Monday, 30 January 2006


Sleeping out

One year ago today I did something very stupid: I locked my keys in the car. (Since then I've always known where my keys are at any time.)

That's not the end of it. I'd left them in the ignition. My spare key was at home, four hundred miles away. I had no money on me - my wallet was in the boot. It was getting late on a cold Sunday in January and all I had on was a t-shirt and trousers. Boy racers were tearing up and down the cobbled streets menacingly. My phone battery was on its last legs.

[Sunset through the trees at Silloth]

This picture was taken just seconds before I realised what I'd done. I'd seen the sun catch the band of pine trees that separate the sea from the town and raced from the car to photograph the effect, forgetting to check first that I had a way of getting back in.

What interests me looking back is how quickly my thoughts changed. For three or four hours I shuffled round the town looking for anything of interest. At first the corner shop was still open - I spent an age reading the covers of all their magazines. I started window-shopping. Driven by a rumbling stomach I found myself staring blankly at the price-list in the chippy window.

[The sea at Silloth]

I scouted for places to keep warm. The pine trees offered shelter from the wind that was chopping up the sea but they also hid danger. Doorways looked uninviting. I ended up lying on a bench by the church.

And from that bench I saw two 50 pence pieces. Just a foot away.

I glanced around, then slipped them in my pocket. I started to weigh up potential uses: blow the money on a bag of chips or save it for emergency phone calls? I held the coins tightly in my hand, thoughts racing through my head.

My mobile rang. Friends armed with a Yellow Pages had found a late-night locksmith.

My friends were about two hours drive away. Like the protagonist in Pulp's Common People I'd had "stopped it all" with one phone call. I'll never know what it feels like to be forced onto the street in a strange town but for a couple of hours I caught a glimpse.

Posted by pab at 22:59 | Comments will be back later in the year. Please email me instead!