Stories from my Travels #11 “Here am I Sitting in My Tin Can”

From the novel in progress and picking up from my previous post.

At some point in the night I must’ve snuggled fully-clothed into my mummy bag, though I don’t remember doing so. I only remember going over the events of being attacked, dabbing my broken eye and consoling myself that I was the victim right there and not some psychopathic weirdo Englishman defending his castle that happens to be a tin can.

As I go through the rigmarole of my daily toilet I begin to mull over my options. I’d wanted to go further north, Edinburgh and beyond and up into the Scottish Highlands if the tin can could get that far, yet something inside now keeps telling me I need to turn the other way, turn the clock back on the bout of Tyneside thuggery and seek comfort in the Pennine Hills that form the bosom of my country. While this makes every sense given the turmoil I’m feeling, I get this nagging paradox of failure in beating the tin can in the race to see who breaks down first…


Some hours later I find I’m in Whitby, nursing my wounds and a pint of Otter in a pub called The Duke of York.  My welcome in the town wasn’t entirely warm, however; parking was a pain and I had to risk a ‘coaches only’ section where an officious car park attendant looked at me like she’d clocked a slug on her kitchen worktop.  After I’d squeezed in elsewhere and put my coins into the belly of a machine, one of her colleagues confided that the woman is not usually so bolshie and works part-time for the Samaritans.

“I can only wonder what’s her callers’ mortality-rate,” I quip, but it goes unrewarded.

I do like Whitby, it holds happy memories that roll in from the seas.  Today the sun is shining and I relish a long walk over the sands then a climb up to the Abbey for a personal slice of Stoker, who I look up to as a traveller and author.  Then among the jet shops, Steampunk regalia and fairground buzz I reminisce.

We came here often, and once had our fortunes told, for a laugh as much as anything given my scepticism of clairvoyance.  Reading our palms, the lady said I’d be lucky in love. I hoped so.  And she read that my father was ill but was being well cared-for and would be OK.  Two months later we were burying him.

I shouldn’t mock.  Some people put great store in such things, whereas I believe in chance.  Like it was chance that determined I’d be attacked in my tin can, it was fate that decreed I should be quarry…

The blog I published this morning has already received a number of welcome responses, most from people who are obviously concerned.  It’s great to know that people care, and even better that my kids and other loved-ones are among the well-wishers.  One asks “Why the hell are you putting yourself through this shit?”  It’s the voice of a far-off person hopefully coming nearer and a very simple, very fair and very valid question, one I’ve asked myself many times since the start of this project.

The answer is I’m a writer.  I can’t do anything else.  It’s my chosen field, the profession for which I trained, my calling from which I can’t run.  And if I’m not employed or indeed employable given my age and mental health I can’t just do nothing but wait for the phone to never ring.  I’ve got to get out in search of story, in search of some things and some people to write about.  I also have to get through each day, ideally without harm or prejudice, and live with the morsels these tides have dredged up for me.

So while the question is valid, it’s valid also to flip it:  Why the hell do I put myself through this shit or why the hell have I been put through this shit?  Is it my own doing or is it just the way the stick of rock crumbles?  Whatever it is and whatever life throws at me, I have to fight, I must be brave.  Audentes fortuna iuvat.  Now I’ve had my slice of Dracula I think I will return to the Duke, sink my teeth into a steak and raise my glass to that.

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