The policeman appeared again, this time not alone, were they onto me? I walked behind the museum building which was essentially the old life boat house, there in the shadows and rain I decided on my approach and gathered myself, stand tall, be proud, confidant and most of all prepared for rejection. I crossed the road, the police had gone and without hesitation entered the Inn. It was 7:55 in the evening on a bank holiday weekend, few people had braved the wet and windy evening, and I asked to speak to the owner. A man came from near the bar and with a friendly smile he asked how he could help me. Here goes I thought!
I put out my hand to offer a hand shake, this is always a good start, I told him my name, “Hello, my name’s David”, now of course that’s not my real name, but being so close to the area I’ve run away from, I felt I was being looked for, should I give up my real identity it would end here, tonight.
I then went forward with the offer, “I’m walking the coast path without money or a tent and would like to earn a meal this evening, is there any way I can help tonight so I can eat?” The owner with little thought, told me the kitchen was closed due to a function that night, I could try again tomorrow, suggesting Sunday lunch, I thanked him and began to leave when he offered me a cup of coffee, although I really needed to eat I could not refuse a drink, so accepted and took off my rucksack and coat. The barmaid, served me a coffee and with it a Kit Kat, the warmth of kindness flowed into me warming me as much as the drink itself, I felt good about things, for the first time in days I felt myself smile and a glint return to my eyes, at that point a little faith in humanity returned and I knew there was hope for me.
Thanking the staff I left to find food, to work for it. Watchet is a quiet town and given the time of year, few people were about, I found another bar that seemed to have a few customers, if I again ask the owner or landlord, perhaps if they cannot help then someone may over hear and be able too.
The response was a simple no, during these quiet times everything is taken care of, the few staff can cope and the winter season had meant maintenance done, I left into the dark wet evening and wandered the streets looking for premises or people to approach, a third pub/restaurant gave me a polite, “no we can’t help”, and with thanks I set about heading off to find shelter.
As I passed the pub from which I had the coffee, a man outside spoke. He overheard me earlier inside and asked if I had any joy in getting fed. Telling him I’d not, he asked why I was doing this. With this complete stranger I told him the full story, without my true name and from where I was really from. Whilst chatting, I learnt that depression happens because of many different reasons and is dealt in many different ways, my actions were understood and I believe I was doing the right thing. He then offered me a drink, a pint, I wanted to somehow earn it so suggested I......he was on holiday with his wife and children, there was no way I could help in, at least not physically. I now learn another thing, when a stranger offers someone a drink, it’s because he wishes to, not for reward, and the pleasure of giving is reward enough. If it should please him to buy me a drink, then I should accept one, so I did and joined him back at the bar, next came another shock, he bought the drink, including ones for his family and then gave me the change, a ten pound note, I could not accept all this kindness, but rejection can be a negative and his insistence told me, he really wanted to help.
The place was now very busy, a fiftieth birthday party was in full flow and soon I had invites to help myself to the buffet, conversations and smiles shared with many and a pretty blonde girl company for a while, I was getting fed watered and entertained, such a contrast to the nights of loneliness in my car on the hills.
As people left the party, I knew I’d soon be out in the cold, alone, I’d not seen suitable places to sleep and at this stage, it wasn’t on my radar to spot for such places. With very few places left I loaded myself up, got on my head torch and thanked the owner once more, I was invited to load up a paper plate with left over buffet food, so chicken legs, sandwich’s, nuts, crisps, the unknown were piled onto a plate and take away to be covered. I left with my package and stood in the wind wondering where to look for a shelter. After a while wandering I dropped down onto the dark pebbled beach via a ramp, up to my right was a sea break, boulders piled high, and onto them I saw a piece of garden decking, supported on wooden posts, I scaled a wall and climbed some rocks to see how suitable it could be, a yawn told me I’m tired and a look to the star lit skies gave me hope for dry night, this would be my place for the night.
A few things got damp during the walk over the hills so I hang them up and laid out my boots to air. I’d chosen a flat piece of concrete to lay on, so unpacked some clothes, a blanket and sleeping bag from my dry sack and formed as soft as possible a bed as I could. Although the rain had stopped the wind was blowing from the north west and cutting right into me, that night I learnt that i needed not only to get from the rain, I also needed to get out of the wind.
In the cold fresh air, with waves crashing near the shore somewhere in the night and the wind howling through the air, whistling through the rocks, the trees and through the decking I was under, tonight I’d not sleep well. Eating all the food I’d taken from the party, i lay wondering of a way to distract myself, I thought of counting sheep, has anyone, really ever counted sheep to help them sleep? Across the bay in front of me is Wales, though too far away and obviously too dark for me to see the Welsh sheep, however there was a distraction, I light house I think at Port Talbot, the flashing light had a sequence so I counted, “one elephant, two elephant, three elephant, four elephant, five, elephant, six elephant, seven elephant, eight elephant, nine elephant, ten elephant” FLASH! “One elephant, two elephant, three elephant”. FLASH! Then after ten more elephants another flash and so it went on. Oh, why elephants you may ask? When I was young it was suggested to me that to say the word elephant takes about a second, so to count I’d use this method. I smile as I write this, its funny how old habits picked up as a child, are continued through adulthood.
I count the flashing light for what feels like ages and remember at one point even picturing sheep leaping a gate as my eyes grew heavy and finally I drifted off into a very broken sleep. As well as the knee injury I had a shoulder that I tore ligaments too several years back, the ligaments grew back longer as my shoulder had dropped from its normal position. When a laid on this side it would ache, and it seemed, that night I favoured that side to face away from the wind.