Splishy sploshy

A man came round to service my boiler. I didn’t have to pay him. I pay monthly. Boiler insurance. When the last one blew up it was thousands I couldn’t afford. It’s pretty much the only insurance I pay for and once a year they send over a bemused man with a box.

Last year he was grey haired and sharp. He spent a lot of time telling me how he was the foremost Vaillant boiler service person in my area. “Some idiot’s turned the output down,” he said. “No leave it like that, the boiler’s too big for the flat. If you turn it up it loses pressure.” “I’m the foremost Vaillant etc etc” He turned it up again. For a year now I’ve had to top the pressure up every few days. Because it’s a law of nature that the people who immediately tell you how good they are at stuff are the ones who are shit at that stuff and lots of other stuff too. “Braggates non Capabili sunt et probabilis shitbaggus twat” as Ovid said to the Etruscan legate.

This year I had a stocky little friendly chap. He laughed at the piles of crap. “Your boiler’s too big. Are you losing pressure?” He’s turned it back down. It’ll save me money and it means I can have somebody stay in winter without having to teach them how to add water to a boiler. Makes it easier to Airbnb. Which is still on the cards. I’m hatching a plan.

I think I want to go back home to The Isle of Man for a bit. Send in work by greenscreen and voice. Write the great British Screenplay by the sea, and maybe a novel or two. Catch fish in the morning. Fly over to do a week at the BBC every month or so. Learn sea shantys. Become internationally celebrated for my mercurial talent on digital media. Sort out the flat which sits there empty as a shrine to my father. Live different for a while before returning to London encrusted in salt with a burr in my tongue and a dream in my heart.

I probably won’t. Lockdown makes a lot of peaceful things seem viable that the previous non-stop hand to mouth “how the hell did he fit it all in” version of me, steeped in coffee and booze and spreading himself atom thin – that he wouldn’t be able to countenance with his London ways.

I’m in the bath. Thoughts like that are more frequent in the bath. It’s harder to type as dropping my phone would be a disaster. But I’ve got it sussed now. It’s nice here. I’m staying. Aquarius starts in just over a month. It’s a time for water, surely. I’m going to see if I can dissolve myself like an Alka Seltzer. I’ll either come out shiny or go down the plug. I just wish I could remember to buy bubble bath some time. Mmmmmmm

Silly rules

Now I’ve got a car that isn’t shit I’m determined to use it. So I’ve signed up as a volunteer with an internet company a friend told me about. They’re all about preventing food waste. The deal is, you show up at crack of dawn, they offload a bunch of stuff that’s about to expire, you take it home, put it in the fridge, and list it all individually in their app. Then people in your local area bagsy the stuff they need.

I’m not far from an estate managed by the same dangerous buggers as Grenfell was. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’ll be some pickup, as nobody else is doing it in my area. You accept the request and then leave it on your doorstep at the appointed time. They appear and wander off with it. From a friend who does it, it’s mostly pastries. I thought, in order to try it out, I’d book a one off pick-up slot. Just to see how it goes. I can be a pastry-conduit.

I was going to have to be at a supermarket near me at 7 in the morning tomorrow. I didn’t relish the early morning but I was weirdly excited at the prospect of helping the community. I enjoy moving energy around far too much for my own good.

The store insists on an induction first though, so I booked one in for 3pm today. I was driving at 3pm, so I set an alarm. Jo was going to call me on my mobile. Fifteen minutes to ascertain that I’m not going to stagger into the shop drunk and be sick on all the shelves while shouting “This shop is the best!”

I pulled off the motorway into a service station at 2.50pm and waited. At 3.05 I started messaging the group chat, trying to raise somebody. Nothing. No induction in the fifteen minute slot. I sat in my car waiting for half an hour for an induction that is nothing more than lip service. It probably involves telling you the supermarket’s brand values and making sure you know how to open a door without falling over. And it never came.

I figured I’d show up anyway, and said so to the group chat, but no. “Rules are rules,” I’m told by my volunteer coordinator. Better to let the food go to waste than to break the rules!?! I’m not going to go now. I suspect that if I break the rules and appear it’ll be considered worse than if I just let it go to waste, because, as so often, the letter of the law trumps the spirit of the law.

This is the problem with the world.

Tara came home once in a mood. She worked as an intensive care nurse and she’d been disciplined. “I used a machine to save a guys life. I haven’t had training in the UK but I have in Australia. I was told I shouldn’t have used it without the UK training. I said the guy would have died. They said ‘Maybe that would’ve made them change the rules.’ “

This is just some wasted food. But it’s stupid. You’ve got a willing volunteer, happy to give up his time to make it work. You’ve got loads of food heading to the bin. You’ve got a system in place to get that food to people who want it. But you can’t, because you have to tell the volunteer that the door opens inwards and the colour blue means that we really care for the environment, and this is our excruciating acronym, sign here.

This is why I wouldn’t last three seconds in an office. At least I get a lie in.

Midnight lasagne

A bath is running as I write. A vegetable lasagne has just gone in the oven. It’s almost 11pm. I’m sitting on my bed surrounded by papers.

It’s a full time job for me, sorting my shit out. So I’ve made shit sorting my full time nine to five job. I’m working the working week doing it. No distractions that aren’t part of it. And right now I’ve been doing overtime so I’ve stopped for a change of mood.

I have a television the size of a football pitch in the room next door. I could be watching all the things that people are watching this time round. Last lockdown I watched Tiger King like a good little boy, I kept up… This time I’ve decided it’s more important to sort things out. To help make sure Christmas can happen. There’ll be no Scrooging this year. End of an era.

I haven’t finished watching Bojack. I haven’t watched all of Rick and Morty. I haven’t caught up with Better Call Saul, or watched The Queen’s Gambit or even gone beyond episode one of The Wire. I haven’t even started on the latest season of The Crown and I’m in it for God’s sake. I’ve had to rely on friends to tell me what bits of me made the edit. Because I’m busy. Sorting. My. Shit. Out. Plus my greenscreen is up in front of the telly as I’m enjoying messing around with it when I’ve got a few minutes.

It’s varied. My shit comes in many shapes and sizes. There’s been piles and piles of it building up behind the door for decades. I’ve opened the door now and it all landed on me.

In one hand there’s an unwilling and unhelpful man in Jersey who has the keys to something my parents really wanted us to be able to open. He can’t be bothered to help, and he is so habitually obstructive and disinterested that he’s managed to fritter an entire decade already with procrastination. He’s trying for another decade wasted and I’m trying to stop him. I can’t go over and kick him. He lies about what he’s done and going to do. I’m trying to nudge him in the right direction but it feels like I need powertools now, not a hammer.

In another hand there’s a lovely flat full of junk that has come to me through the desire and design of all the amazing humans that gave me a truly lovely childhood and then promptly died. I’m making more progress there because it’s only myself obstructing me, and no matter how good I am at self sabotage I could never come close to the guy in Jersey for timewasting. He’s legendary at it.

On my head there’s my acting career, my desire to try to make stuff online, my desire to write and build and storify. Also there is the short term need to make money to cover the service charge and council tax and bills. I need to take short term jobs if they’re available. But we all have to stay indoors forever.

In my body there are the people I love and want to make time for, the need to keep fit and not shove midnight lasagna into my face.

We all have so much to balance and I’m managing to switch my head a bit and pull myself inch by inch towards an even better quality of life than the wondrous unusual thing I’ve already forged in this world.

One step at a time though. Right now it’s midnight lasagne. The alarm just went off…

Never underestimate cats

Back before the fun died, I would frequently find myself in Richmond with Tristan and Tanya, having extremely involved meals where every dish is an essay, drinking the best quality wine that I could afford in defiant quantities, talking and dancing until late and then passing out spreadeagled on the inflatable mattress in front of the cricket highlights because I couldn’t drive home. Two hours into my deep and guilty sleep I would be awoken by the howling of the damned. Henry. The cat. Back from his nightly ramble. Seeking food that doesn’t run away.

