It was the first night of many. People said we were crazy camping out in October, and while I was trying to offer a freezing, helping hand to Ben who was putting up our tent, I thought that maybe they had been right. Just ten minutes earlier we had been cruising down the heart-wrenchingly narrow English country roads, our headlights shoving the night away from our way, the arrow on the GPS soundlessly inching towards our destination. The car screamed every time Ben put his foot down on the accelerator. With an impatient smack of his tongue he scolded the car and promised that it would only need to last for the week and until my tattoo appointment.
(It did, and broke down right after.)
However cold it was, at least the stars had come out to play in abundance. The familiar shapes of the Orion and the Big Dipper faded into the trails of millions other little stars; across the dark canvas, a few satellites could be seen roaming without haste. I shivered and put on another sweater. Wouldn’t it be nice to be in a guest house now…
After a humble meal of Trangia-cooked beans and spaghetti, we headed back up to the pub we’d spotted next to the reception. The place was milling with families but for ones, none of the kids were crying. In a corner table four elderly men sat chatting amicably, every inch an epitome of the hard but wise shepherd that your imagination would automatically place in an environment like this. The live band kicked off the first beats as we sat down with our pints of Durdle Door Ale.
The conversation flowed. I felt talking to be as easy as if it had been one of those earlier dates again, back when we could talk about us and the world and everything in between for hours. The ale set down in my stomach like a warm blanket, and that same warmth crept up to my fingertips and cheekbones as we laughed and teased each other and rejoiced about the week of roadtripping that was ahead of us.
Suddenly I felt something touch my back and instinctively I turned to look. No one was even near me, but as I ran my hand along my armchair, my fingers touched a piece of paper. I pulled it out; it was a playing card.
“This just appeared from nowhere”, I said and read the text printed on it. “The world is your oyster. Ha!” (Actually it said weld instead of world – adapted from the name of the pub – but I only noticed that later.)
“Must’ve fallen from the ceiling”, he said and pointed at the bit of Blu-Tack that was still attached to the card.
“Who the hell would put a card on the ceiling.” I glanced up, then gave him a face.
“You should keep it.”
I put it in my pocket, and the conversation steered off. When he came back to the table with his second pint, we cheered to the week in front of us. It crossed my mind that life could always be like this: living free on the road, the two of us and a tent on the back of a crappy old car… Like Kerouac said: “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
Ps. Whether you were wondering about the card… I still have it: