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.
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.
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.
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.