With no flap, Henry relied on that fine set of lungs and the existence of light sleepers. I can open that window without interrupting my dream or fully opening my eyes. That’s how often I stayed and that’s how predictable he was. In he’d hop, ignoring me completely, straight to the food. Then sometimes he’d curl up on me.

Between lockdown the first and lockdown the second Tanya and Tristan moved. Just down the road, they went. Minute and a half by car, but the other side of Richmond Road, which isn’t small. Henry came along of course, and was confined to barracks for a while as is advisory – so he could reorient. They’ve been there for months now and he’s been back outside as he pleases for most of them.

Problem is, now there are levels in the new place. They sleep upstairs. The doors are downstairs. With no catflap, despite his lungs, if he shouts they might not hear him. Certainly last night they didn’t. So he went somewhere else. I’ve been getting updates all day when he didn’t show up in the morning.

Resident’s groups. Neighborhood WhatsApps. All the potential sources of cat have been bombarded by a concerned Tanya. Nothing. This evening’s exercise involved me walking on one side of the road wielding a bag of Dreamies with Tanya on the other side of the road doing the same. We covered a good radius around the new place and the old, on both sides of the main road and the side streets, but to no avail. No cat. Not a sausage. Nada.

In LA, Laural came home once with a dead cat. Hit by a car in the early evening. Mark and I buried it. It’s worth noting how much of our thinking can quickly go to imagining worst case scenarios.

I was about to jump in the car home with this all unresolved when – amazingly – the call came. From a neighbor.

Henry was in his old garden suddenly, yowling. “Screw you I’m hungry now”.

I’m in my car so I’m over there waiting while Tristan and Tanya, in a state of excited anxiety, have descended on their old property to continue to shake the Dreamies and call the name. (For the uninitiated, Dreamies are electromagnets for cats.) And this time, the Dreamies work. Suddenly I’ve got Tristan, masked and triumphant, holding a muddy hungry confused cat, hauling cat and filth into the passenger seat of the new Audi.

Henry is home again. He’ll be in lockdown tonight and I expect it’ll be the first night T&T have slept deeply for a while. They should totally get a catflap. And we should all try to derail the part of our brain that goes to the worst case scenario first.

Cheeky bugger got across that road though. “He knows how to get back,” Tanya says in a worried tone. I’m half imagining waking up one morning to find Pickle sitting on my windowsill like nothing has happened, and a text message from Brian asking if I’ve seen her. It’s a lot further to Croydon. But never underestimate cats.

Right Said Fred

7pm on a Sunday night in lockdown. You’d think I’d have gotten away with having a nice quiet day. Do a bit of tax. Have a walk in the park. I probably would have written wryly about the sheer number of people in the park today. It was like being on the tube in rush hour, I would have said, and carried on in that vein for a bit. Maybe observed something pretty about the world. Ended with some trite bon mot…

I was lying on my back, reading. The phone rang. I could’ve said “no”, but it’s against my rules.

My friend was standing on the street in Camden by two sofas that had been rejected from a large property there. The owners couldn’t get them up the stairs. “Please take these,” said the sign.

“Can you help me move them?”

They didn’t fit into a big house in Camden. That should have been a warning. My friend lives on the twelfth floor.

“Yes!” …

One zipvan and by ten to eight I’m loading them in to the back of it. This part is familiar to me at least. A short hop and they’re on the pavement in front of her block.

One of them fits in the lift.

The other one…

Last Christmas I badly hurt my back getting an oven down four flights with my nephew. I’m not making the same mistake again. But at 8.30pm I was looking at a sofa that was too big to go in a lift, and twelve long flights of stairs up. There was another guy with me. We both just got on with it. I had to get the van back as it was on the clock.

