      1. 70s cars take some beating for instantly rusting. I remember one of the first Datsuns we ever saw (a Cherry I think) – it was one year old and parked outside our house… and had lots of rust already!

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