Written May 2018.
Strangely I am writing this particular piece back in the exact spot in Mark’s flat that I started this blog. Back once again in the little SE England town where I lived for almost 10 years and where everything in life changed. I’m back here to sign on the Dole again after moving out from Ron and Hollys house a few weeks ago. I’m sat in Marks flat using his internet, washing machine, shower and sofa bed while he waxes lyrical about the London landmarks and its rich history to his passengers and battles his way through the never ending stream of London traffic to get them where they require to be, in his Black Cab.
I am only about 1 month now from my bankruptcy ending and I have managed to survive almost a year on the bi-weekly Job Seekers allowance and with lots of help from friends. For the first year of unemployment, there was no financial support from the Government so this now feels relatively easy. There is no real change on the details of the bankruptcy situation, in fact the bankruptcy has now become a ‘non-event’ to me. No IPO can be lodged as I am literally penniless and I have no assets at all, I have no job or income so until I am discharged from bankruptcy in a few weeks’ time, there is nothing else to report.
I have been homeless for over a year now, not ‘on the streets’ as many people mis interpret it when I tell them, just homeless – “Of no fixed abode”. I have indeed spent a few weeks in total sleeping rough in a car, but in the main I have had a warm, dry house to sleep in – wether a large double bed, a sofa or a rug on the front room floor, almost every single night. My basic personal needs have been tended to. I have showered, laundered and been able to feed myself (and even have a Guinness or six on odd occasions) throughout this entire period. Funnily someone did say to me in conversation a few weeks ago, that I was the best kept, cleanest homeless Man they had ever seen. I had to move on from my friends Ron and Hollys house as they are now moving home and wanted their daughter to stay with them prior to the move. This did come as a huge shock as I had less than 14 days to find somewhere else, but luckily they were both on holiday for most of this period so I had the house to myself to think about what to do, prepare and to pack my bags. I am eternally grateful to them both for giving me security and somewhere to re-group after the struggle trying to get my professional licences sorted from the incompetent issuing authority. October 17 to April 18 was enough time to not only eventually receive my licences but start the long road of job application. That period of security offered by Ron and Holly was essential and for that I will always be in their debt. I have a plan to thank them but I’m expecting not being able to carry it out until late 2018 at this rate. Jim has offered me a place to stay a few hundred miles away but I can’t go up there for another month as he is away.
Written Sept 2018
I gazed out of the rain soaked back door of Hollys home in early April with a Guinness hangover, the day after I received the news that I had to leave and I realised that the battered old car I was staring at, that was strangely left over and rotting in a small North Yorkshire carpark after my Dad passed away, and had been chugging its way up and down the country for the past 3 months delivering me with ancient mechanical elegance to numerous job interviews, was about to become my new pied-à-terre – until I could move to Jims late next month on the Welsh borders.
A weekend of frantic scrubbing, cleaning, adjusting, blacking out windows and adding Disney character sun screens to rear windows to disguise the car as a family vehicle and to stop people/Police looking in, rearranging interiors and finally making a makeshift partition, revealed a mobile bedroom with an armchair. The car is a station wagon and the rear seats are fully removable; leaving one seat in at the very rear gave an armchair with a 12volt electrical outlet at easy reach and a 7 foot long sleeping area that my old Army sleeping bag and roll mat would adorn nicely. Why did my Dad a pensioner with cancer and only one lung and with his grandchildren all over the age of 25, purchase a car in his last few years that could fit 7 screaming kids and enough food and equipment for a Royal Wedding street party and that had a panoramic full glass roof and fold out Airline style trays on the back of the front seats? I found out why just a week later as I stretched out in my sleeping bag with a cup of tea taken straight from its airline style, rear of the seat, tray holder and watched the stars twinkle and glisten through the glass roof, from the blackness of a remote country lay-by in the Hertfordshire countryside.
Where was I going to put my plastic boxes full of books and study materials? My clothes can fit in the car with me, but my books are a different story. I was still frantically looking for a job and any interview I was to (and already had) attend, involves lots of study from these books, so they’re essential. Once again the answer came while looking at the stars through the old Peugeot roof glass and another call from my friend Stuart. “Can you make it next weekend instead for the house move?” he enquired. “I’m having trouble hiring a big enough van”.
Stuart and his Wife Lisa were moving up to the North coast of Aberdeenshire, halfway between Inverness and Aberdeen and I was ‘booked in’ to help with the packing, sharing the long drive, and then returning the vehicle to the industrial, South Midlands town in which they’d both lived together for over 15 years. Lisa was already there in Scotland, secure in her new job with all the household furniture, and Stuart and I were to bring up the final items including Stuarts motorbike.
I spent the next week reading and studying for future interviews in the car while moving between a few of my chosen countryside quiet spots to sleep. I found that hiding the car among the cars of dog walkers was a good tactic as opposed to parking totally alone. They came and went at various times of day and the old lime green Peugeot blended in and was never noticed by locals or farmers or on one occasion by the Police. With the roof glass fully exposed to the sky the old Peugeot was a great place to sit and read. The single seat I had left in the rear of the car gave me full legroom and it had been virtually unused in the cars 15 year history. I would drive to a local swimming pool to take advantage of the shower facilities and quickly shave when it was quiet enough to get away with it. I would pop into random nearby pubs during the day so as to charge my phone, use the toilet and ‘borrow’ sachets of sugar from the tea I would purchase to justify my attendance in the establishment.
“You selling up here then?” I asked Stuart a week later while sat on his now bare front room floor the night before the journey to Scotland. “Nahh mate, were gonna do it up a little then rent it out” he replied in his broad Nottingham accent. “Bonus! You should make good money on it” I said. Stuarts reply was priceless and typical of his relaxed attitude. “Whenever I get off my ricker (arse) and arrange to get it rented out – it might, yeah”. “So you haven’t yet rented it out? How are you going to do that from up there?” I quizzed him with raised eyebrows and a plan forming in my tired head. “I’ll come back down in a few months when we’re settled and sort it out then”.
Stuart didn’t know I was living in my Dads old car so hearing that his house (only an hour or so from where I used to live) was now about to be empty for a few months and realising there was quite a lot of work to do on it prior to rental, I came clean and pitched my idea to him like a desperate, investment hungry, potential businessman on Dragons Den. So the idea of a house sitter and DIY person until it was ready to rent out, was born. On the drive up to his new home the next morning he passed the idea by Lisa who thought it was a great plan. I now had a place to not only store my boxes, but lay my head for a few months before a move to Wales to stay with Jim. A call to Jim was made and his reply of “No worries, I’ll see you when I see you” was gladly received.
A wonderful sunny weekend at Stuart and Lisa’s new house on the North coast of Scotland was had before the drive back down. My dad’s old car was still on their drive when I arrived back at 0300 hours on a cold, wet mid April morning, and it looks like it’s saying here for a bit longer.