Up we go. Every two flights we definitely have to stop to get our breath back. And we aren’t that unfit. It’s arduous work. It’s really not what I expected after my lovely lazy Sunday. “I’ve got no strength left,” he says at floor eight. At ten we drop it. Not too badly thankfully. But our fingers are as worn as our backs. It’s clear now why the big lads from Team Know-How will do anything in their power to avoid having to do the job they’ve been paid for. By the time we get to twelve floors up we are absolutely knackered.

And it didn’t fit onto the landing from the stairwell. We couldn’t get it into the flat. It was literally impossible.

So we stood there, at about 9.20pm, looking at this monster, wondering.

“Have you got a sledgehammer,” I venture. “We could just smash it and put it in the lift back down. There’s no way I’m carrying it down again.”

No sledgehammer. But a knife and a selection of saws.

It was nicely put together once. A good timber frame and tight suspension of the materials. We slowly backward engineer it until the back is loose.

The bit we destroyed will eventually be against the wall, we reasoned. With the back off it just got round. We got it into the flat, into the right place. By this time I’d extended the van three times and had to go and return it.

My friend now has an old sofa that needs to be taken apart and disposed of. She has a newer sofa that needs to be reconstructed and cleaned. I’ve told her I’ll come over and help again next week if I can. But it’s not easy, working in a mask. And it’s not essential work either so naughty naughty. I literally keep forgetting lockdown in the heat of the moment. It’s weird. Last lockdown I barely left the house. This one I’m transport Captain. At least the stairwell was less crowded than Battersea Park. It was like the Black Hole of Calcutta in there.

My body is wishing I’d just sat at home. I’m running a bath. Ow.


Diwali has just started. It’s a bit like Imbolc / Candlemas at the other end of the year, where we make light in our houses in order to bring light into our lives. It’s associated with Lakshmi who has much to do with wealth, which is curious for me as I just had a load of stuff I consigned for auction failing to reach the reserve and leaving me somewhat stuck for Christmas unless I can roll into something else. People aren’t buying at auction it seems. No surprises there given the current environment but I couldn’t have predicted that when I consigned it all. I’m gonna end up with a bill for unsold items and insurance. Ugh.

I’m taking it as a caution from Lakshmi reminding me that I’m not actually an antiques dealer. I’m an actor / maker type human person thing and I’m supposed to be doing things in that arena to turn over the dollaz. Not just hoovering up things to flog and turning them into shinies. It can be fun doing that. But today is a reminder that it doesn’t always work and it’s not what I was built for. So as we climb back up into the light I can start to plan and dream and hope for interesting things to do in the good glorious world of story.

This world feels like a chapter in a ridiculous book at the moment. Symbols and stories being thrown around willynilly. Footballers making little “A” signs with their fingers. The Mekon consciously walking out of the front door of number ten with a cardboard box like ordinary people have when they’re out of a job. The tangerine fool working every angle to cling on to the tattered “dictator for life” dream that he cooked up with his buddy Vlad. And the majority of people being told they have to just sit at home and do bollocks-all and watch the world spin away.

No wonder people are going doolally. Stop it! Get a hold of yourselves, dammit. It’s gonna be ok.

One of my close friends ended up on a drip in hospital. Not Covid. His tonsils, exacerbated by relentless external negativity. You are what you eat. That’s not just about food. I’ve lived long enough now to see people consumed and twisted by long held negativity. Shrunk into little silly things when they used to radiate glory. It’s getting harder and harder and then this timely Diwali to remind us to make things shiny. As without, so within.

I’ve lit too many candles. It’s nice. I’m lucky in that I HAVE too many candles to light. But shiny things come highly recommended right now by a culture with some deep old uninterrupted wisdom. We can always learn from other ways.

Light. Make it happen. Just don’t burn the place down by mistake. Or on purpose. But hell this world needs light right now, both figuratively and literally. With me, my candles can often exist for years as I’m waiting for a special occasion that never comes. Tonight and the rest of the week I’m going to be surrounded with them and smelly incense and shiny happy lovely fecking things. So there.

