a rainy start ………….

Notwithstanding not really having slept properly i jumped up from the sofa at 8.05am and deftly folded, plumped, smartened and tidied where i’d rested, then just as sharpish i gathered together my bags and the dogs’ bowls. The three of us padded toward the front door – the two dogs sniffed at my mate’s bedroom door as we passed it by, both wanting to say their goodbyes i’m guessing – but i had one aim and that was to leave quickly so as not to get a parking ticket for having left the van in the ‘resident permit parking’ bay (from 8am to 6pm). Feeling pretty washed out from having no morning freshen up, it added little zing to the day that, when i opened the front door to the flats, i was greeted with fine falling rain that was showing no signs of stopping. Me and the dogs jumped into the ‘Boogie Bus’ (my affectionate name for the Vito) and departed.

I took the dogs to a nearby park. Still in my clothes from the previous day along with wellington boots and cagool, at least i was dressed for the weather.  Dogs sorted i then asked myself what the day was going to be? drive to Lancaster to view a motorhome? drive to Spalding to view a motorhome? find somewhere to get a shower and wash? i decided to stop at the place i detest the most, McD’s so as to use their wi-fi.  I went in the one nearest the M62. Bought a large cup of tea for 99p (feeling too sick of habitually saying the word ‘coffee’ – which, up until three or four years ago i had hardly ever consumed) and then took a pew. Opened up my laptop and joy of joy, it was dead, no battery life. I sat with my head in my hands for a couple of minutes. Then took a couple of rounds of deep breaths and wondered what exactly i was doing with my life. I drank my tea, it was brown water but fascinatingly enough it tasted perfect for my given situation.  I had some fitful thoughts passing through my head, unclear as to whether they were snippets of my dreams or actual conscious requirements for the day ahead. Lost as to what to do i decided that mostly, i really wanted to get clean and be sheltered for the day so i sent a bit of a plea to my good friend in Chester asking if i could make use of her home for the day. And i sat and waited for a reply. Luckily enough she quickly came to my rescue and said ‘yes, of course you can’ via text messaging.

Thus, my spirits lifted and i jumped the boogie bus and made haste for the M62.  The journey started off challenging as the freeway toward the M53 junction was closed (for landscaping) and i had to follow a diversion, so once again, i was driving around not knowing particularly where i was in my daily attempt at living. However, to my relief, some fifteen minutes later i found myself on a stretch of road i recognised and once again, i was en route.

Safely landed in Chester, i walked the dogs as the rain petered out. My good friend had left me a key and so i let myself in and immediately cleaned myself up and settled with my re-charging laptop and hopped on to surf the net in my quest for finding a ‘house on wheels’, (which is becoming a chore now) and is messing with my ‘balance’ in life.

I sat on the sofa for most of the day, my friend returning home a couple of hours after my arrival – we chatted a lot as it had been a couple of months since we’d last met – we made plans to go out for dinner.

So two days after the lunar eclipse I felt no closer to having any understanding of what my life means in the here and now, other than to learn how to bite the bullet and get on with it.

‘I’d read somewhere ‘Think about it this way: An eclipse is the most powerful tool the universe uses to affect change. It will illuminate a situation in a new way so that we view it differently. Events move on fast forward at eclipse time, but it is important not to jump to conclusions, as all eclipses have a second act. Additional information related to the topic that comes up now will be revealed later, within weeks. Be patient, and take time to reflect on all you hear.

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the chester fields ……….

For the first time in possibly about nine days, i put on some make-up. My mate was dressed up and ready to go. My fashion styling right now has taken a turn into the realms of ‘alternative strange’ because it really is a test to one’s ability to ‘dress out of a suitcase from the back of a van’ on a day-to-day basis. Anyway, my friend said i looked okay and i can trust her on that one because she is a smart dresser herself and i know she’s not a ‘yes person’ just for the sake of it.

She drove me ten minutes up the road to her ‘semi-regular’ haunt of a ‘high-end’ restaurant/bar. Half past seven and already it was pretty busy. We sat off in the bar area for pre-drinks, mine a bombay sapphire and soda, hers a gordons and tonic. Then comes the time to get our table. Once seated i take a look around and there is some great quirky artwork, trinkets and china dog ornaments (one of which had his photograph taken with another diner).

