Thursday 12th April 2012
STOW-on-the-Wold to Stroud is about thirty miles. It’s nearly one in the morning. Five minutes since that car sped on past, down the hill. Probably didn’t even see me. Could be hours before the next. Walk the whole way then. Might be home in time for breakfast.
Getting nippy now. Very dark, out here in the countryside. Hello, stars.
Nobody picks up hitchhikers at this hour. Long and straight, the Fosse Way; no time for roundabouts, the Romans.
Trudge on. I don’t fancy any sleeping-under-a-hedge malarkey. Trudge on.
Ah, another car. But going the wrong way. Coming up the slope, towards me. Oh dear, slowing down… and stopping: déjà blinking vu.
A dozen years previously, after a night’s drinking, celebrating the birth of his son with a close friend, I was hitching home from Blackpool to St Anne’s: only a few miles, but the sooner home the better.
I’d reached that exposed stretch, beyond Pontins.
Car goes past, ignoring my thumb, slows down, does a U-turn, heads back in my direction, stops on the opposite side of the road.
I walk on, trying to remain calm, look casual; immediately sober.
Car pulls away from the kerb, does another U-turn, follows, comes up slowly alongside. I eye the dunes to my left, lest they be some sort of thug. Was pretty fit in those days; could disappear across the golf course.
Two large blokes, a glance tells me; dark clothing. Trudge on, trudge on. Passenger window sliding open. I manage a half-smile.
“You just going to carry on walking then?”
A surly, confident, mocking voice. Bet he’s built like a boxer, quick as a sprinter; probably be armed too: at least a knife; maybe they’ll just take the few quid in my pocket.
Then I hear the static, look again, stop walking.
“Good. Now then, would you like to tell us what you’re doing here at this time of night? And acting suspiciously.”
“Me? What about you? Frightening the living daylights out of––”
“Don’t get all pushy with me, sunshine.”
“I’m sorry, officer, but, come on, be reasonable…”
(to be continued)