Hitch-hiking Tour de France

I kept notes in a little pad during this spur of the moment trip to France in 1995…

 

This is the edited and typed version created in August 2005, 10 years after the events in these memoirs. Then posted here on my website in August 2011...

I just happened to keep notes during this particular adventure...

The Hitch-hiking Tour de FranceThe trip to France was a spur of the moment thing a couple of weeks after I turned 26. I hadn’t known my friend Richard all that long and it was his idea that we go away. I never had any money in those days but Richard had offered to pay.

It was less than six months after the big upset of finishing with my girlfriend of five and a half years. It was a bitter end to that relationship and I still wasn’t accepting how hard it had hit me. The week in France was great for refreshing my mind and getting a clearer perspective on my problems.

While editing this version I could see just how fond of drink I was in those days. It seemed strange to me while editing it in 2005, as a practical teetotaller. I also smoked roll-ups amongst other things and had less confidence in myself but was much more reckless. A lot can change in 10 years! Even my name had changed, from Victor Waine to Victor Taylor in 1999.

So The Hitch-hiking Tour de France is basically a journal of what happened on my nine day journey - the first couple of days were with Richard but most of the time I was on my own.

It’s just a personal record but I don’t mind if other people read it… At gunpoint if necessary.

Extra Notes, Aug 2011:

- I took some photos using Richard's camera but unfortunately, if he ever got them developed I never got to see them or get copies...

- I'm not a teetotaller and do drink again, and smoke occasionally, but nowhere near as much as I did back then.

- I found some old bits from the trip, such as a French fag packet, so have scanned them and stuck them in the pages at the relevant parts.

The map picked up from somewhere and used the whole trip

DAY 1 – June 30 1995 – Friday

Posted here on: August 5th, 2011

 

We’re on the road! (The M1.) Heading due South. Everything is going smoothly enough so far. We’ve just been picked up by a man who’s going to South London. It’s a lovely hot day and Richard is chain-smoking in the front passenger seat. I want a fag but there are no ashtrays in the back of the car. I’ll improvise by folding some paper into a tray shape… What a brilliant plan when I could have just opened a window.

We’ve got a long way to go, with stupid Country and Western music playing on the stereo.

o-----o0o-----o

We’re on a ring road of the M25 and have been waiting for over half an hour. The heat is merciless as it melts our reddening bodies. Flies and the hope of getting a lift are our only friends. Sweat drips from us and the sun beats down relentlessly as, one by one the vehicles continue to sweep past…

We will surely end our days on this lonely island.

o-----o0o-----o

By some miracle, after an hour or so, a man in a van stops to give us a lift. Suddenly, as we’re about to jump in, a young dread-locked man and, presumably his dread-locked girlfriend appear out of nowhere to cadge a lift from the same man.

The man says OK so Richard jumps into the front seat while the couple and I climb into the back to sit amongst sacks and bags of who-knows-what.

On the way I attempt to make conversation with the couple but they seem to be shy. Ahh, young love. There isn’t much of a view here in the back of the van so I don’t know where we are but, we should be on our way to the M2 where we will have to get another lift to Dover.

o-----o0o-----o

We got another lift and here we are in Dover.

We’re trying to get a lift from any truck driver willing to take us because it’s £25 each on the ferry. We (Richard) might end up paying it if we have to but for now we wait, with our thumbs up. At least it’s cooler now and we’ve got a bottle of Pepsi Max…

---

A copper has moved us up the road a bit to a legal spot for hitching and informed us that truck drivers are only usually allowed to take one passenger. Still, we shall try…

---

Nearly two hours later - we agree to try for a lift separately and to meet each other in France, having only had one offer of a lift from two folk in a transit van.

The people in the van said they would check to see if they have to pay extra with passengers and, if not they would take us both. This they had said to Richard while I was further up the road.

After they pulled off I’d walked over to find out what they had said. Richard had begun to explain when he realized that he could have told them that we (Rich) would have paid the difference if they were required to pay extra – so he ran after them, nearly being killed by a coach but didn’t reach them in time.

Let me be the last one to call him an idiot.

o-----o0o-----o

So here we are, looking over the docks and car parks having bought two ‘5 Day Return’ ferry tickets with a discount of £10.