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We ordered Rioja (purportedly with hint of vanilla and coconut!) from Spain – could grasp the vanilla but unsure as to whether the coconut was there or lucidly longed for because it had been mentioned.  My friend went for the beef, i chose lamb shank .. and we didn’t have to wait too long for our dishes to arrive. Absolutely beautiful food. I had mashed spinach, broccoli spears and green beans too… all of which were cooked to a superb standard and worth the £16.50 price tag.

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With dinner done we returned to the bar to carry on with our drinking. The bottle of wine having been happily swigged and opened the taste buds for some further glugging.

My next choice was a ‘Countryside Old Fashioned’ a deep bourbon with a spoonful of sugar (a special blended sugar of cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and some other secret spices) and plenty of ice, which, the very chatty and knowledgeable Gareth (our bartender) whizzed round and round with his long-handled spoon, the result of which was an amazing tasting ‘cocktail’.

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My friend played it safe to be honest and stayed on the Clavijo Rioja (@ £7.95 per 250ml glass!) …  My next choice was a regular glass of ‘safe’ Prosecco…

and then Gareth, seeing that we were having a good time, edged us toward trying a favourite of his (and easy to make he stated) .. The Hazel Espresso, and yes, it was the perfect ‘cold coffee liquor’ (without the mound of fresh cream that can leave a heavy floating feeling in the belly), instead, it was a concoction of sweet strong smooth easy (far too easy) drinking cocktail.

I’ll have another thank you very much.

Then i tottered off to the little girl’s room.

Five minutes later i’m back sat at the bar.  Gareth made his way round and was heading through the thinning crowd, and me being the jester that i am, said ‘oh you needn’t have bothered’…. cos he was carrying what looked like a cake for someone …  turns out it was for me, my friend had quickly pleaded them to do something toward a birthday gesture for me …..

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Continuing with the wonderful hazel espresso, i was bought another by a regular (Phil), who, by this time had started conversation with my friend and kept up being part of our late evening at the bar (right til the end in fact as we were the last to leave).

My nightcap at the bar was an Evan Williams Honey which absolutely laughed all over the JD Honey which has recently hit the supermarket shelves. My well-informed bartender imparted the fact that the Evan Williams was a lot harder to purchase – else you go to Amazon where you can find it in plenty.

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Me and my friend changed out of our kitten heels into our snugg boots and walked the B road curbside back home.

I chose to sleep on her plush cream sofa for the first couple of hours until realising that i was bent double, internal thermometer rising, and having very strange dreams about being bitten on the arse by a dog whom i knew was going to bite me and which i was a bit fearful of but my love of dogs had made me less able to move away from it…  and then there were other vicious dogs too but who turned out to be harmless … and there was a big house with a room in which when i touched a tap on the wall, the plaster all fell away and crumpled into a neat pile to the right of where i was standing. After which, several men, some of whom i thought i knew, some i didn’t, all begin to congregate in the house.

I sat upright, picked up the high tog duvet (must have been that causing my hotness) and snuck upstairs to grab another couple of fitful hours on a ‘princess’ mattress size bed.