Spotty dog, my first toy. And light.

New car.

There she is. The little Nissan. Limping off into the sunset.

Lou and I packed up the contents. Loads of cardboard. An old duvet. Sleeping bag and bivvy. Golf clubs and shoes. A horn cup with silver rim. A single fencing foil. Pack of tarot cards. Small China bowl. Holy water. Tigers eye. Spare petrol canister. Umbrella. Two hardwood African carved heads. Gaffer tape. Old linen. Log book. The usual stuff. We left that piece of gaffer tape attached to the window for no reason. It’s lucky. I got behind the wheel and gunned the engine one last time. Me and the car limped unevenly northwards to some bloke’s house. He has a business called “Sussex Car Buyers Limited“. Does what it says on the tin.

I’ve got very little cash left. But I’ve got enough for a basic pair of wheels and so I asked him if he sells as well as buys. Likelihood is that he runs a small business flipping cars. I’ll do better for part exchange with the Nissan with him than I will if I sell here, get a train home with all my crap, and spend the next week refreshing Gumtree in London.

We hammer out a deal. He does most of the hammering. I haven’t got much choice. It’s a Golf with buggered central locking and a dead battery that he’s trying to insist is fine. And it’s an Audi. I take them both round the block. The Audi has new wheels.

Fifteen years ago it was BMW you didn’t want to see coming up in the rearview mirror. Now it’s those four rings. The asshole badge of the Audi driver. The police have got an acronym for it. CIAFA. Makes it easier to write down. C*** in a F****** Audi.

That’s me now. I drove it off with it. I’m the Chap in the Flippin’ Audi.

“Now I’ve paid for it and it’s all signed off, come on, be honest – what’s wrong with it?” I ask, as I always do.

“It’s nice, actually. I like it,” lies the dude’s brother who has been pushing the thing on me for about two hours non stop. He has honest eyes. I immediately mistrust him as I always do with honest eyes.

Five minutes into the drive the service light comes on. Bing. Service! Here we go.

Some sort of diesel filter needs changing. It’s winter and its been stationary. Might be workable. I’ll blow it through, keep an eye on the temperature, and see how close to next October I can get before the exhaust catches fire. It might just need to be run to clear it. Either way it’s always nice to add a soupçon of adventure to a drive. Possible fire? I’m game. No way I can afford to go get it fixed.

I’m insured on it this time, BEFORE I drive it home – and it’s raised my premiums. Once bitten twice shy on the uninsured driving though. I’m not making THAT mistake again. And it drives nicely. It’s a big tank of a thing despite only having two doors. The seats are in the finest murderer’s sweaty pleather. It was tuned to Kiss FM. Other options were Radio 1 and Galaxy. The previous owner was likely done for driving it drunk or stabbing people, and had to sell it off fast. It’s a car that reeks of idiot. I wouldn’t like to see it come up behind me. But if I’m sitting in it I don’t have to look at it. And I can be the one doing all the aggressive and stupid ridiculous stuff that those four rings appear to incite in drivers.

I doubt the capacity will be much more than the Nissan. You can’t put the seats down, I think, so filling it with boxes of antiques will be harder. But it got me home. I can sell it on if I must and if I’m patient I’ll get about half of what the guy charged me, (although that’ll go less and less the closer we get to October 2021). But fuckit, he took the Nissan. It’s a problem solved.

Bless him, he tried to make it look like I got a good deal by keeping the Audi price high but offering more than the Nissan was worth in discount. I played along as there was a car at the end of it. I won’t throw him out for repeat custom either despite spending a few hundred more than usual. Just so long as it doesn’t die in the next three months because of this filter issue. It’s a great big asshole of a car for great big assholes. It hasn’t got enough doors or space. But it’s mine. All mine. Broom broom.

All achieved whilst remaining outside and within two meters from one another.

