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The Chippenham Guy

Saturday. I spend the day on constructing a letter to Norman the doorman, with the initial intention of covering my backside from the ‘criminal’ justice system. Read that as you will. As I work through, I wonder, about the circumstances that drove this guy from starting off apparently well-intentioned in his tenancy to running away when asked questions? And so, the letter was composed and edited and re-edited adding more and more compassion and stating I wouldn’t be chasing the debt.

In reality, I would get no money back. Experience had proved that to me in the past.

When I think of Norman and my own experience of life, I’m trying to get through it as best I can. I guess we all are. And the letter ends up being both a legal notice and an illustration of how someones actions (or lack of) can affect other people’s lives.

A friend offers to ome along as a witness. Part of me says I’d like the company and part of me wants to be ‘self sufficient,’ however that may look. I gratefully accept.

Norman is due on duty at 22.15 and we arrive letter in hand at 22:05. Three people are on the door. Maybe I was wrong and one of these guys is Norman. So I check.

“The guy from Chippenham? Yeah, he sometimes works up at Moles near the Slug and Lettuce but if he’s on the rota, he usually pulls up on his motorbike over the road there.”

We wait over the road there.

22:15… 22:25… 22:35… he or his motorcycle fail to show. I walk into the bar to see the boss. The barmaid says the boss is not in so I explain I want to leave the letter for Norman.

“Oh the Chippenham guy, yeah I’ll put the letter in the office and give it to him when he comes in.”

I have another copy of the letter and head up to Moles to do the same.

“Oh the Chippenham guy? He won’t be in for a couple of weeks but we’ll keep it for him.”

I’ve done all I can. Notice has been served… He seems unlikely to challenge the repossession since it’s clear he lives elsewhere now anyway.

I suggested a quiet drink to celebrate repossession, somewhere away from the Saturday hustle and bustle. Maybe at The Globe on the way back to Bristol. My friend has a better Idea. Turtle Bay, a Caribbean cocktail bar near Pulteney bridge. Turns out, probably the most hustley bustley bar you are likely to find this side of Jamaica. I queue in the third rank from the bar watching cocktails being painstakingly mixed by hand and shuffling forward when orders were completed, paid for and new orders bellowed over the noise of the raucous crowd. I show the barman two fingers and point to the Red Stripe lager, since proper beer isn’t available here, and retreat to the terrace next to the river away from the reverberating bar.

Returning to Bristol Harbour, I decided to stay the night on the City Docks and Dock Estate’s parking area. There was someone already tucked up for the night, not far from the van in a doorway under blankets: a girl in her twenties by the look of it. I was tempted to check if she needed anything but she was asleep and looked quite comfortable and realised I was unlikely to extend the same courtesy to a guy in similar circumstances. I don’t see guys as quite so vulnerable. I slid the door closed behind me as quietly as I could and tucked up under my duvet.

It’s a mistake to camp in a city centre on a Saturday night. Shouts, screams and lunatic laughter from the alcohol fuelled zombie apocalypse puncture my sleep and pepper my dreams .

BANG! The van lurches to one side and I awake with a start as I’m teleported from the dream world to the waking one. There’s a commotion outside and I get dressed and emerge out of the side door to the shock of four youths next to a white hot hatch with yellow paint on its bumper. Someone was showing off by reversing out of a parking space as fast as possible.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, be cool, man!” as the biggest kid waved his hands in some kind of cultivated rap artist gesture. They hadn’t expected me to appear but it wasn’t me that was getting agitated, I was still waking up. No-one would tell me what had happened and the van looked all right so I left them to their inane jabbering and went back to bed to let the adrenaline from the sudden impact dissipate and allow sleep to return.

Dents are easier to see in the sunlight. Bottom corner of the door and it didn’t look too bad; the door opens and closes all right. Even if I’d have noted their registration, I wouldn’t have bothered with an insurance claim. I’d rather focus on more positive things, like a cruise across the harbour. The mission was to empty the toilet on a friends boat but a cruise is a cruise, especially on this near tropical Sunday morning.

The rest of the day was spent on the boat in and out of the sun, working on the Irma entries of this blog. Writing takes me a great amount of time and editing sometimes more and, since I was in company, it was quite late by the time I returned to the van. I’d moved to the end of the parking area away from reversing cars and my slumbering companion was back in her doorway.

Monday morning 9th October, tired after the remnants of the weekend’s zombie apocalypse paraded past the van in the night. If it was quieter, it was only slightly. I was to be catching up with Sue from Gloucester and I also wanted to check flights to Turkey ready for the voyage to Colombia. They want me in Dalaman in a week. So a quick breakfast and WiFi session at the V shed before Sue’s arrival at 10:30 and to shoehorn an itinerary for cleaning out the apartment putting it on the market and travel as far down as Devon and up to Powys to visit some friends and finish up where I hope to store the van once again. All that in a week.

Sue and I sat in the sun sipping green tea, later joined by Jackie. The sun moved around putting us in the shade, and it started getting cold and we sought shelter in Costa, preferably away from the air conditioners competing with the wind for the coldest breeze. I walked Sue back to the car and then continued with the WiFi at the V Shed once again. I found an Easyjet ticket out of Bristol to Dalaman, Turkey on the 16th for £49.48: booked and confirmed. I was to be out of the UK in a week; maybe for the rest of the year.

That night, I headed to Chippenham to clean up the flat. I spent the night there on the mattress on the floor and called into Atwell Martin first thing in the morning to inform them that I now had possession and to book a valuation. Cleaning didn’t take long and Miles from Atwell Martin recommended a solicitor for the conveyancing and said I could get new window handles cheap from B&Q to replace the broken one. I thought they were bespoke to the window companies but no, shiny new handles fitted within an hour of Miles leaving.

Wednesday morning 9:30am and I was filling in forms and photocopying IDs at the solicitors. Things were moving fast now and life felt vibrant and exciting because of it. With forms signed and others taken away to fill in later, I was on the road to Devon. First stop, Lucy’s in Exeter. The weather was warm and sunny and Lucy showed me the sights. I like Exeter. Staying longer than a day would have been nice…

A text arrives from Atwell Martin… the apartment had been sold! Yes, things were moving fast now.

A quick coffee with Gary in Exeter services. I met Gary at a Chris Howard Seminar in 2006 and hadn’t seen him since. He was keen to get an update on Sint Maarten as he loves the place. He’s done well for himself and looks really happy with life. We only had an hour since I’d gone the wrong direction up the M5 on my way to meet but and I promised to take up his invitation and see him next time I’m back.

The van wheels crunch the gravel in the village hall car park in Blackborough. They don’t like me parking there but I’ll be gone in the morning. Dinner and a bed for the night at Richard’s. He is the author of The Watchers, The Hidden Hand (under a pseudonym) and ‘Playing the Great Game of Life’ under his own name. He’s a mentor for me really who helped me recover from a painful separation and guided me toward living a new life. I met him in Panama at an International Property seminar and he has since diversified into a more esoteric and holistic path including hypnotherapy and writing.

10am the next morning saw me winding my way northwest through the sunlit autumn gold of the Somerset landscape…

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