The time is about 21:45. Everything is beautiful: The clean air; the light gray-blue sky; the cries of seagulls; the little figures walking below wearing green luminous jackets; the ferries drifting away…

Our ferry is due to leave at 22:15. I go to the toilet but as I sit, my peaceful pleasure is interrupted by the announcement for us to leave for the ferry! I have to rush but thankfully we’ve made it on to the small bus that is taking us to the boat.

---

We are now sitting in a quiet part of the ferry – The Pride of Dover – gently swaying with the motion of the craft as Rich quietly sings and plays his guitar.

Outside it is black.

DAY 2 – July 1 1995 – Saturday

Posted here on: August 5th, 2011

 

You could buy 'One Year' Passports in 1995We are sitting on a wall, on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, waiting for a lift at about 1:30, French time. We’re a bit tired. We’ve got an apple each and I’m eating mine in the ‘slice it with a knife’ fashion.

There’s hardly any traffic and we wait for approximately one and a quarter hours, then we accept a lift from an English van driver who is going to Boulogne.

It appears that because of his work, he travels the same route every day. On the way to Boulogne he offers to take us back across the water if we meet him one day… Say, next Saturday, the Eighth of July.

We say, “Yeah man! Wicked!” This will save us from having to go back to England on Wednesday with the ‘5 Day Return’ ferry tickets.

---

The man, Gary, dropped us off and we are continuing through the night, walking as we hitch…

Finally, after 3 km of countryside and not getting a lift we scramble over a small fence, down a grass bank in the dark. The intention is to sleep in a field. There are a lot of thistles. Across the way we can just see what seems to be the dark outline of, maybe a farmhouse.

As it’s too dark to set up the tent, that we haven’t tried out yet, we settle down on the fly-sheet. The thistles aren’t very happy with us and make sure we know. We have a roll-up each and lie back, gazing into the starry heavens.

What utter peace I feel lying here.

There’s a falling star! It burns in a marvellous streak of colour to silently break into nothing. An ambassador for the wars in my mind.

o-----o0o-----o

The Tabac, which lasted until Day 9I awake in the wetness of dew, finding Richard already awake and packing. We share a carrot for breakfast and see that the farmhouse was actually the skeleton of an old barn.

Another kilometre on up the road we stop and wait for a lift at a crossroad junction, hopefully to Paris. Across the road from us are a few shops that aren’t open yet as it’s still quite early.

When the shops open we buy some bread, cheese, milk and loads of ‘tabac’ which all go down a treat.

All in all we wait for two or three hours, trying to look French, until we get a lift to… Paris! The French man who picked us up speaks as much English as we speak French, so here we are – three silent people heading for Gaye Paris!

o-----o0o-----o

We are dropped off 2 km from Paris because the man who gave us the lift is continuing South. Maybe we should have stayed with him?

After fifteen sweltering minutes we get a lift into the city from a black Frenchman named Eric.

We arrive at midday, making it a twenty four hour trip from Nottingham to Paris. We wander around and then sit outside a bar to have two beers each. Afterwards we work out that they had cost £15!!

After that catastrophe we walk to the Gare du Nord train station. Rich has gone walkies trying to find the Information Centre and Bureau de Change. I’m left sitting here on the floor of the huge train station watching various people of various cultures but mainly watching women.

---

Quite a while (fifty minutes) has passed. I have been hassled by a woman begging money for her baby. It seemed like a con to me, but who knows. I said, “Imposseeblé”. Also a young man tried to sell me drugs. At first he thought I was Italian, which I found quite flattering. Perhaps I have caught the sun a bit.

I am enjoying all this immensely.

---

Rich returned and left again. He’d been in a queue waiting for information and then he went to get some French money.

Now we do a spot of busking in the Metro and I discover that not only can I play the wooden whistle/flute that I bought with me but I can also do it in front of strangers. We make about a quid and, knackered, catch a tube train to a bus stop and a bus to a campsite.

---

Without paying the campsite fee we set up tent next to another tent occupied by three young ladies… and promptly fall to sleep in front of our tent for a bit.

o-----o0o-----o

It’s beginning to get dark and a heavy thunderstorm has begun!

We dive into the supposed safety of the tent but soon the tent is soaked and battered by the rain and we have to vacate.

We decide to abandon the tent there because it’s crap.

We end up under the shelter of a veranda next to some lockers.