the burger saga ………

So i had a wonderful time just beyond three hours from room checkout at the Victoria Warehouse … sat in their wonderful reception/lobby surfing the more often than not less than glamorous realms of ‘motorhome/caravan/race truck’ search world. Then i had to leave – i couldn’t really sit there all day. I gave the dogs another fast paced stretch past the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and back again, by then the good-looking lads were erecting marquees in the car park (probably in preparation for the opening of the Science & Art Exhibition – is it really going to be that big? Zac Dingle is joining us …. are futurejack really going to play in front of a good few hundred peeps?) nice!    According to my notes, i’ve planned to head toward Lancaster, Lancashire – so i need to get back on the M602, M62 and then get onto M61  – where did i go wrong?   the rain started to fall, time was fast approaching ‘rush 3 hours’ – was probably about 4pm and the queues on the motorway were forming … i turned onto the M60 ring road toward Preston, should have waited a bit further along the M62 to get onto the M6 and then wound back up toward Bolton … ok, so i got it wrong and then it went pear-shaped from there – ended up roving between Warrington and Newton (A49) doing a round robin times two! and decidedly stopped at the B&Q and Burger King exit.  Was a fair bit hungry since i’d had nothing but an apple and two cheese cubes plus a wee marmite pack since breakfast, more than 7 hours previous …. this incited me to do something i’d not done for possibly more than 12 years – i entered the Burger King, and i had in mind the fact of eating a burger (i rarely rarely rarely ever eat beef) … i approached the till with an iota of hope and looked at the tempting tantalising photography on display – so i made a decision and ordered the ‘sandwich of the day’ for £3.99, a double cheeseburger, fries and drink – ‘can i get a coffee rather than cold drink?’ … ‘yes’ replied the overweight server.  I only had to wait about three minutes for the goods – because it wasn’t too busy i’m stood there anticipating some fresh cooked scran.  ‘You want any ketchup or mayonnaise?’ i was asked by the assistant, I declined.  I took my tray to a seat swathed in sun and sat down.  Already i was feeling a bit less trusting in the fayre in front of me – for one thing, it was a lot lot smaller than the photograph depicted … the fries kind of fell, broken, out of their shitty little cardboard box,  … and then i unwrapped the tightly squeezed burger king paper from around the squished squashed putty roll that purportedly encased a double cheeseburger and bacon … i was gripped with hunger –  i took off the top part of the roll to reveal, brown bacon, sloppy sick cheese and a deflated burger …. i got up, walked back to the assistant and said ‘i can’t eat that, give me my money back please’ … he looked astonished, perplexed even, went off to talk to someone at the back of the shop and then returned with till key and opened the till and gave me back £2.31, retaining the money for the latte that i had in my hand.  I returned to my van, over the next ten minutes, drank the latte, which i then realised was just sloppy slushy shit milky tasting crap which gurgled in my alimentary canal for the next half hour making me feel less than sporty … my parting words to the overweight server were, ‘it’s little wonder i haven’t been in an establishment like this for more than a decade’ – and i believe it to be true, i will never ever venture in one again. . . til the day i die, (unless of course i am in dire need of a shit – cos they have useable toilets). So i sat off in their car park and made use of their free wi-fi for another hour or so and then decided to head to Lancaster.  I took the wrong turning off the roundabout and ended up toward Liverpool again where huge motorway car park queues still equated … i’m quickly realising that being on the road well and truly reminds me i have no home, and i’m just chasing my tail … how long is this going to be my fate?  i took the next exit slip road (toward Warrington/Newton A49 for the 3rd time) and then done a quick zip back round to the services adjacent to that roundabout …. ahhhhhh, lovely, here, i find myself in the refines of a Starbucks Coffee Station and a KFC.  I let the dogs out for a brief respite in the kerb and then head in to the services to try find some food.  I use the toilet, so the pelvics are relieved after a good few hours exercise….  there’s a WHSmith and, according to my no/low carb diet I find some Pepperami and hey presto, lucky for me, there’s a New Pepperami ‘Wideboy’ … fatter than your usual Unilever pork sausage snack and certainly fills my gap!  i sit momentarily in a ‘life on the road’ haze … then i notice the KFC menu and their ‘Wicked Bucket’ and ‘Variety Bucket’ and ‘Boneless Bucket’ … wondering how many thousands and millions of chicks have had their beaks spliced at birth to stop the pecking habit of a lifetime … my eyes avert to the vendors of the said fast killed smothered in gluck, food, absolutely all of whom are grossly misshapen from their skeletal birthright – a disgusting and shameful indictment on the human being. Then i see the ‘Welcome Break Gaming’ and some petty gambling machines and a little bit of ‘Save The Children, Pudsy’ fund.  Grief strickens me as i walk back to my van.  I have absolutely nothing better to do than greedily take more of the free Wi-Fi from this soul destroying part of the earth and continue my search for a motorhome ….  and remember, this is a day of a full moon/eclipse .. a time of opposites, Aries (aggression and charisma) and Libran (indecisiveness and partnership), absolutely scattered!   and the rain continues to fall and the arteries of the motorway ease and i feel i’ve made the decision to drive through the dark skies further norther toward Lancaster and prepare for a searching saturday to secure a moving roof over my head ….

