Important Landmarks

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It’s my son Dominic’s birthday today and it’s scary that my second-eldest is pushing thirty.  Doesn’t seem that long since we were playing football in the park, my teaching a three-year-old toddler my silky skills.  Now he’s in Omagh with his beautiful girlfriend Zoe and I wish I were there too… but I’m stuck in my lay-by waiting for a welder, and I often told him you should always respect your welders.  Sorry I can’t be there son; I love you and here’s wishing you many happy returns.

Talking of landmarks, it’s now 75 days and nights since I started my off-grid project.  Yes I’ve treated myself to the odd pub steak or burger or haggis, and more than the odd pint of best as I’ve chatted up the locals.  And yes I’ve been called a paedophile by teenage thugs, been tooted at by tossers in white vans assuming I’m getting laid, or ran the gauntlet of fist-fighting gypsies… but on the whole it’s been a peaceful 75 days and I can’t help reflecting that the most stressful times have been at the mercy of bureaucracy and mechanical law.  The same problems everyone has, or at least every motorist – how do I get my car through its MoT?  How do I find a reputable, reliable garage?  How do I get a welder?  In other words, it’s more stressful on-grid than off.

When I’m off-grid it seems to me that by and large folk aren’t aware or don’t care who’s sleeping in his van in a lay-by or across from their house.  Is this because they’re too busy worrying about their MoTs?  Or their job, or whose arse to lick in order to keep their job, or who to befriend on Facebook because there’s a chance it might help keep their job…?  Or is it because actually people here are laissez-faire; they’re happy to let people get on with their life, however alien, as long as it doesn’t infringe on theirs?  I truly hope it’s the latter.  So anyway finding a lay-by and making sure I eat, I’m safe, and I get a good night’s kip has been far less stressful than I anticipated… so far at least.

The second point I’d like to make is that though I’m only a fifth of the way through my project/experiment/adventure, I’m finding it really helps manage depression.  This is because I live with the freedom to be where I want when I want.  I’m seeing some beautiful places and meeting some fascinating people with stories to tell.  I’m learning about them and I’m learning about myself.  I’m walking hundreds and hundreds of miles of the beautiful British coastline and countryside.  I’m making a cathartic journey through my past, writing what I want to write with freedom and without constraint.  I’ve seen friends and family I haven’t seen in ages due to my selfish and blinkered ascent of the career ladder in order to be pushed off it.  And most importantly and profoundly of all I’ve reunited with my beautiful daughter and met my grandchildren.

In short I’ve journeyed to what’s important and much of this, I believe, has been made possible because I made an alternative life-choice, went to “another place”.  And to the doubters who asked “what could possibly go wrong?” I say that so far nothing has gone wrong, bar the ball-ache of red-tape that you have every single day.  There’s a long way to go, both in time and in mileage… but so far, my friends, so good.  On this important day I reflect on all those years bringing up my kids.  And how quick time marches and how vital it is to make the most of it and make the right choices.

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Another Place

After a brief stop in Liverpool for some gas, courtesy of the brilliant shop that is Go Outdoors, I decided to tootle through Bootle.  My target was Crosby, where I’d always wanted to tick off the Antony Gormley project Another Place – because I believed it to be a special work of art, and because the title itself has some meaning for me on this project.  I tried to find Another Place a few years back, but took the wrong turning.  On that day I was gormlessly Gormley-less.

But today I saw them, 100 iron figures, with considerable penises, standing on the beach or half-submerged in the sea.  I was mightily impressed.  I took some pictures, which when I have better technology I’ll post on here.  They made me laugh and they made me cry and they made me think.  One was wearing a sweater, which I wondered whether was added by some wag, or by Gormley himself.  The half-submerged ones reminded me of a Be Bop Deluxe song, which contains a favourite lyric of mine – “this is the last resort/let’s walk into the sea.”  Though I wanted to cry, and to think, I didn’t want to think about following suit.  Instead I laughed to myself at two fat women using one of the figures as a resting-post, and at two teenage girls doing selfies with one.  I pondered what Gormley would think about how people interact with his creations; he’d probably be as amused as I was.

I enjoyed a stroll along the shore and among the sand dunes, but this proved painful as I’d been bitten in Delamere Forest the other day.  My friend Tiddle-Eye-Po was wrong – there aren’t “just trees”, there are also things that want to fucking eat you alive.

Apart from a swollen lower left leg – anti-histamines and Savlon called for – my health is pretty good.  I’m doing OK.  Eating well, keeping the booze intake to a sensible level, and keeping clean.  I do look a bit feral at times though, due to the grizzly grey beard.  I opened my laptop this morning and the reflection, which is never flattering, bore a startling resemblance to Jack Hargreaves.  “HOW the fuck did that happen?” I cried.  I realise that joke isn’t for all ages.  Obviously, life on the road on your own means no sex – see tomorrow’s diary entry called “No Sex Please, We’re Skittish.”  But with a beard like mine and such a bad hairdo I’m sure I’m not very desirable anyway… except to insects of course.

Stealth-camping is actually fun.  I’ve learned the knack of parking up near someone’s house – not near enough to be conceived a threat, but near enough to make it look like The Ottermobile belongs to it.  I mean it’s not a nick-able vehicle, but I fear for my belongings, and of course for my safety.  Some places are better than others obviously, and I have to compliment Sefton Council and the Crosby area itself for being so quiet, clean, warm and campervan-friendly.  I thought I might stay another night.  Then again, being skittish, I might try Another Place.