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My odd hitchhiking journey

I recently stumbled across #ohj, which this month encourages us to make an odd hitchiking journey.

I’ve had some fun this month trying to stick to the rules and still make a coherent tale, and I think it’s fair to say that I have met with limited success. Generous #ohjians have not pointed out that on some half awake, oops there goes the deadline, mornings I only kept under the character limit by committing egregious spelling errors such as omitting the second p of passport.

But there’s always next month. I’ll do better next month.

And if I don’t I’ll still have fun; if not with my own entries then with everyone else’s wildly inventive, joyous, fluid, funny, touching contributions

Regular readers will know I’m incapable of throwing out an idea, so here’s my #ohj. I’ve cheated a little bit, and also proofread it fractionally more carefully than the original tweets. Still doesn’t make as much sense as it made in my head, though

If blogging one’s #ohj is not the done thing, I apologise most sincerely, and if you only let me know I’ll take it down.

Another day, another hostel, a whisper of unease. She stifled the thought, tweaked the covers square, and strode out to face the night. She stepped outside, leaving her baggage unattended. There was no daring in it; everything that mattered she carried close to her skin.

Yesterday she’d found herself in a town served by a spur of the Waterloo line, and on a whim had taken a train, giving her thumb a rest. Though her journey had never been firmly mapped out, London was a diversion that would take some explaining, more than an afterthought. The car park gave her thinking space, if not peace; jets overhead barely masked an uproar that hinted at the dangers of an urban safari. She imagined the Siberian tone of the expected reproof; the train had made her destination predictable, she had thrown away her lead.

The worst of it was that he would be right, and mulling over her failings was not helping – what she needed was a new itinerary. One that straddled a border would be ideal, but she had no more idea how to get abroad invisibly now than she had when she left home. Any other sovereign state would do – maybe France – she could hitch southwards, scrumping fruit from the Limousine orchards as she went.

France was as unattainable as Kilimanjaro, and she headed instead towards the river, pulling her chunky sweater tight against the chill. By the time she reached the river her skin was mottled with the cold and she had no clearer idea what she hoped to achieve by the visit. She walked along the waterside, her wanderlust reviving, and began to search for a foreign vessel she could bluff her way aboard. She stopped to chat frequently, found at last a man, drinking port in the sun, with no interest in whether she held the relevant papers.

It was about four days later – she wasn’t sure – she was sick as a dog, and certain she’d been bitten by every bug from Aedes to Zzyzx. She left the boat at Ayr, so fast she almost got whiplash; she’d been a failure as a deckhand, as clueless as a pike cycling.

Ayr to Dumfries should be less than two hours, but her journey was no cruise and she stumbled in after dark, a dispirited noctambulist.

She was waiting at the bar when she saw him – the man they had almost caught at Heathrow – the man she had travelled so far to avoid. Fear of this moment had dwelt in her heart these long months; for a moment she was as immobile as a museum waxwork, and then she ran. A barman, less than diligent, had left the courtyard door open; she bolted for it automatically; there was nothing left but to run. The  yard was no passport to freedom; she flopped hopelessly against the barred gate, turned, saw incredulously her pursuer under arrest.

“Your captain gossiped” an officer explained, “but he talked to us too. This’n’ll be away a while, ‘n I don’t mean a Tahitian holiday.”


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