It was three degrees on the Ottermobile last night, so with me and three beautiful women it was a tight squeeze. If that were true, I wouldn’t have been much use to them; with temperatures like this your willy tends to disappear. But I shouldn’t joke. In fact I don’t feel very much like joking, I’m just aware that some of my writings of late have been downbeat and I want really to entertain.
Yet the truth is that this experience is becoming nigh-on unbearable, and I’m feeling very angry on behalf of myself and those even less fortunate. I admit it, in the Summer months I was happy on the road, in beautiful weather and even more beautiful surroundings, soaking up the exercise and the stories, and not envying in the slightest those stuck in offices and putting up with the petty politics of back-stabbing.
Now, as we head into the festive season and more importantly towards my 54th birthday, and with the temperatures plummeting, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching. In other words, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life and what the hell it’s done to me. Incidentally, am I alone in marvelling at the speed with which this year has passed us by?
Anyway, in the days around the corner when we’re supposed to be offering goodwill, I’ll be thinking less of myself and more of those I love and those I’ve met on these geographical endeavours, some of whom are unfortunate enough to be less fortunate than me.
Loyal readers will remember James, the homeless young chef to whom I offered a night’s sleep in my Ottermobile to save him temporarily from the streets, and I fed him and we played Ludo and he said he wouldn’t be coming on to me in the night lest I was worried, because I was far too past it. I’ll be thinking of him and wondering if he managed at last to find some work, a home and a decent boyfriend of his own age with whom to share it.
Then the down-at-heel guy in Redcar who also lived on a campervan and had a bogie on his nose that fell dangerously close to my sandwiches which I’d kindly offered to share. He was just like me (only less handsome) and I felt for him, and I’ll be hoping he’s made some hay since that red hot Summer’s day at the seaside when chips were down.
And the gypsy who lives on the motorways, to whom I gave food, tobacco and a ride to the next services and went ridiculously out of my way – a gesture of goodwill that dearly cost me in diesel and mechanical lifespan. I’ll be thinking of him and hoping he’ll keep warm in his tent come the chill, or he’s made enough money to get him back across the Channel to find work in friendlier climes.
And Craig the youth from Newcastle who was chained bollock-naked to a lamp-post on his stag night. I’ll be wondering if his lass still married him after that, and if they’ll be spending their first Christmas together in their nice warm home, possibly with a turkey and a bun in the oven.
And last but by no means least I’ll be sparing a thought for Steve in Saltburn, whose wife Tracy kept calling him a useless twat because he forgot the Ambre Solaire and she was worried the sun would exacerbate her eczema (or “exma” as she termed it). He’d just lost his mother and their trip from Birmingham was supposed to be convalescence, but the sadness in his eyes was obvious, not just because of his bereavement but because he was married to Tracy, and because this was a toxic, flaky and inflammatory relationship that would take more than 100g of Betnovate to smooth things over.
I’ll be hoping he has a merry “Exma” and I’ll be hoping even more that he’s managed to get rid of that fat-arsed, irritable woman. Because his story touched me most, touched me even more than that of the homeless men and women I’ve met, because I know what it’s like to lose a dear mother and I know how much one needs support through difficult times. But given that many homeless people are homeless because of a broken-down relationship, I truly hope that if Steve does do what he confided, and leaves Tracy, he manages to keep his job, his home and his kids.
And then there’s me, who suffers from eczema himself but doesn’t make a song and dance about it because there are worse and more dangerous afflictions, such as depression.
But I’ll be trying not to let that get to me as I look towards a new year with someone I love and fresh hope. I’ll be remembering all those who’ve helped me through difficult times and I’ll be remembering I’m still blessed with talents and the contortionists, like the dog, won’t win. The contortionists, by the way, will be remembered too, and I’ll be hoping the poor rich bastards don’t lose too many nights’ sleep because of what they’ve done to me.
I turn 54 in the next couple of weeks and I think it’s time to face up to the fact that living in a van at my age in these temperatures will ultimately kill me. I’ve lived in this thing now for 200 days and I always said it would be 365, yet I don’t look on this as failure. I believe I’ve recounted many tales in this diary that are proof that what I’ve done has been successfully lucrative if not in the financial sense then definitely in the literary sense. I firmly believe I’ve collected so much great material for my writings and met some great friends, and rekindled many old friendships too. I firmly believe I’m a better writer.
In the coming days it’ll be cards I’m writing, but while I’ll know exactly where to send them, I wonder where people will send theirs when I’ve no address to address them to? I like receiving cards, especially birthday ones, and that’s something I do make a song and dance about – I often joke to my kids that it’s important I reach double-figures. Sadly, I can’t see that happening this year so I want to do something different and ask simply and politely that instead of buying me a card, would you please make a small donation to Shelter?
Anyway, while I’ll be offering goodwill at this time, because that is my wont, and while I’ll be doing a bit more soul-searching, I’ll also be doing some praying. Some of my friends will be incredulous but it’s true. I’ll be praying for all those I’ve mentioned and many more who’re homeless or unfortunate, and I’ll be praying for a brighter future for me, because I know it’s possible and I know it’s just around the corner. I’ll also be praying that these frosty mornings don’t flare up my eczema!
But if there is a god, I should remember a god is for life not just for Christmas.