I have been living this last half a decade or so in an alien land. A land of squalor, hunger, loss, regret and very little else. If you've visited a few of these posts in the past then you will have almost certainly come across at least one of the many tales that document my spiralling plunge from humble beginning to abject poverty.
If you've not, and if you're interested, then "Don't bank on it", "Don't look down" and "High fidelity" are three such posts.
I fell from grace, landed in the gutter, bounced a bit, was run over by a juggernaut full of bleating sheep being driven at speed toward the abattoir and, finally, came to rest beside a tree, whereupon a series of scabby mongrels pissed on me whenever the fancy took them. My blog, like my pitiful exitence, has been a miserable place at times and it shall, on occasion, probably remain so, though hopefully those tales of struggle will become less frequent and, in future, shall relate to the past rather than the present.
A week or two ago I awoke, coughing and spluttering as my diseased lungs tried to expel the mould spores that had spent the night colonising my blackened bellows, put on a set of clothes that were more holes than fabric and took my dogs for a walk, scanning the pavement for loose change that those wealthier than I had dropped (Always pay special attention at bus stops, people are forever dropping change as they frantically rifle their own pockets in search of their daysavers) in the hope that I'd find enough dough for a loaf of bread.
I didn't. I never do. Times are hard, people will stoop to reclaim any dropped coinage in times such as these.
The dogs and I returned home more quickly than I generally would have liked. It had begun to rain and my sock was soaking up moisture from the pavements via the hole in my right shoe. It was shaping up to be a very bad day indeed.
I'd recently found that what little money I was supposed to be living on had been surreptitiously diverted. I had two sacks of dog food, some bacon, a few pies and enough credit on the gas and electricity prepayment meters to last a fortnight.
Maybe even longer, if I didn't cook the pies.
So I buggered off. Not right then, but roughly a week later, having sold everything I had that I could find a buyer for. I even bagged up any clothes that wouldn't fit in my suitcase and weighed them in at a 'Cash-For-Clothes' shop a couple of miles away. I scraped up every penny I could, closed my bank account, cancelled my phone contract, popped my keys in a padded envelope and the envelope into the post box and only then did I depart.
It was scarier this time than last. The last time I threw everything up in the air and disappeared it was in a converted school mini-bus with enough money to last me six months. This time I had money for a week or two and had to scrounge lifts to get where I was going, but where I was going I eventually got.
I'd headed north, to Scotland, having fallen out of love with England through a combination of the poverty into which I'd been dumped when some bankers had done some bad things, the EU referendum result and the fact that nothing around me made me smile anymore. I felt, and feel, none of the pride I once had in my country and my countrymen. There are tens of millions of lovely people in my home nation, but the scales have tipped recently, meaning that the lovely are no longer the majority.
I first revisited an area of Scotland that I'd fallen in love with many years ago, the spectacular Forest of Argylle. I'd hoped to find work there through an old acquaintance but, upon settling into my first night in a static caravan at the back of an old barn, I realised that I'd been here and done this before. I stayed a short while to clear my lungs of spores, then continued zig-zagging around for a little while.
Then, before very long, serendipity struck.
A friend of mine from another lifetime was relocating to the continent and needed to drive her car there, a mammoth undertaking that she was unwilling to undertake. In return for my doing most of the driving, she paid for fuel, for the crossing and for food along the way, all I had to pay for was rabies shots. But, even better than all this, her new employer has given her a house in which to stay that has a stable around the back, above which is a small loft with no glass in the window, one plug socket, a day bed, a rusting bistro set and a hose pipe. What more could a man ever need?
So here I am, the best part of a thousand miles away and turning a lovely shade of mahogany as I attempt to learn a language that I really should have learnt in school. I've even managed to earn a little more money, walking dogs for those who have grown used to the beauty in which they reside and who can no longer be bothered. Sometimes, mainly around bus stops, I find enough money to buy a loaf of bread, people here having none of the money worries that those in my last permanent residence had.
It's fucking brilliant.
If I'm honest, I didn't expect to see this day. I could see no future, wanted no future. Had a chance conversation not taken place I'm sure that, by now, my hounds would be under new ownership and I would be missing, never to be found. As it is, I have my two dogs, a tan, food, wine, laughter and I'm missing, never to be found, in an alien land. And I found a pushbike under a pile of sacks in what I laughingly refer to as my loft-apartment. As in England, my roof is full of holes. Unlike England, this results in my getting a suntan in bed rather than a cough.
This journey isn't over and I have no idea where I'm going, but I do know one thing...
...I'm never going back.
Enjoy the little things, folks. It's very important.