Wednesday 5th May, York, England.
Mike, Kerry and I all felt a little under the weather Monday morning, particularly Mike who over the last twelve months has hardly drunk anything harder than a cup of coffee- a far cry from our younger, wild days in Hollywood! Cruelly, even though it was a public holiday, Mike had to go to work at 10:00 a.m. Kerry and I whiled our day away on our computers, watching tele and attempting to break the world record for drinking tea.
I've spent the last two days at Mike and Kerry's relaxing during the day and catching up on old times in the evenings. Mike works at Staples office supplies superstore and Kerry recently gave up her job looking after disabled people, to return to a more highly paid job at the bank, not an easy decision for her since she loved caring for people. Just another example of the tough choices we have to make in our lives. We all have to make choices. We all have to make our own direction. A lot of people say they're jealous of my travelling lifestyle- and of course I wouldn't swap it for all the creamy Boddingtons in Manchester- but you must realize there are sacrifices. The security and comfort that most people take for granted, and the companionship of having someone special to share your life with- they're things that I've had to compromise to have the freedom to travel the way I do.
This morning was fine and sunny, so I set off hitching to York. Of course, the temperature dropped markedly and the sky clouded over as soon as I reached the motorway. A few light spots of rain were starting to fall just as I got my first ride. He brought me as far as Brighouse, where the heavens opened up mercilessly. I sought refuge in a tiny roadside cafe, and tucked into a hearty cooked breakfast while I waited for a break in the weather. The rain didn't ease. Rather than confront the other diners for a ride, I asked the waitress for directions, and whether I could catch a bus from Brighouse, should the hitchhiking not work out. I made sure the other diners could hear me, and as I stepped out into the rain, a couple of guys called me back in. They could give me a ride towards Leeds, if I waited while they finished their bacon and eggs.
Over the next ten minutes, another of my theories was proved. My new friends Robin and Nick are property developers. They buy old houses that are in need of some TLC, renovate them and flog them off, or rent them out. When they found out what I'd been doing in Bletchingley for the past three months, light bulbs flashed above their heads... and mine! "Where were you four weeks ago when we needed someone?" they asked. They drove me to a small town near Bradford, where they've recently bought three adjoining houses. Two have been renovated, and the third has just been started. I was interested to see what they've done, and what needs to be done in the third house, so Nick and Robin gave me the guided tour. The long and short of it is that I've lined up a couple of weeks' work for them in Spain in late July, finishing off a renovation they've got underway over there, proving my theory about the randomness of life.
If I'd left Mike's place yesterday as originally planned, or if I'd been lazy and caught a bus from Warrington, I'd have never ended up in that little cafe. If it hadn't been raining so heavily, I would've waited till York to have breakfast and would've passed that little cafe right by. If Robin and Nick hadn't heard me ask for directions, we'd never have met, and if they hadn't been kind enough to offer me a ride, they'd never have known what sort of work I do. In two months' time, when I'm painting and decorating in sunny Spain, it will be a result of a whole series of random events. It's incredible where life can take you if you open yourself to the possibilities that are out there.
So here I sit in a streetside bar in York. I checked into the backpackers hostel as soon as I got to town, then promptly explored this old city with a four mile walk around York, atop the old city walls. The views were spectacular, taking in York Minster and an array of other medieval buildings from every conceivable angle.
Ravenous by early evening, I descended on an Indian buffet restaurant, a dining experience that was made memorable by one simple but serious mistake. I remember thinking as I picked up a whole big forkful of curry, that it was unusual to find a snow pea in Indian food. It wasn't until I'd chewed four or five times that I discovered the awful truth. It wasn't a snow pea, but a whole green chili. The fire spread through my mouth like napalm, stripping skin as it exploded in intensity. I couldn't breathe, as the intake of air simply fueled the searing pain. Tears rolled down my cheeks, as I fought to maintain my composure. It should have been no surprise that this mishap occured just seconds after I'd drunk the last of my glass of water, so I was left sitting in convulsions until the waiter saw my distress and approached. Without words, I made him understand the urgency of the situation and he hurried back with a fresh glass of water. That was the end of my buffet dinner though, and I was only on my fourth plate. I left the restaurant wiping my eyes and nose, and rushed to the nearest pub, where a pint of cold John Smiths smoothflow put out the fire. Well, it put out the worst of the fire... I might have to have one more, just to make sure.