Here we chat and sign language with an Italian called Davida.

Later, two of his friends have joined us: Mathew (“Maitew”) and a quiet one whose name is unknown to us. They have been to a Rolling Stones concert that can’t be far away because we can hear the music slightly and fireworks as the concert ends.

Richard has decided that what with the rain and things, enough is enough and he will be going back home tomorrow…

He goes for a shower and then I do, after which Rich and Davida take it in turns playing the guitar while we all sing songs. I’m having a fantastic time. We drink a bit of beer. I fall to sleep first.

DAY 3 – July 2 1995 – Sunday

Posted here on: August 5th, 2011

 

In the morning we catch a bus with the Italians back to the Metro station where we part. Rich and I go and draw some of his money from a cash point and then buy some chicken and bread from a market. We eat, after being wished ‘Bon Appetite’ from a passer by and catch the train back into Paris, luckily without having to pay and arrive back at the Gare du Nord at midday.

Rich has bought his ticket back to Calais. We have split our provisions and gone for a short walk. We sit outside a shop where Rich has bought a bottle of coke. We drink the coke and say our farewells.

Rich has gone back to the train station and Blighty while I walk further into Paris. It’s the lone wanderer from here…

o-----o0o-----o

As I walked, another storm gathered and I have taken shelter outside a book shop as it absolutely throws it down. I need a toilet badly. I must defecate but have found no WCs…

The rain eventually stops and I’m moving on with no idea of where I’m going but thinking of trying to get to the South West coast sooner or later.

o-----o0o-----o

I manage to have a ‘merde’ eventually by getting change from a train station shop and using one of those tardis toilets at a cost of 2F. After that I have a leisurely, very long walk through Northern Paris and rest at the Arc de Triomphe.

I walk a bit further and another storm comes so I shelter down in an entrance to the Metro.

While down in the Metro entrance I put some socks on because my feet have become sore. While I’m about to put the second one on, having only undone the lace on the trainer, a middle aged man wearing a tuxedo and bow tie and pissed out of his head sways over to babble something in French about my shoe lace (“cord”?). I tell him I don’t speak French and he slowly, carefully ties the lace for me. He staggers away, turning to bow to me. I bow back and he leaves.

I untie my lace and put my other sock on.

I decide to go back to the campsite which isn’t all that far away from here. This is better than heading for the motorway as it’s about 17:30 and at the campsite I can be sure of shelter, shower and shop. The tent will probably be even more unusable by now.

The rain stops after about an hour and I walk back the way I came.

o-----o0o-----o

Half an hour later I arrive at the bus stop where I can catch a bus to the campsite, just in time to get under it’s shelter before the slight rain turns into another downpour.

Five minutes later the bus is here.

There’s something wrong with the bus doors. One of them keeps closing. The driver investigates as I board the bus. This bus company has a system with fares so that if you have your ticket already you slot it in a machine behind the driver’s cabin. I think he assumes this is what I’ve done because we pull away and I haven’t been asked for the seven or eight Francs!

Yesterday Richard and I had caught the 10F bus which took us all the way to the campsite but it turns out this bus doesn’t. So after getting off I have to walk in a few circles before finding the campsite.

---

The tent is dead.

I go to the campsite shop and buy two big bars of chocolate and a can of strong lager called 8.6 due to it’s alcohol content, which altogether comes to 20F.

Then I go for a wander around the campsite and sit on the steps of a vacant caravan situated at the back of the campsite to eat and drink.

I notice that these caravans have sliding windows that can be opened from the outside…

“I’ll be warm and dry tonight!” I think.

---

Once rested and refreshed I go for another wander and end up visiting the tent of two lads from Denmark who are camped next to the dead tent. They are called Allan (“Ellen”) and Kill and I spend an hour or two with them. We drink beer and listen to such things as Nirvana and The Doors on their little stereo. They are great company. It pisses it down again while I’m in their tent.

o-----o0o-----o

It’s dark and I go back to the caravan at the back of the site. The one I investigate appears to be unused…

Once inside I discover a world of comfort and amenities! I dry my damp towel and clothes on the heaters overnight and sleep in perfect comfort under a quilt, catching up on the sleep lost over the past couple of nights.

DAY 4 – July 3 1995 – Monday

Posted here on: August 5th, 2011

 

If the clock here in the caravan is correct it’s 12:30.