Last gasp of the Nissan

I’ve still got the Nissan. It’s parked outside Lou’s. I’m sitting in it writing. You pay for parking by the hour and it’s ten to. Worth a few minutes wait for a few quid

I had an MOT booked at Yeoman’s Nissan in Eastbourne. We left in the morning and made our way over. Beautiful weather. We were distracted numerous times.

Between Brighton and Eastbourne you’ve got the South Downs Way, heading over the tops of The Seven Sisters – a coastline that will show up in the living room of many a family with bulldogs and a George Cross in the garden. Those white chalk cliffs, gradually crumbing into the sea with the buffeting of Poseidon. We stopped and clambered through rocks to find stony beaches and silence. We hoiked up hills and examined strange plants. We climbed over a breakwater and through the kissing gates. We enjoyed what I was willing to believe would be the last trip of the Nissan. But the Nissan had other ideas – or at least the cost of parts did.

Yeoman’s Nissan Eastbourne is an excellent business, and if I was a lot richer I’d be back there to get myself an X-Trail for £25k and hang it all. I even went and stroked one of the X-Trails in the lot while I waited. Lovely capacious beasts. Not for me yet though.

I found myself speaking to a mechanic before I took the thing in for the booked MOT, mostly talking about the exhaust and how it’s attached. He didn’t throw out the idea of it passing with the exhaust held on like it is. So I went to the window and spoke to the receptionist. He was willing to give me an idea of what it would cost me before taking it in. Extremely good of him, especially considering the outcome. Five stars.

He walked around it with the engineers. They took their time. He came back with a calculator and a list.

Not taking into account the possible fix on the exhaust and before the window we were looking at £400. With the window it’s £750 as they’d have to get somebody in. £350 for a window? That idiot really did a job on me. So £750 minimum before MOT cost and unexpected extras, or I’m driving with a broken window for a year. Likely it’ll be a grand with unexpected bits. Sadly I could easily get a better car for that much – it’s a buyer’s market right now. Not buying from them it isn’t though – most of their cars are £15k plus. But back on gumtree or a lucky street find…

I had to drive back to Brighton with her. She’s here now. I’m writing in her.

And that’s that. At least I tried. The cops have it on record now with wheels that need changing. If I’m pulled over again for the cardboard numberplate, which is a very easy pull – then I’m in trouble. It’s time to compact her, sadly. Time to crush her up.

So I’ll park her up tonight here, and I’m sitting in her to write my blog.

We’ve had some adventures. Nobody could say I haven’t made use of her. I’ve put a few thousand miles on the clock and helped Tristan learn to drive and shuttled up and down to Lou and gone exploring and hit Yorkshire hard.

But a grand don’t come for free, as we learnt from The Streets in 2004. Time to be carless for a while.

Tomorrow I’ll take her on her last journey, to somewhere that’ll buy her as scrap. Somewhere with a direct trainline to London nearby. Somewhere not far enough away that I can get pulled over.

There’s a lot of stuff in her too. I’ll have to work out how to get it home, or jettison it.

I’ll miss the little darling. She made a great deal possible over a short space of time. I wish I had deeper pockets, or that I could do my own engineering.

Two years since Santiago!

“Two years ago we arrived in Santiago di Compostela!” I just had the text through from Luisa, my frequent walking buddy.

So we did. 11/11. And last year I was heading down to the valley of the giants, north of San Francisco, to commune with big trees and nature and a bear and with solitude in a place that might be nothing but ashes now. Remembrance Day has frequently been a day of spiritual things. A day about remembering…

Today, a day I’ve been told is perhaps the most powerful day of the year for manifestation and positive change, I went on a bike to Falmer with Lou. Better than sitting at home.

I say it was a bike ride… My steed was one of those Godawful public bicycles. Three pence a minute with a one pound unlocking fee. The machine itself cost Brighton Council £1700. What the heck did they spend that money on? Backhanders for their buddies most likely, and software development. Honestly, apart from the software, I could have made a better bike out of toothpicks and leftover meat. But I was on a mission to get to green stuff, so I filled my knees with lactic acid as I hauled the fucking thing five miles on gradual gradient away from the sea. Lou has her own bike and couldn’t compute how I was being so slow until she had a go on the thing herself and lasted about two minutes before swapping back. Good exercise though. By the time we hit the woodlands I didn’t need any walking.

