Last week was one of those weeks. I was minding my own business (literally), hunched over the keyboard, hammering away at it. It was around 7:30 pm and pitch black outside when he called. The voice came from the porch, the side of the cabin.
To put this into perspective, look at my name. Yes, that is where I live. On my own. In the middle of a dark wood, with no car access. You don't hear people approach. I do have a telephone. People call me before they visit. No one, and I mean no one, ever, ever, calls around after dark without letting me know by phone first. (scribble, scribble, 102 uses for cider vinegar, and a water pistol). But W is not like other people. He doesn't even approach with a torch (flash light). I would see it. The path runs in front of the window of my one room cabin. My desk faces the window.
"Do you have any sage?"
To put this into perspective, W walked about two miles to ask for a herb. W is no stranger to strangeness. A week earlier he called around but did not see me at my desk, but seeing my bike in the shed and washing on the line he deduced that I can't be far, so he goes into my workshop and lies down on the floor for a nap, since I must return before long. W is someone I only know for a few weeks. This is not an old friend, just to put this into perspective. He called around twice before. The first time to ask if I was a herbalist (no), the second to let me know that the atmosphere in the old railway carriage where I used to live - now the garden shed of the place where he lodges - was not so pleasant now since the little incident with the tightening nut of the garden sheers.
"I'll have a look."
I close the door on him as I say it. I'll have a look
is as much politeness as I can muster at this point. I have to drag out jars and packages. Can't find any. The door opens. He mentions the cold. I mention that I don't want him calling after dark without letting me know. I meant, I don't want him calling around, full stop. But I don't know his state of mind, so I say it in the politest way I can.
"I'm leaving soon", he snaps.
Last time, he told me he was leaving in the summer. Apparently, I do have sage, so he tells me. I told him that I had some, so he says. I play it cool, must have thrown it out, there was something moldy in the cupboard recently, must have been the sage. I think of a little consolation, show him the envelope of the Christmas card that had gone accidentally to Thailand (that is another weird story - some other time, not important right now). No, that doesn't work. He slams down the empty jar he brought and the envelope and tells me I'm wasting his time. Good, then you are on your way, I guess. Of course I don't say that out loud. I just lock the door as he walks into the night.
I call E, who is my friend and his landlady. No answer. I am leaving soon
, and E doesn't answer the phone. Oh my God, E is probably lying in a pool of blood! Oh, did I mention his eyes were glazed in a manic sort of way? I email O who knows W and E, as well as R who told W that he thought I was a herbalist, and who is W's neighbor. O doesn't answer. Oh no, W has gone on a rampage! What shall I do? Call the police? I go through it mentally, the officer calling around to take a statement.
"What seems to be the problem?"
"This guy, W, came around this evening".
"He asked for sage."
"He asked for sage?"
"Yes, but you didn't see his eyes!".
On second thought....I stare at the computer for the rest of the evening, willing O to answer my email. She does so the next day. She was in London. W handed in his notice for personal reasons, and E was not lying in a pool of blood.
Meanwhile, I get another visit from W the next day. At least it is mid day this time.
"I want a word. Why did you show me a letter last night?".
Curiosity must have been nagging at him relentlessly.
"It was the envelope you saw last week, the one which came from Thailand."
"No, you showed me a letter."
"It was an envelope from a Christmas card...."
"You are just wasting my time."
It has been ten days since he walked off the second time. I can tentatively say, he won't be coming back. Fingers and toes crossed.
A few nights later I am hunched over my computer. It is past midnight. I promised myself an early night. There are only so many 30 hour work days you can do in a row. I also promised myself dinner that night. Bugger, its a bit late for that now, but I can still have an early night.
vrrrrmm vvvrroooommm vrommm
"I am calling to make a complaint! There is a rally going through here!"
"They have permission for this rally".
"I KNOW THEY HAVE F****G PERMISSION FOR THIS F****G RALLY. WHO THE HELL IS GIVING THOSE W*****S PERMISSION? THERE SHOULDN'T BE ANY F****G RALLIES"
And more along that line. I don't go into things like the carnage on the road, the wild life going berzerk, the lives being lost in the middle east over oil so that those thugs can drive in circles, the unnecessary pollution. They don't give a damn about that. They do give a damn about irate citizen who can't sleep. Especially citizen who didn't get a notice in their letter box about the rally. She took note of that. Got to go by rules. Even if the rules allow the rally regardless. At least you would have had a chance to go abroad, if you knew.
