‘The gift of time’ – Jacqui, Trafford.
It’s a slow start this morning in Preston. I’m hungover after a night of dancing, drinking and clubbing in Preston. It was a good night, that much my memories gather, but stringing together a series of thoughts causes sheer agony. I have left behind my glasses somewhere, but where?
Luckily, I awake with two cats sleeping at the foot of my bed, and a number of cats and dogs nearby, licking my hand and cutely cuddling up for affection as I start to stir. There’s a warm and happy feel about Carl and Andrea’s place, and any worries are quickly dispelled.
‘Without them, this town would be shut down.’ – taxi driver, Blackpool.
Have you woken to the sound of pure electricity flowing above your head and this fragile polythene sheet that some would call a tent, and others a place of rest? If not, then strive for it, even if it means sleeping in the most exposed and strange of waste grounds in Heysham, near Morecambe. Where are either? Then you haven’t lived. These pylons sound like rain, their voltage dangerous and yet strangely tranquilising, even for all the shouting during the night nearby, as drunken kids raced up and down the road right by my tent. Thankfully I was not discovered, but it adds to the night’s strangeness.
‘You go home, put on the TV, put your feet up, make some dinner, go to bed, wake up, and then you die!’ – Jeff, Douglas.
I awake on Sonya’s sofa in the west end of Morecambe. The morning sun bursts between and beneath the sitting room curtains, distributing a calm and cheery aura about the place. With Sonya’s early-teenage son Zack, a sharp-witted and funny companion in our conversations, we head out into Morecambe for a spot of breakfast. As we pass along the sea-front, Sonya points to where fairs, swimming pools and other proud mainstays of the Morecambe resort once stood. Unlike Scarborough, there’s no conspicuous absence of these glories. The strange thing about Morecambe is that after spending time here, it seems unlikely that there ever was an overextended and wildly ambitious resort here, for good, or for ill.
Bye bye happiness, hello loneliness, I think I’m gonna cry…
‘Nothing is assured’ – Sonya, Morecambe.
Mid-morning, and the rain’s falling hard on my tent. Its light and rhythmic percussion wraps into my dozes like a thousand tiny mallets pattering against a vale of cotton wool. Droplets condense and form on the inside, and drip drop drip down onto my sleeping bag. In the course of the night, the lower half of the tent has flooded and most of my stuff is soaked through. My feet are freezing, but most of me’s unscathed. For around an hour I sit inside that tent, listening to the rain, wondering when it will take a pause.
At last, a break in the showers. I dash out into the nearby forest to find a discreet spot for my ablutions, then return to pack up. The rain’s still paused – great! I combine desperation with opportunity and attack my bike’s rear gears with a screwdriver. Eventually some combination of twists and fiddles has the vehicle moving as it should again. I celebrate with a few bowls of granola and just the most wonderful view of Lake Thirlmere. Mists hover above in thick tufts, their reflections on the water’s surface giving the impression of the imminent collapse of the heavens.
‘Once you’re wet, there’s nowt you can do.’
‘Yeah, you might as well just get wet.’
‘You might as well go out, get wet, stay out for the day, then go in.’
– Punters in The Bush, Cockermouth, dispensing Zen weather advice.
Perhaps sleeping in parks isn’t so bad after all. I’ve managed to get eight hours sleep for the first time in too long, and I’ve not been disturbed by any passing policeman or local dog-walker. Indeed the small green is quiet when I get up, and I pack up my tent and belongings before another soul strolls by this way.
The morning is dry and relatively warm for a change. Feeling enthusiastic, I drift back through Gretna and towards the border. There’s a huge ‘outlet village’ at a roundabout directing traffic to and from Scotland, boasting its slightly higher-end mass high street chains on offer. Golf shops, American clothing brands, Costa coffee, luxury kitchenware and the like. Despite almost everything being closed, the car park is relatively full, and the mock-high street inside has a surprisingly large number of people strolling aimlessly up and down, content to be just near the retail gods.