The web host of a creative writing website approaches you to submit some writing for it. This month’s theme is ‘Journeys.’
Just seeing this title in front of me made me think of the Bill Bryson style of writing and that this is what the examiner would expect from us all, but then that idea gave way to this one for some reason. I wonder what the examiner would do if he or she saw this Acrostic plus a story?
Journeys; small ones, large ones, boring ones, exciting ones. They are
Of course, a necessary evil on the road of our life. They are both
Useful, necessary, unnecessary, laborious and fruitful, sometimes
Resulting in an array of experiences, that enable us to live out our lives,
Endlessly remembering that which has gone before us; the memories of
Yesteryear, the good, the bad, the small, the large, our rich journeys in life.
So remember them, wherever they were to and whoever they were with!
There are many journeys in my mind’s eye right now, many times when good turned to bad, or bad to good. If I was to begin with “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times” one reader at least would see the Dickensian link and see where I might be going, but this journey was one of discovery, if nothing else for I was to learn something about the beauty that is human nature.
It began on the day of my mother and father’s Ruby wedding anniversary, when my sister in law rang them to wish them well. They live abroad, so getting to such events is not possible, but I could see quickly from the quickly draining face of my mother that something was wrong when she was on the phone.
When I picked up the receiver I listened in horror to the account of how my brother had been involved in an accident a thousand miles away. I was determined to get there and see him so hatched a rather crazy plan; I would hitch hike the route there and back and just have to pay for my ferry ride. I had no job and no money, so this was a possibility so I decided there and then to go on this journey.
That afternoon, I began ringing people and found that I could pay at Dover for my place on an open ended ferry ticket, where I could just arrive, get on and travel aboard the ferry to France. Within a few days I was on my way, but the way I got there, inside 36 hours, to this day astounds me beyond belief. Yorkshire to France is problematic at best because one has to navigate the horror that is London and by foot, this was going to prove difficult, until my Minister [Priest] said she knew of a way to get me to France, or “somewhere in France” as she added. She knew a man, who knew a man, who knew a driver, who knew his boss very well. You know the sort of thing I am sure.
And the following day, I was meeting two 40 footers by the side of the road a few miles away, who would take me from Rotherham, to Dover, to Calais and then to “somewhere in France,” all free and gratis, of course. As we got to Dover I was told to hand over my passport to the driver. How odd I thought. But I did so and we boarded the ferry together, with me listed as “co-driver.” These wagons did not have co-drivers, but hey, this was an emergency. So we were away from this country and on the ocean; well, Le Manche, as the French call it.
When we got to Calais, off we went down the French country roads, into and through the April morning and off to the east of France. It transpired that the wagons were full of frozen cow carcasses, in a refrigerated unit, so we trundled south, where at the point where the wagons would go into the tunnel to get them into Italy, they would drop me and I would hitch the rest of the way.
Simple, or so I thought.
When we got close to our agreed place where we would split however, something terrible happened; the wagon I was in broke down and at the side of the road, on a warm day, with no refrigeration unit working, you can guess what began to happen. The wagon began to stink! When the lads knew it was not going to go any further, they told me and I decided to hitch from there, just north of Chamonix in France. It was now going to be an interesting jaunt to get to the autoroute du soleil, where the direct trunk road was that took me to Avignon in the south; my destination.
At this point, there is always a certain amount of fear, but I could do nothing but write on a card my destination of SUD and hope for the best. I offered a little prayer and no sooner had I opened my eyes, a man driving a car stopped and took me from there to the auto-route. That journey did not take long and at the barriers of the Peage, I waited for about 20 minutes when a young man driving a tanker stopped and drove me south. I explained my reason for the journey in broken French.
As he drove, it began to rain like I had never seen it do before, or since, so the driver got on his CB radio and started chatting. I wondered what on earth was going on. I know very little French so had no idea what he was saying and after about an hour he stopped in a lay by and pointed to the tanker at the side of him. I was to get out of his cab and into the other. He had organized the lift, which would take me to 50km north of Avignon, where a room had been procured for me. It was, simply amazing!
After my sleep, I emerged into the morning of the next day and stuck my thumb out again. There was nothing on this road apart from two Gendarmes who asked if I was a vagrant, so again I explained and they reassured me my brother would be fine and I continued, for about five minutes, when a car arrived, picked me up and drove me the 50kms into Avignon centre. He had to make a stop or so it seemed and I was a little worried. This was weird! But then, he drove me south towards Cabannes where I recognized the scenery. He had asked me the address I was going to and took me to the door! I thanked him and he went on his way. I had arrived at my destination and only been stood at any roadside for less than an hour in the entire journey.
But what it taught me is that the notion of the Good Samaritan is not dead! Human nature is and can be, wonderful and I have often wondered, since that time, whether or not those Gendarmes phoned to base and got a friend to drive me to Cabannes. I suppose I will never know.