Alas, another wrong turn on the long winding cat-eyed road and i’m led back to Liverpool.  At the mercy of a friends’ sofa I retreat for the night with a cut price salad, some mixed feta/olives and a large bag of twiglets, and a bottle of Isla Negra Reserva (8/10) ………

I’m about to curl up for some fetal sleep, with the hope that i take the right road in the morning.

 

 

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the victoria warehouse …..

I had to drive the M54 to connect to the M6 and all the way back up North to get to Liverpool to go teach an hour of yoga at a city centre venue dedicated to the welfare of women. I finished there by 2pm and then quickly drove to my lock up where the last of my possessions are stored, needing to off load just some more items from the van because of the squash between me and my two dogs – it’s proving challenging to adjust with having them so close and reliant on me, awaiting my every move, my every thought, connected to them. It is verging on the suffocating, but it’s just the requirement to adapt i need to bring forward. We’ll be okay. The last two days i feel my impatience has subsided and so too has some of the inner aggression and anger.  Being made homeless can sieve all sorts of unconscious emotions to the surface.

Notwithstanding the situation i still have to move forward and fulfill some duties, one of which this day is to get to Manchester to go take a look at the venue in which i will be playing live music on thursday 24th October for the opening of the Science & Art Exhibition … i submitted my music some six months previously and was chosen from about 30 entrants to be the one who performs!  i’m taking the futurejack pack with me …

I arrive in Manchester about 4pm and meet with my contact.  The outside of the Victoria Warehouse Hotel looks like a prison, but just to the side is a wee entrance that has subtle enchanting qualities – some carved wooden seating. some plants, some metal sculptures … and then in through the massive heavy iron doors (which open quite easily compared to their size) and i’m in the large earthy brick-red reception with low metal pipe-lined ceilings, comfy red velvety pillowed seats and wrought iron tables n chairs, and then there’s Ganesha and Buddha and a library and a bar and a mini ‘movie theatre’ and it’s all so very welcoming. I immediately take an instant liking to everything about it.

I’m shown around further, where the exhibition is going to be installed and where we, futurejack, are going to play (right under Ganesha) – my contact is stressed and can’t spare me much time but that’s okay, i’m delighted to sit in the lounge area and take photos and then i lounge about that much that i decide to stay the night … i ask to see one of the rooms – a single – it’s clean, small, but has wi-fi, tv, shower, toilet, all of which are exceptionally clean and breakfast is included in the £39.99 price tag.

Once again, i’m safe for the night …. i head out to walk the dogs and find a wonderful long strip of grass alongside Manchester United Football Ground, and i walk past the Sir Alex Ferguson entrance and the dogs are happy and so am i.

I spend the night writing and motorhome searching.  I go down to the bar and buy a double Jack Daniels Honey which they charge me the super-duper price of £6.40 for and then for my dinner i order a very small bag of dry roasted peanuts (as they don’t do food, other than breakfast in the bistro) to which they charge me the superior fee of £1 …. i feel their bar prices are extortionate without the need to be.  But anyway, Nomad’s can’t be a chooser, can they?!

The sleepover = the single bed is lumpy bumpy but somehow comfy, there’s not too much external noise going on so a decent kip can be had although i did wake several times, again due to a bit of a chill in the air – the bed linen did include a duvet but again, probably a blanket on top would have been good….   the shower was phenomenal, really really lovely, and clean ….

Breakfast in the Bistro = hmmmmmm, well, it was cold, and the scrambled egg had been hanging around for a couple of hours i reckon … again, i rejected the hash browns, the beans, the toast but was given no extra in place so the overall brekkie was small (cos again the sausage was for the dogs!) … but what they did have were small portions of wrapped cheese and individual marmite sachet so a couple of them were pocketed in readiness for lunch, along with an apple and an orange from the fruit bowl ….

Checkout at 12 noon … that’s nice, no feeling of being rushed to get out!

