“HERE AM I SITTING IN MY TIN CAN” a novel.
CHAPTER 1 – SPRING
i. ADVENTURES IN A YORKSHIRE LANDSCAPE
I should’ve known my death was coming. I bought this thing, a twenty-five year old Renault Trafic, from a dealer in Preston some weeks ago and I’ve been doing up the inside, making it my home because it is my home. I’ve been making it real after months of notions. I’ve been getting the feel for it, sleeping and waking in it, making short journeys to B&Q in Keighley for timber to line the walls, and I’ve learned that while the engine is sound the brakes are poor. Stopping is always a slow process.
Imogen and I are in tandem from Bradford to Halifax, she in her sports car, me at a safe distance in my tin can. There’s a man in Halifax who can weld me a bracket on the back doors to house the spare wheel. Thus far it’s been rolling around the tin can leaving skidmarks. The day is sunny and were it not for my deepdown sense of foreboding I would be happy that this is my home, this is my new start on the open road. The man, called Derek, is small and round, gallinaceous as a partridge, who busies around the van pecking doubtfully at the rusty hinges. I fear that like mechanics, welders will never kick off with good news. “Bigger job than I thought,” he says with no bollocks Yorkshire bluntness, nevertheless promises it can be done. But not today. How does tomorrow sound? It hasn’t been easy to find a person who can do this job, so tomorrow sounds like it will have to do.
Imogen and I have a brief conversation about our choices. I favour stopping the night in Halifax but she wants to get back home, for which I don’t blame her, she has a life I’m no longer part of to get on with. So once again we’re in tandem, leaving the bloated bellies of Halifax for flatter terrain. I’m going down through the gears to climb and gathering pace on the descent. We’re coming to a junction and I need to brake in advance, but it’s then that I feel something snap. The tin can jerks to the left, I can smell the burning brake fluid as the pedal hits the floor with no resistance. I’m in danger of smashing into her sports car so give a blast on my horn. She knows the score in her mirror and swerves out of the way as I career onto the grass verge, using the handbrake and some instinctive use of the verge to grind me to a halt. My hands are shaking and my heart is thumping, within inches of collision and quite possibly death.
She pulls up on the other side and comes to join me, asking if I’m ok. She sees I’m shaken as I tell her the brakes have gone, and she says she knows, she can smell it.
Luckily I’m on the grass verge so am no obstruction to traffic as she drives back to Derek’s garage to ask if he can help. So here am I sitting in my tin can, needing a drink amid the debris of cups that have been tossed from their hooks and shattered. There’s no booze so coffee will have to do to spill from my shaking hands.
Half an hour later, Imogen returns to say that Derek knows someone who knows someone who can come and get me and fix the brakes. But not today. How does tomorrow sound?
“It’s going to cost you,” she says.
“Malcolm are you sure you still want to do this?”
It’s a question I struggle to answer. My life is one of many contradictions and unanswered questions. Why am I making this journey and where am I journeying to? Sure it’s something I’ve always wanted, the gypsy in my blood has determined it, to take to the road in a tin can, to renounce the mainstream of society with its pressures, limitations and petty rules of conformity. And I know it’s a risk, I know it could be a bumpy ride, that this might not be the last time death will pay a visit. So I turn to her and say, “Yes, I’m sure.”