To help me on the journey ahead and, to my eternal shame I’m stealing a miniature torch; the alarm clock; chocolate from the fridge; a knife; a small pan; a sleeping bag; a 1.5L bottle of ‘Limonade’ and a pen.

It’s raining again outside. I’m in one of the two bedrooms with the curtains drawn. I’m having a fag, then I’ll have a shower here in the caravan and then I’ll pack and hit the road, Jack.

o-----o0o-----o

After a very long walk to South West Paris, stopping for a while in some lovely gardens, I catch a metro the last few Kilometres for the A10 out of Paris. On the Metro is a young lady who smiles back at me. When we arrive at the last stop on the line and get off I try to find out the whereabouts of the A10 from her. She doesn’t know but we both try our best to converse with each other and she gives me a cigarette. When we part I walk off in a direction, hoping it’s the right one… It is.

---

There’s nowhere at all at the beginning of the motorway where one can stand and hitch. So I walk uphill along the left side of the motorway, in a little gap between the crash barrier and a very tall concrete wall that seems never-ending for about 2 or 3 km.

---

Eventually, I see a bridge over the motorway where I could escape but I need to cross the motorway to get on to it.

Crossing the motorway takes me about five minutes because of waiting for a gap in the speeding traffic.

When I do run across my body is bowing forward and the weight of my backpack sends me headlong over the crash barrier at the opposite side of the road – I land in a heap in some grass.

A bit of risk to your life (and surviving) is exhilarating.

I cross the bridge but stop halfway to admire the view of Paris from this high vantage point. On the other side I find myself in a village/suburb called Meudon. From here I find a turn off, or turn-in-to, rather to the A10 where I hitch for an hour or two…

---

I’ve had no joy getting a lift. I did get offered a lift to East France but because I’ve planned to go to the West coast I turned it down.

So I go into Meudon to find somewhere I’ll be able to sleep. Eventually I find an area of woodland behind a small industrial site. After a bit though I decide to try hitching again and walk the km or so back to the ‘turn-in-to’ to hitch for another hour.

Still no joy.

In the end I’ve returned to my sleeping spot. I read some of my book, The Undivided Universe by G. Munro and crash-out with unusual insects for company.

DAY 5 – July 4 1995 – Tuesday

Posted here on: August 5th, 2011

 

My new alarm clock wakes me up at 8:00.

After a breakfast of chocolate and limonade in a kiddies' park I go to the ‘turn-in-to’ to hitch again…

o-----o0o-----o

I get three good lifts that take me a long way. Today is hot and dry and I’m half asleep. Some time later I’m dropped off at a toll gate. 20 km or so from a city called Tours. 250 km from Paris.

I wait at the toll gate for at least two and a half hours watching truck after car after truck go past.

At one point I’m cheered up by people on a coach waving at me.

On the back of my cardboard sign reading SUD (South) I’ve written HELLO FELLOW ENGLISHMAN as there are a few English trucks going past and as they do I swiftly turn the sign around for them to see it. The theory is that they might like someone English to talk to but it doesn’t work.

---

A policeman has parked across the way and is coming towards me. He informs me that I’m not allowed to hitch here and wants to see my passport…

He then tells me to hitch just beyond the toll gate in a lay by / car park that is there.

At the car park I meet a woman, standing near her car that’s packed with luggage and things. She explains in broken English that the car in front of hers is her husband’s and has broken down. Her husband has gone for help but when he returns and the car is fixed they will take me into Tours. She has three children with her; a boy and two girls. The boy gives me an apple, a big biscuit and a cup of water.

A pick-up truck arrives to collect the broken down car and the woman goes off in it with her kids while the husband, Philippe and I follow behind in the packed car to a garage near Tours. There I buy myself a family sized packet of crisps.

Main page used in a Tours map bookletSoon Philippe takes me into Tours. As his family are going towards Bordeaux tomorrow, which is where I’m heading, they agree to rendezvous with me tomorrow at 14:00 to give me another lift. The place where they are going is still about 100 km from Bordeaux though, so instead of Bordeaux I might go with them to where they’re going, then try to get directly to the coast as I believe it will not be far…

o-----o0o-----o

I have a bit of a walk in Tours and buy a cake from a beautiful woman in a baker shop. I eat the cake in a churchyard, then go and buy a bottle of ‘Alize’ which is a bit like a drink back home called 20/20: Vodka and Orange, 16%vol.