I’ve booked the car into an MOT tomorrow in Eastbourne. Likelihood is that it’ll fail too spectacularly to make it worth trying for a pass but I’m kind of on a mission to squeeze another year out of it now. It’s been so valuable to get me to and down to Brighton and to shuttle things to Tennants. This write off of a year would have been even more of a washout without it. I liked having a car in London even before it was complicated and stressful getting on the tube. I want the wheels to continue to be possible. I’ve even got a couple of little shuttling jobs I could be doing in the near future.

But a bike does at least help you move. On the way home we found one that was less of a tank as well. I started to enjoy the cycling going downhill. You can’t carry boxes of antique plates in a bike but you can at least get around. If I have to, I’ll drop the Nissan and get around London on a bike. But I couldn’t go to Brighton on it. Or to Yorkshire with a box of stuff.

The cops…

Cardboard number plate. Flat tyre. Bald tyres. Fucked suspension. Rattle in the exhaust. Broken window shored up with eighties pillowcase.

“Do you know why we’ve pulled you over, sir?”

MOT due. Driving over the speed limit. Lockdown and I’m going from London to Brighton. Generally a seditious human being. Revenue generation. Boredom.

“No officer,” I venture. Then I hazard: “The numberplate?”

He agrees with me. “It’s not legal, that numberplate.”

“I’m aware of that, officer. The bloody DVLA are taking forever to transfer ownership of the car so I can’t get a new one.

The cardboard is soggy. The sharpie has run.

“Hmmm” he says. “And where are you going?” I tell him. “I’m going to Brighton.” Lou is basically my entire support bubble. I’m going to fucking Brighton. Anybody who has been reading between the lines can tell I’m not at my best mentally at the moment with darkness and money and careerpause and lockdown. “I’m going to scrap this car,” I add, with my usual habit of oversharing. His ears prick up.

“What’s wrong with it?”

Realising my mistake I try for subtextual begging. “When somebody smashed my window it was the last straw. It’s cost me too much money already.” His eyes are on the flat tyre. Has it held its air?

“Wait here,” he says, like I might run off. He walks around the car.

Oh fuck.

I’m near Horsham. I’m imagining having to get a bus to Brighton overnight with all my stuff. I knew this was going happen, I tell myself. Still doesn’t make it better.

His mate wants my driving licence. I don’t have it. Just a photo on my phone. I show it to him. Off he goes. “Same name as on the insurance,” I hear him say. I start chanting quietly. He’s seen my tyres. But they’re checking if it’s stolen and it isn’t. And I’ve told him I’m scrapping it so he knows I know it’s threadbare. I really don’t want to get stuck in fucking Horsham with another fine to think about right now when the world is dark and Christmas is cancelled.

First guy comes back. He can’t work out my route. “Why are you here if you’re going London to Brighton?” My satnav is set to avoid motorways. If my tyre explodes I’d prefer not to be going at 70 past a lorry. “I don’t like driving on motorways,” I tell him. “Your tyre needs inflating. And they’re just off the legal tread. You need to change them if you do keep this vehicle. And the numberplate. But we’re going to let you go this time.”

What? How?

“Thank you officer.”

They thought the car was probably stolen. It wasn’t. They were NICE. Good God. Compare that to the last encounter. Lucky me. I drive off. A minute later at a roundabout a pursuit vehicle buzzes up being me at 100mph. I am very slow and processing all my adrenaline until Brighton. I think this really might have been the last hurrah, but I’m going to get a quote from a local garage first.

Now I’m here with Lou in her peaceful Brighton flat, warm and with tea. I’m going to stop this writing and enjoy the lucky fruit of my little encounter with plod.