Am looking forward to returning next week to perform and to (party!!) with the band afterward as we have been given x2 twin rooms for the night …. however it looks like there may be 7 of us needing a bed!!!  lovely jubbly

I give the Victoria Warehouse Hotel a sturdy 7 out of 10 reckoning they need to ease off on their bar prices a wee bit, offer a blanket in the colder months, ensure the Bistro knows when their hot plate isn’t keeping the breakfast hot and actually advertise the fact they have an in-house Yoga Studio and Spa more ….  i wanted to try both of these things but it seems there are limited yoga sessions and if you want to make use of the Spa then advance booking is definitely a requirement.

OM

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the huntsman …..

My driving took me further into Telford and along more of those winding A roads … in my head i was saying ‘please just find me a place to rest my head and get a shower, get me somewhere suitable, kind of soon’ …  and then i thought of money, and put a price on my night, ready to pay around 70 quid if needs be ….  a couple of minutes more down the road and i saw a sign – Wellington House Hotel / The Huntsman Inn, i followed it.  Then i’m still driving down windy foresty road for another couple of miles and i’m flagging and then i see a fork in the road, to the left was a sign for the Wellington House Hotel and to the right a sign for The Huntsman Inn – I immediately preferred the thought of an Inn.  I travelled another 5 minutes through forest and saw a gorge and some rockface, all very awe inspiring, and then waving in the sky in front of me was the Union Jack Flag. It’s been a long time since sensing the emotion of relief, for some reason, it was so welcoming and gave me the comfortable thought of safety.  The Inn was delightful, i asked the bright pink haired receptionist (who i had to wait 5 minutes for before she realised i was there) and i enquired if there were a room and how much – to my absolute relief she checked her reservation book and said yes! a double room for £65 (inc.Breakfast) was available. She led the way and took me up very plush carpeted stairs and landing (and me with my wellington boots on!) and invited me to the room ‘Willowmoor’ …. enchanting.  Exceptionally sparkly clean, plush, inviting, absolutely everything i’d visualised in my head that i wanted for the night.  I jumped a shower and stayed in there for half an hour…. the shower gel ‘with extract of ginseng’ very frothy, bubbly and skin soothing.  The bar downstairs was dog friendly and so too was the park attached to the Inn.  When i took the poochies for a walk we came across some Radio twitching, morse coding fanatics who were celebrating 100 years of short wave radio – it was a blessing to hear the beep beeping and then the lovely nerds chatting their radio talk, and one even showing off his Russian linguistic abilities…..  one gentleman stopped to chat at me and tell me everything.

Back at the Inn i sat in the pub for a night of tweeting and facebooking and e-bay searching motorhomes.  I ordered some food – a starter = Duck Leg with Raspberry Confit and Rocket £6.95, a side (v.small) bowl of salad leaves £2.95, and a small bowl of mixed olives £2.50, was enough to satiate me, along with the two pints of Local Cider @ £3.50 each – overall the menu had variety, all starters ranging from £4.50 (for soup and a roll) to the duck and then main courses being between £9 and £16 … sweets were about £5 each with cheese and biscuits being £6.25 …

The night’s sleep – well the bed was definitely comfortable but the sheets were very thin along with a very thin blanket so i did wake up about three or four times feeling a chill.

Next morning, breakfast … the fayre was of good quality but very small in portion, considering i passed on the hash browns and the beans and the toast so there wasn’t much on the plate, one rasher of bacon, one egg, small amount of mushrooms and half a tomato … the sausage, i saved for the dogs (always!) …. however, the girl on duty couldn’t do enough to help and was considerate and offered extra tea and an alternative fruit juice when i didn’t want apple or orange …

Checking out – the director himself came to say his farewell to me, and what a handsome man he was!  he ensured i was given a 10% discount card for my next visit … ah, if only i could meet my future partner who looked like him and who was secure and settled in a fantastic business … the Huntsman Inn had works going on to the side of the property, having ‘Cottages’ developed, (but hardly noticeable as it was all covered up and so clean and well kempt) …. and he invited that perhaps when i next visited i could reside in one of the aforementioned dwellings …….. very enticing!

So, overall i give the Huntsman Inn a very rounded 8 out of 10 – a thicker blanket, a bigger hotter breakfast and a cheaper salad bowl would have earned them a rewarding 10!!!

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becoming a nomad ….

