The morning after the wheel-bearing fiasco I woke up early and waited for the grease monkey. His name was Alan, a thick-set character who, like all mechanics, wasn’t inclined to start with good news. “Problem is getting the bearings for this model,” he said, gloomily. But after a nifty phone call he said he could get them by 2.30 and have me back on the road “while 5.” This was good news, though I knew it would cost me and I’d have to go to the Bank of Podge. Anyway I hastily planned a day in Bridlington to kill time and write.
After a hearty breakfast in a town centre cafe I enjoyed a five-mile walk down the prom tiddley-om-pom-pom then felt I deserved a pint. Many years ago Jayne switched on the Christmas lights here and I remembered it well. I chose the Harbour Tavern where I was delighted to get a pint of bitter for £1.90. 38 bob! You could’ve knocked me down with a feather. Cheap round here, I thought.
The bar was quiet at first; just an old couple sipping drinks in complete and bored silence, a retired gent with a good head of hair moaning to his friend about a non-regular who scooped the jackpot on the machine. “Twice!” he added, more than once. And a jovial barmaid grumbling to a vaping barfly about her dog; “He’s a little shit,” she said. And finally the most amazingly hilarious mullet I’ve ever seen. Oh how I laughed to myself… until I realised I’ve got one!
As the bar filled up I thought I’d chance my arm with one of the locals over a cigarette outside – a retired fisherman called Tom, a wiry old gent with forearms like Popeye, who told me his tale that ended in tragedy. He’d worked at sea, fishing for cod, haddock, lobster and crab, all his life and his sons followed. Up at 2 and braving the tides for twelve hours was tough work with never any guarantee of a good catch. One night a storm brewed and the twenty-foot waves engulfed his coble, causing one of his sons to slip. Desperately, Tom grabbed his hand but couldn’t hang on, so he watched helplessly as his son slid away and got taken by Neptune. Bereft, Tom thought he could carry on till retirement, but after a few more trips he realised he’d have to call it a day, too powerful was the trauma. His remaining sons still fish and every time they go out, Tom can’t sleep, till he knows they’re safely ashore.
I wondered how many matelots have similar tales of woe, and frankly I marvelled at how they do it. I pictured myself on a boat, slipping and sliding on deck in all weathers, and shuddered, knowing I’m not man enough for it. Like coal mining it’s one of those jobs people do, as we consumers take their rewards for granted. I felt ashamed at how many times my computer has crashed and I term it a peril of the job of writing. As my dad might’ve said, we don’t know we’re born.
To clear my head of sadness I took another brisk walk until Alan called to say the bearings were replaced. As I headed for the garage, impressed with their turbo performance, I thought all was not so bad. I was expecting (stupidly) a bill of about thirty quid, then nearly dropped dead to be told it was over three times that! I think I said the word bollocks out loud, and added it wasn’t so cheap around these parts after all.
One of those things I guess. At least I had my home back, and my life. But I still couldn’t help feeling down as I pulled up next to Flamborough Lighthouse. Yes this time there was a trigger as my head filled with orange and I broke down and wept.
These are the times you feel the loneliest, and that the project is utterly pointless or even impossible to complete. It wasn’t so much the Ottermobile as me who’d lost his bearings. But what can you do but carry on? What can possibly go wrong now? At least I did find some solace in a kind new friend and fellow-vanner called Trevor from Worksop (more on this next time) but you can’t vent your anger on a new friend, can you? So I just had to get my head down and forget about the whole thing, cry myself to sleep.
Trouble was, the bloody lighthouse kept flashing! If they had any consideration for travellers they’d switch it off at night-time. I managed a chuckle as I thought that one up, but knew that Sailor Tom wouldn’t.