This may or may not be Tiggy. Certainly looks like her.
We got talking to a French lady last night in our hotel. She admired Marigold’s ear-rings and things went on from there. We speak French, un peu, and she spoke a bit of English, so we chatted. She was here just for the night, on her own, driving a vintage car to a show as a favour for her son, but missing the comforts of home, such as television with programmes in her own language. A common enough complaint from the occasional traveller. We explained what we were doing: travelling around, stopping where the whim takes us and she looked horrified.
‘Is it boring? Travelling around, seeing different places, yes I can see the appeal of that, but what about the evenings? Surely you don’t visit nightclubs so what do you find to do?’The questioner was a genteel lady so there was no hint of the prurient in her enquiry, but the concept of boredom is alien to us. We talk to each other – yes, really -read books, sit out and take in our surroundings. No, we never get bored.
Travelling as we are on this trip, staying at hotels, is fine, but we have to admit there’s not the same sense of camaraderie you get in the motor-home fraternity. We’ve done a lot of ‘wild camping,’ in New Zealand, Europe and North Africa, and even where only one other van turns up to share the view over a lake or a sea-shore, you can almost guarantee they’ll come over for a chat. We certainly do. Language doesn’t matter. We’ve had brilliant evenings, laughing until tears stream down our cheeks, in the company of people where nobody spoke the language of the other. We’re all travellers. A separate species where language is a mere technicality.
Camp sites are the same. Always someone wants to know about your van, where you’ve been, where you’re going next.
We shared a meal with some people from Lithuania earlier this year. A couple in their thirties, taking three months off to go travelling. Like ourselves, without a planned route. We were travelling through a remote and distinctly un-touristy corner of Poland, as you do, We’d parked next to their van earlier that afternoon and the old man whose farm bordered onto a glorious lake with woods all around told us we could stay there as long as we wanted. He gave me a bottle of homemade spirit that I can still taste now. Not in a good way! Nobody spoke anyone else’s language and it wasn’t a problem.
I’d expected the people of the Baltic region to understand each other, but this wasn’t the case. Lithuanians understand Latvians and vice versa but that was just about the only point of common language we found in three months of touring Eastern Europe. Needless to say, unless they spoke English, French or Spanish it all went over my head.
The old farmer, possibly the ugliest man I’ve ever met, and without any doubt the scruffiest, insisted my wife accompany him on a trip into the woods on a mushroom safari. I know. Foolish, reckless, and potentially dangerous. Marigold, being the sensible woman she is, said ‘okay.’ Me, being the sensible man I am, didn’t argue. Off they went. Oh, I forgot to mention the knife dangling from his belt. Not even a proper belt but a length of hairy twine. Not many men manage to make me look smart, but I was the personification of Saville Row in comparison. The knife? Well, let’s just say it was the sort of knife you’d want if attacked by a pride of lions in the bush. Hey ho!
I helped my new friends remove a wheel and free a binding brake drum. I’m no mechanic, but the ability to wind up a jack and apply brute strength to a recalcitrant lump of metal feature strongly on my CV.
Job done, I nursed a beer in the shade with the husband while his six-foot wife, whom we suspected had previously been an outstanding pole dancer, stripped down to bra and pants and went for a swim in the lake. The view, already stunning, improved by leaps and bounds.
Three beers later the extra from Deliverance came back out of the woods with a huge basket of assorted fungi. Along with my wife. Safe and sound. He shambled off home, leaving a selection of seemingly inedible objects behind. My new friend and drinking partner examined each carefully and raised both thumbs in the universal expression of approval.
We ate a fantastic meal on the lake shore. The fungi may have looked lethal but tasted delicious. A couple of bottles of wine were consumed. Songs were sung. In our case, Hey Jude – which our new friends knew – and My Old Man’s a Dustman – which, astonishingly, they didn’t. Their offerings were both unpronounceable and, not being unkind, just honest, lacking any sense of melody or rhythm whatsoever. Did it matter? Not in the slightest.
Three in the morning, all hell broke loose. We woke and peered through the curtains. Our Lithuanian friends were outside, on the shore, having a bit of a ‘domestic.’ Marigold and I don’t have arguments. One of us is always right. I’m happy to accept that it’s not me and my acceptance of inferior status precludes any argument.
Higgy and Tiggy, the closest we came to saying their real names, were in full spate. He bellowed at her, she slapped him, he shouted even louder. Put it this way: it wasn’t boring.
‘Go out and do something,’ one of us said.
‘No bloody fear,’ I replied. (You’d already worked out who made the first suggestion, hadn’t you?)
Thirty seconds later, I was sort-of dressed and outside. Not my business, I know that, but I don’t live in a democracy so ‘get dressed, go outside, sort it out before someone gets killed’ became a Royal command.
Pausing, briefly, to note that ‘Tiggy’ was once again in bra and knickers (a different outfit, pale blue with darker blue lace trimmings, but obviously I didn’t really notice) I wandered casually over as if out for a middle of the night stroll. They stopped fighting, smiled at me and Higgy shook my hand.
‘Everything okay?’ I pantomimed, waving arms in a conciliatory fashion. They nodded, still smiling. Higgy said something to Tiggy out of the corner of his mouth and ‘WHALLOP’ she belted him. Not a slap but a roundhouse punch that would have felled an ox. Higgy went down as if hit by a truck.
Tiggy, aka Rocky reincarnated, linked my arm and walked over to our van. My wife’s anxious face brightened at her appearance at the door. Ten seconds later, the women were inside our van, laughing, and I was outside.
Higgy turned up, the ever-present bottle of beer in hand, and offered it to me. We sat on a flat rock, drinking beer, dangling our feet in the water, for half an hour. We couldn’t talk to each other, but that was okay.
When our van door slid open we both turned round. Tiggy wandered across, grinning from ear to ear, and took hold of her husband, kissed me on the cheek and dragged him back to their van.
I went back, climbed back into bed and tried to sleep. It wasn’t easy as the other van was no more than twenty yards away and every nuance of a prolonged and apparently vigorous bout of sexual activity was conveyed to us. Even in the pitch darkness Marigold divined my thoughts.
‘Forget it,’ she said. ‘If you think I’m competing with that, think again.’
I turned over, thought pure thoughts, and eventually went to sleep.
The next morning we woke to laughter and splashing as our Lithuanian lovebirds frolicked in the lake. We looked each other and came to the same conclusion.
‘Drive,’ said Marigold. I threw on some clothes; we waved to our fellow travellers, far out on the lake and drove away.
Boring? Er, not exactly.
There were a few vintage cars outside the hotel this morning, but sadly our friend from last night had already left. Must have been bored.