Rusty boat, rusty van. It makes no difference. Time passes and life happens wherever you go. So much has happened in the last month that it’s been amazing how much time I’ve fit in feeling lazy and inactive.
Mission number one: to sell the van, is partially complete, well, as it turns out, not to sell it but to share it with a friend and distant relative, which means I can have wheels whenever I’m back in the UK.
Mission two: to pay my respects to dear departed Deb; in progress…
The yellow van got through it’s annual MOT inspection with a little remedial work from my Polish friends in Northampton, Google led me to an affordable insurance plan and the DVLA have continued to take installments for road tax while I’ve been away in the tropics. How do they do that? Time was, proof of insurance and road-worthiness were needed to be eligible to pay road tax but as long as it keeps the red flags down on the government databases I’m happy.
I had already had a week in Northampton and then down to Wiltshire to see friend and author, Jackie Cannon and healer, Gail. Onto Cardiff for an afternoon which turned into two wonderful days and nights with Rob and Cara, a night reconnecting with a neglected cousin, Andrew, in Ebbw Vale, a day with Sue in Gloucester. Back to Wiltshire then to Northampton for dinner with my family before engaging mission number two by heading up to Newcastle upon Tyne.
My good friend Julie said “That will be hard.” I thought nothing of it, but retracing a route Deb and I shared together a couple of years ago has the effect of picking at a scab on an unhealed wound.
Humber Bridge Country Park, I check my phone as I exit the van. Two missed calls. Eileen, Deb’s mum. I call back as I walk down the trail. She’s been fretting. She’s upset: the thought of seeing me and the yellow van pulling up outside, she expects to see Deb step out of the van too. I’ve never visited alone so this thought had never occurred to me. As I slip the phone back into my pocket, I feel cut off, adrift.
This journey was my way of completion of our relationship: an insignificant punctuation mark at the end of a significant chapter. I had missed the funeral by about 4 months and 6000 miles with the promise that I would visit when I return to the UK.
Here in the woods on the north bank of the Humber, I walk toward the shore between the shade and dappled sun light dancing on the trail in time with the leaves above. Deb would have loved this. It was because of her I was here on my own now. We had been here before but never further than the car park on an overcast day, browsing the leaflets in the visitor centre.
I order a beer at the Country Park Inn on the bank of the river. Despite my empathy with Eileen, I feel agitated. I don’t realise how much until I telephone my friend, Jackie and try to speak. I retreat to a quiet corner table bathed in the late afternoon sun next to a large window facing the river. I’m choked, my throat is tight and tears start to rise. Why now after so long? The tears release the tension and I become able to talk, so I let them lubricate the conversation. Anyway, no-one else seems to notice…
The phone call ends as do the tears and I feel calm: purged. What now, turn back? I don’t need to be anywhere in particular. Return where. I am baseless, a nomad. I order another beer and look over the river at the ant like traffic crawling across the pencil line of the bridge against the sky. I remind myself, “Am I not free, do I not have all the time in the world?”
This pilgrimage is becoming obscured by the fog of uncertainty. I’ll continue north along the east coast up to Newcastle. I don’t necessarily have to visit anyone. I don’t have to be there by Wednesday but I still do need a purpose. For now, being there is enough of a goal to aim for. I will find completion in its own time, maybe not in a certain place on a certain day but perhaps in how I now express my experience of life in the lessons learned on my past adventures with Deb. Completion: part feeling, part decision.
The distance between Northampton and Newcastle is just over two hundred miles and can be made in four hours. I am currently on Day 4 and I’m half way there, exploring the east coast as I go. The weather is fine with warm sunshine and cool calm nights. The sea reminds me of Glee on her mooring in St Martin. How would she fair, weaving around the offshore wind-farms of the British coast? Surprisingly, I don’t miss Glee, or St Martin. I’m conscious that, wherever I am, this is the same adventure – only with different scenery… perfectly playing out as it always does… all I have to do is to relax into it.