On Tuesday 1st October my life changed in a subtle way. With just twenty days to go before i reach the mature age of 43 i became homeless. My house that i had lived in for 9 years exchanged for a less than princely sum to be ‘tinned up’ and placed on ‘housing death row’ (one of 4 remaining) in the Edge Hill Redevelopment scheme.

There was nothing i could do, i couldn’t hold out any longer – it had taken all my strength and dignity to get to where i was on that upsetting day.  I was born on a Tuesday.  I lost one of my dogs on a Tuesday.  I lost a lover on a Tuesday.  Tuesdays are always a great day for me.

Hence, I left Winifred Street forever and prepared myself (well, thought i had) to a life on the road.

I’m still adjusting.

I’m pretty much free as can be though.

And i’ve decided to document as much of it as i can with a view to  A.  becoming a travel writer / columnist  and B.  remembering my tentative steps into Nomad’s Land.

Thus, the first night was particularly distressing and disorienting and yet liberating and ending up as a party at a friends’ house, well, my fellow futurejack band member’s home to be precise.  Me and the dogs (for those of you who don’t know me, i have two dogs, a bitch and a boy and they’re pretty darn well as full of character as a four-legged friend can be), anyway, we were welcomed with warmth and cheer and offered shelter for our first two nights.

Then i was given a reprieve and offered an outer city flat to ‘guard’ whilst a friend was away in Scotland (The Isle of Skye) planting trees.  8 days grace! me and the dogs were pretty lucky, the flat, although a wee bit cold, was gorgeous – had a massive back garden (although there were poison pellets placed around the vegetation and flower beds to stop the slugs and i think it was this that caused my little Lhasa Apso to have a very dodgy eye for 48 hours) but he recovered and we had a lovely time with a beautiful wild park two minutes down the lane and over the road!  In these early days of acclimatizing to nomadic wanderings i drank quite a bit, smoked more than i have in a good long while and found myself to be lacking in patience and being irked by ‘small talk’ from anyone who was asking after my welfare.  There were also grumblings of anger and aggression welling up in me.  Hmmmmm i could recognise these traits that i had not seen in more than a decade. Dangerous ground for me.  And all of these days took me up to Tuesday 15th October where, after rehearsing with my band, i decided to kip in the van with the dogs and then get off on my own thereafter for a few days, maybe til after my birthday on the 21st.  too many friends have been asking what I’m doing for my birthday – offering me parties and drinks and socializing – but i have done that all year and I’m feeling like i want to be alone.

So on Wednesday 16th i drove to Shropshire to look at a motorhome.  I’d been watching it for some time on e-bay – you see it’s my choice now to live on the road for a while, go visit cities across the UK, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and then on to Europe, and hopefully take the band with me on occasion as to when we’re gigging and/or touring … always keeping Liverpool as a base, cos it does hold some splendid memories for me.  Well the motorhome i looked at, hmmmm, not really impressed and the thing that told me most not to purchase from this person was that they hadn’t even made the effort to clean the interior and when i went to have a closer look at the memory foam mattress sleeping area, there on top of the crumpled duvet was an even more crumpled pair of male boxer shorts … urgggggg – absolutely the last thing that would entice one to buy … there were old biscuit wrappers on the dashboard, some leaking in the shower room (which the guy said was down to the window being left open, a blatant lie, my detective skills told me it was something worse because the leaking water was coloured brown) and on top of this there were a couple more tell-tale signs that this seller didn’t have the same standards as I when it comes to a parting of ways with your assets.  So i left the guy with a firm handshake and told him I’d think about it.

After that i was tired. I had been driving a lot and not sleeping as well as usual and i just wanted a reprieve, to get a shower and clean of my grime and also to be able to rest my head in a comfy bed for the night.  I stopped at a Travel Lodge near the M54 Telford. I was hoping for a good start to my journeys but the guy behind the desk was crap. Without compassion, he said they didn’t allow dogs unless another £20 per dog was paid on top of the room rate and that they wouldn’t have them in this particular night anyway because of the workmen on site and the painting going on and when i said ok I’d leave them in the van he said ‘no, don’t do that, the police will be called’ – so, i spun on my Wellington boot heel and retreated (still in need of a pee – but luckily my pelvic floors kick in when i ask of them).