As the temperature plummeted, last night was the most uncomfortable yet aboard the Ottermobile. I woke up with icicles hanging from my nose and more than probably elsewhere too. I’m not one to moan about the weather but it was fucking freezing and I realised it could be time for sleeping bag No2 (pictured above).
I paid a lot of money for this and it’s been stowed unslept-in beneath my passenger seat along with my tools, my gun and my hopes and dreams. The other bag, which cost about twenty quid from Argos, has served me well through the summer, but last night I noted that I could see through it; just a tissue-thin sheet of cotton between me and my leaky roof.
So as I woke at 4am to pee (and snap off the icicles) I started pondering the imminent winter months and what it’ll be like living them in my tin can. And shuddered.
Then later in the morning my phone rang; it was a London number and I hoped it’d be work in the offing, but I could hear the background hubbub and quickly clocked that it was a call-centre.
“Good morning am I speaking to Mr Bickerstaffe and how are you today sir?”
“Cold,” I said, bluntly.
“My name’s Cindy (let’s call her that) from Acme Energy (let’s call it that) and I’m calling with an offer to reduce your energy bills.”
“Ah,” I said, “I should tell you that I’m homeless so if it’s offers to reduce my energy bills I shouldn’t waste your time.”
“No problem,” she replied, “Goodbye.”
Now really I should’ve left it at that, but found myself saying “Wait a minute, don’t hang up! What do you mean “no problem”? I consider homelessness to be a massive problem, especially as I’m the one freezing his cock off in a van!”
But she’d gone. Again I should’ve left it there, but it put me in a bad mood as I thought of her in a warm office and going home to a nice fish n chip supper beside the fire. And shuddered.
Tonight I’m heading south to Stoke (if the Ottermobile will make it) where I’ll meet my son, some old mates and watch the game tomorrow. It’ll be my first visit to the Bet365 Stadium for three years and I’m looking forward to it, courtesy of my good pal Rog Malkin who’s helping me out with a couple of freebie tickets. Tomorrow night will be the 150th of my nomadic project and worthy of celebration, or put another way, commiseration.
But it’ll be nice to spend it in a place I love on the day of a Stoke victory, whatever the weather and whether it’s cold or not.
In the coming days I’ll be looking after my friend Gary’s dogs and teaching them new tricks, and I’ll get in the garden doing odd jobs in order to repay his kindness while he and his wife Janet are away. It’s a big house and a considerable plot the likes of which I dream of, and for a week I’ll be laird. I’ll still sleep in the tin can though, so they can rest in the sunshine assured that I won’t be venturing upstairs and rooting through their knicker drawers.
This reminds me of an electrician I used to know who confessed that when alone in a house this was his thing. I’d asked him to have a look at wiring my loft so I could light it and board it out. But when he told me his pernicious tale I decided I’d risk electrocution and do the job myself. And shuddered.
No, I’ll be sleeping on the Ottermobile inside my special expensive bag, thinking of James and other homeless folk I’ve met on my travels, who’re less fortunate even than me. And I’ll be hoping the winter isn’t too inclement or I can find some work to take me off the streets.
Until that day it’s Jobseekers’ Allowance and the kindness of friends and loved-ones and the odd few quid I can make on the side. To that end I’ll wrap this post up with two questions: 1) when will someone make an offer for my long-lost priceless Lowry painting? And 2) is there a market for used sleeping bags on Ebay?