York, briefly


It’s coming to sunset over the river Ouse in York. People are lining the riverbank. They are occasionally being organised by friendly coppers on bicycles when it starts to feel like more of a party than it legally ought to. But mostly it’s small groups, some people playing music, others just enjoying the sunset and the weather.

I’m sitting apart, remote from the crowds as Tom and Lydia go back to their new home to switch into evening gear and freshen up. I’m only in York for one night. I’m the driver, helping them move in. All I have is a change of underwear and my iPad. But we have an evening together. We might as well have … an evening together.

Four hours drive and more, up from London and it felt like old times at first. We loaded up the van. They got in the cab with me. I’m their employee so I can sit closer to them than their mothers can sit.

We made extraordinary time through London and out up north. I might have said a few weeks ago that the road outside mine was busy but for a summer Saturday, how the hell were we steaming up the M1 so quickly?

There are bits of roadside that I think of in the same frame as books that have been in the loo for years and years. I run my eyes over them while I’m there but I take in no new information. These spots of arterial London : I know every shopfront, every bit of graffiti, every unusual detail of every house. I have spent weeks of my life in stationary traffic on these roads, endlessly heading out on the M4. We flew through, and up up and away, which is just as well as I barely slept last night for the heat and was nodding at the end of the drive. It was so quick.

I was fading before we got to Watford Gap, and we stopped for a boost in the Welcome Break. Being there suddenly helped us to remember the nature of the world we live in right now. WH Smith and Spar were open, both with coffee machines and godawful sandwiches displayed like chocolate bars. That’s it. All the great big hideous unethical global food concessions with their huge adverts looming over the motorway – shut. And I bet they’re still just munging the animals and then throwing the result away as it’s easier to keep running the machine than it is to rejig it. Every other loo cubicle shut, every other sink taped over, and every other urinal. Nobody is moving though.

I had a disgusting Scotch Egg for lunch as I needed something. Bad choice. I’m normally ok with that shit. I almost retched on the last mouthful of this one as something was definitely veering towards rancid and my brain shouted “BAD” even as I’d employed my swallow reflex and it went down and stayed.

It was bad, but not bad enough to beat the caldera of my stomach acid these titanic days. I’ve had no repercussions yet and I won’t. My stomach is wormwood. It’s Alien-blood. I learnt that from the other night when the roiling mess of caustic horror inside me kept me up until dawn by trying to jump out of my throat.

I’ve made a bed of cushions on the floor. I don’t have to return the van until Monday at 10am. I’ll get back to London by then. But right now I want to take advantage of the fact I’ve been employed to move, and just … be somewhere notlondon. It’s lovely up here.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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