---

Now, thanks to finding a way that leads from a bridge, I’m sitting on a big island with trees and grass in the middle of a big river (where I intend to sleep) guzzling the Alize and writing my memoirs…

---

But then again, feeling slightly ‘merry’, I hide my backpack in the undergrowth and walk into Tours looking for a nightclub. I ask a few people directions until I arrive at a nightclub (“discotheque”) called Pym’s and pay 20F to get in.

There are a few nice women who are all with men… It’s a very weird nightclub that plays crap music but I’m having a reasonably good time. The only good things about the place are that it’s open on a Tuesday night and it’s open until 4:00.

Eventually I let my hair down and have a real good dance…

I leave at about 2:45 while they are playing a sickly balled by ‘East 17’ (Baby don’t leave me alone like this, don’t say it’s the final kiss…) and head back to the big island where I find my backpack and crash-out near an adventure playground.

DAY 6 – July 5 1995 – Wednesday

Posted here on: August 5th, 2011

 

Since waking I’ve packed and eaten and I’m now smoking my early morning fag. Across the way a lad who showed me where to buy alcohol yesterday is walking past with a girl! We say, “Allo”.

I thought about it last night and now decide for certain that I will not go further South with Philippe and family. I’ll start heading back home as it’s now Wednesday and I have little cash left.

From a market I buy a couple of apples and an orange, then I go and buy some postcards and stamps so as to write to my mum, one of the girls I’m seeing casually back home called Jane and my friend, David.

The first postcard I write is to David while waiting to meet Philippe and family. I’d like to say au revoir to the family and take a photograph of them.

---

I’ve waited at the rendezvous point from 13:30 to 14:30 but they haven’t shown up so I set off. I walk, with hot and sore feet two or three km to the N138 where I buy some bread and chocolate spread from a supermarket. I eventually get a lift from somebody.

My cardboard sign had read LE MANS and the lift I get is from a man who takes me 7 km to a better place to hitch for Le Mans.

I hitch for about an hour.

In the end I’ve decided to try out a campsite that I can see a signpost for.

The campsite is in a village called Lavoir. I walk about the campsite bare footed which is absolute bliss in the cool grass for my hot and sore feet. I sit and eat by a small river, then play the flute for a bit, jamming with the birds.

I refill the limonade bottle with water from one of the campsite taps and go to set up my bed behind a caravan, out of sight.

A man suddenly appears on a pushbike to tell me it’s 17F to stay one night at the site! I can’t afford that and wouldn’t have paid it anyway, so I find some grassland outside the campsite to sleep on.

---

While I lay in the dark reading my book by the light of my miniature torch my attention is grabbed by the dark outline of a hovering bird a few feet above me… Hovering? … As it flies away I realize it had been a bat.

DAY 7 – July 6 1995 – Thursday

Posted here on: August 5th, 2011

 

I sleep soundly. I awake in dew and having slid a couple of feet down the slight slope of the grass bank I’m on.

On the way back to the hitching spot one of the straps on my backpack snaps. I tie a knot in it. After a while of hitching I get a lift from a young man to Le Mans (“Le Mon”). He plays some good Heavy Metal and Jazz on a ghetto blaster on the back seat of his car. I don’t normally like jazz.

My next lift is from a man called Michelle who is listening to a classical music radio station. He drops me off God-knows-where but while there I visit a lovely big house and gardens. The house and gardens turn out to be private property though… I notice a couple of people sitting at an outdoor table and make a swift exit.

I go to a supermarket (Intermache) and buy some more bread, an apple and an orange.

---

In the end I’ve got a lift from a man who (I’m not certain of this) ‘fancies his chances with me’… After several km he apparently sees that nothing is going to happen and stops to let me out. I’m now in the middle of nowhere…

o-----o0o-----o

Packet that contained the four fagsEventually Michelle drives past again… and stops to give me a lift to Chateaux, which is something like 20 or 30 km from Paris.

On the way we stop and go to a bar where he buys us both a beer. With some difficulty, due to our different languages we make communication and he tells me about his cocaine habit and his good friend who died from drug abuse.