"Don't you swear at me. I'm not here to be sworn at."
"I AM NOT SWEARING AT YOU, I'M SWEARING AT THIS F****G RALLY".
"Don't swear at me."
"Oh, f**k off."
If she can't handle a bit of swearing she shouldn't be a police officer, for crying out loud.
By now several dozen cars have screeched through the valley. It is one in the morning. They have gone through the night on previous occasions. I won't be able to go to bed. I'll be frothing. I may as well do
something. I grab my jacket and march off. At the road I see the first bunch of stewards or marshals, or whatever they call them. I explain to them that they are very naughty people, or words to that effect. Just letting off a little steam at this point.
I walk on, past a few more stewards. No sign of any police who are supposed to be around. I would give them a piece of my mind. So much for noise abatement laws and speed limits. Why aren't they doing their f***g job instead of handing out tickets for dropping money
or blowing the nose in a stationary car
? I manage to slow down a few of the rally cars. They don't like it. Tough, I don't like your f**g rally. There.
Two miles on I get to the cross road. A pickup truck comes along one road. It is a friend and neighbor, D. He sees me and stops in the road down which the rally wants to go. There is a brief lull. Now, this is deepest rural Wales. The side roads are just about one car's width, flanked by hedge-banks and grass growing in the middle. D's truck fills the road just inside from the cross road. Well, nothing like having a chat on a quiet rural road at two in the morning. What's this? Another rally car? D had switched off his engine. Looked like he could have been there for a while. The rally car tentatively approaches. Parked pickup trucks on an isolated cross road in the small hours don't bode well. I walk over to the car. The driver lowers his window.
I squint my eyes, acting though I'm trying to make out the car's occupants, and ask "are you the police?"
The driver grins nervously and says no.
"There's been an incident." I point down the road he wants to take. "The road is blocked. You'll have to turn around and let the others know."
The driver looks confused and backs up slowly, not sure what to do.
I walk back to the truck and continue chatting with D. We are in for a long wait, there was an incident down that road, after all. The rally driver decides the road must be blocked and takes the other route. He doesn't go back to tell the others, but he is one of the last anyway. D eventually drives on and I walk back on the field side of the hedge where it is safer. Three more cars pass, and the rally is over.
By the time I get home it is about 3 am. I just quickly look over the post I picked up on the way. There is a summons for late payment of council tax. What happened to the seven day grace period I was promised? I will have to give them a ring on Monday, can't deal with it now.
I go straight to bed, knackered. I should go out like a light. After half an hour in bed my heart is racing, my hands are clammy, and I feel strange. I have one of those wrist blood pressure thingies. 81 over 49 is low, even for me. And pulse 100, despite resting for 30 minutes, yikes! I don't want to dial 999, but I'm too woozie to look up the National Health help line. I keep it brief, just want to know if its in safe limits. If I know its OK I'll just go back to bed. The palpitations get worse. Every few beats my heart feels like it is being squeezed in a fist. I must not eat or drink anything, unlock the door, keep a light on, lie down and rest, she tells me.
"Look, I live 600 yards up a dirt track, they can't get up here easily. Unless I am in danger of dying, there is no need for them to come out, honestly. I just want to know I'm OK, or maybe there is something I can do. Maybe grab the cut end of a live cable or something, DIY resuscitation, if the need arises. I don't say it, but it's the sort of thing I was fishing for. She gave me a reassuring "turn on any outside lights so they can find you". Oh my god, I am
dying! Damn, not a good time to have a bad hair day.
Twenty minutes later the phone rings.
"They can't find you. Can you go down to the road and meet them there?"
Sure. Ten minutes later I am sitting in the parked ambulance, hooked up to a machine which produces a nice rhythmic line on some graph paper. The paramedic takes a few more tests - blood, blood pressure, pulse. Pressure has shot up, pulse still racing, but no abnormalities. I am not dying, and I can go back up to bed. He kindly refrains from mentioning my hair.
The good thing about these minor mishaps are, they often save bigger ones later. Nothing like a jolt to get you to smarten up. The takeaway from this is, eat your greens, get your sleep and rest, get your exercise, don't work crazy hours, or smaller straws will brake the camel's back. Strange people happen, midnight rallies happen, bad letter days happen. If you aint got the reserves, shit happens.