At Chateaux we part as friends. He gives me the last four fags in his packet, the lighter and about 15F in change.

o-----o0o-----o

From Chateaux I get a lift from a man in a van who is also a friendly chap. He advises me to not wear sunglasses while hitching as people like to see your eyes before they trust you.

He takes me to the North side of Paris. From there I walk for ages through a district full of black folk, which is slightly unnerving as the night is drawing in and I’m getting a few hard stares being the only white person… I feel a bit like a Milk Drop in a bag of Maltesers.

---

I walk along the A1 looking for somewhere to hitch but I’m just confused by a spaghetti of bridges. In the end I’m trying to hitch on part of the motorway (autoroute) in the darkness…

---

In time I realize it’s hopeless because the traffic is traveling pretty fast and it seems like the drivers can’t see me until the last second.

---

I end up walking about the regional suburb – a bit fagged and a bit shagged – looking for somewhere to sleep.

---

I follow a map that you find on bus stop shelters to a large park but once there I can’t get in, thanks to the place being surrounded by huge walls and tall iron gates.

---

Finally, I make my bed in the back yard of some apartments on a concrete path so that I will not wake up wet.

DAY 8 – July 7 1995 – Friday

Posted here on: August 5th, 2011

 

At 6:00 I am woken up by two middle aged women – all three of us wondering what the bloody hell I’m doing there. I explain that I am English. One of the women asks if it isn’t cold and why don’t I stay at a hotel or something. I show them my few coins as an explanation and they leave me to sleep.

The one who had spoken to me was friendly while the other seemed a bit wary. After a few minutes the friendly one comes back and gives me 20F for which I show my appreciation very sincerely with a bow.

o-----o0o-----o

At 8:00 my alarm clock beeps, waking me up again.

I’m having breakfast and the not so friendly woman appears briefly to tell me I should be going. As I pack, the friendlier woman walks past saying goodbye.

I walk on and, like a professional wino I buy two cans of 8.6 with the 20F I had been given, which cost 17F. I stop and have a fag on a bench before heading off to find the autoroute.

o-----o0o-----o

I pass by a short-haired girl just before the motorway who is hitching to ‘Lille’ and find a spot of my own around a bend, on the edge of the autoroute itself.

After fifteen minutes I go back to where the girl had been hitching to see if she wants to hitch with me… She’s gone.

I stay where she had been and after another fifteen to twenty minutes I get a lift from a man in a van. He takes me several km and leaves me on the autoroute at a turn off. Between the autoroute and the turn off road is a large area of grass with a few small trees and a dirty river.

I walk down and sit under a tree to write some memoirs while guzzling down the two cans of 8.6.

---

When ready I go back to the fork of the turn off and autoroute and hitch, with a tipsy smile. I end up sitting down with my thumb up and my arm leaning on my knee……

---

I’m woken up by some sort of motorway maintenance man some time later who demonstrates with the fist of one hand and the palm of his other hand what might happen between me and a car if I stay where I am. He gives me a lift a bit further up the A1 to his area limit and leaves me there to hitch. Still an illegal place but less dangerous.

Not long after, I get a lift in a police van.

They take me to a service station where loads of freight trucks are parked out back. I go to every truck with a driver in it and ask for a lift to Calais but they all turn me down.

After refilling the water bottle I wait and ask each new truck driver that arrives.

---

Finally, an English truck driver tells me he’s going in the opposite direction but his mate will definitely take me if I mention names. His mate is going back to England but will not be stopping at this station (which he normally does) for another two hours yet. I decide to do a spot of sunbathing as the weather’s still hot and tremendous.

---

In the end his mate never shows. I really want to get to Calais by 7:00 tomorrow morning so I can meet Gary (who gave Rich and me a lift when we entered France) on his way to Dover. If I don’t, I’ll have to find some other means of crossing the channel or wait until Monday for him.

After asking more truck drivers and car drivers, I’ve ended up sitting and hitching just beyond the exit road, having been at the station for three or four hours.

Hitching sign for Calais

o-----o0o-----o

After a boring wait, a truck slows down and stops! I’m granted a lift from an English truck driver who says that he felt pity for me because I looked really pissed off. He’s going to… Newcastle! The man being English means normal communication. His name is Bob.

Bob doesn’t chatter constantly which gives me chance to just sit in this big comfy seat, relaxing and floating high above the ground as we speed across the land that grows darker and darker outside the large windows of the cabin.

---

Because truck drivers are meant to take breaks every so often we stop off at another station before continuing on our way toward the English Channel. At some point Bob tunes in to Radio 4 and we hear an interview, a play and a comedy show.

DAY 9 – July 8 1995 – Saturday

Posted here on: August 5th, 2011

 

Nearly 300 km from the service station where I was picked up we arrive at Calais just in time to board the 00:50 ferry before it departs.

Onboard – The Pride of Calais – Bob heads off somewhere suggesting I meet him at the truck when in Dover. I spend my last few Francs on a Snickers chocolate bar and go to the bar to smoke my last roll-up.

While in the bar I listen to a party of people with posh English accents being boisterous and happy and see three glam rock weirdoes walk in; a lanky bloke and two becoming ladies.

Bob turns up at the bar and is sitting at the far side with his back to me, having not seen me. A bit later I go over and talk with him about women, work and us both being knackered.

o-----o0o-----o

Once in Dover, Bob needs to take an eight hour break to sleep. He gives me the names of two companies who have trucks that go to Nottingham. He says he’ll give me a lift to Northampton in the morning if I don’t get another lift. He shows me the truckers’ rest room and leaves me there having given me about £2 and a quarter ounce of ‘Old Holborn’ tobacco.

The rest room has a few rows of seats facing a television on a wall bracket, a café area and toilets/washrooms.

I spend the money on some cereals and a drink of hot chocolate, eat and drink, then put two chairs together to relax and watch Sky Movies – the end of a war film and Peter Sellers in a pirate comedy – until I doze off…

o-----o0o-----o

I wake and it’s 8:30-ish. I go to the toilet and, hello, Bob is here having a shave. His employer has been in touch and he has to wait in Dover until Monday.

Outside, we say ‘Tarah’ and I tell him to have a good life, and then I make my way to the hitching spot.

… I’ve suddenly realised; I’m back in Blighty! So there’s no need to rush. I go for a spot of sunbathing by the sea and a glorious paddle.

An hour or so later I’ve come back to the hitching spot and hitched for, at most, four minutes and got a lift in a truck cabin on it’s own (without it’s trailer, not without it’s driver) that’s taking me to the M2. It’s quite noisy in this cabin but the driver talks with me about travelling and women.

---

At the M2 I get a lift after fifteen minutes from a man who’s a philosophy teacher. We talk about hitch hiking and the philosophy of maths. He leaves me at a service station where I wait another fifteen minutes and get a lift from a hippy-ish couple and their dog in a small van. We talk about friends and places. They leave me in a pretty crap spot for hitching but close to the M25.

---

After trying for about half an hour I pick up my backpack and wander down slopes, over bridges and around roundabouts. I get a water refill from a petrol station and after a while a lift for a mile or two to a toll gate. After a bit another chap appears and begins to hitch just up the way from me. Then another guy turns up to hitch…

o-----o0o-----o

Hitching sign for the M1

Two and a half long hours later a young white man and his black girlfriend stop to give all three of us a lift.

They turn out to be going to Sheffield, meaning this lift will get me back to Nottingham. They enjoy going to raves and the bloke is quite arrogant. I thought I’d been on quite a journey this past week but now feel humbled as I hear that one of the other passengers is returning from Italy, while the other one has just got back from Egypt.

A few joints go around and I become quietly stoned…

---

One at a time the other two passengers are dropped off somewhere or the other and I’m the last one left with the driver and his girlfriend. He asks why sunsets are always different colours to sunrises… After a couple of miles I decide that it must be something to do with the temperature of the particles in the atmosphere and say so. He seems delighted and says that this is the best answer he has heard from anybody.

---

By the time I’m dropped off at junction 26 of the M1 I’m particularly smashed. I walk toward Nottingham city, hitching as I go. After a mile or two a man pulls up and takes me to within the vicinity of the Queens Medical Hospital.

From there I walk and pass through the city centre towards Sneinton and home. I notice quite an aggressive atmosphere in the city with all the Saturday night ‘pubbers and clubbers’ about… A thing I must have become accustomed to while living in Nottingham.

---

It’s 23:00 and I arrive home at Burrows Court.

It feels great to be back as I take in the view from my 16th floor window.

I undress… Lay down… Fall straight to sleep.

o----------o0o----------o