This is a repost from an old blog, dated appropriately
I mentioned this story to a couple of people at the party last night, after finding it in the Something Awful forum archives. I’d completely forgotten I’d written it until I was just flipping through my old posts. Here it is.
When I was seventeen, I went to England for a bit. I think I was doing the whole “find myself and work out what’s going on with my life” thing, but it didn’t work. I still don’t really know. Anyway …
I was hitch-hiking and taking trains all over the place, and staying with relatives a lot. I have them all over the place in that country. I set out from one bunch to go and stay with another lot in Reading. Had a good train trip, and arrived in Reading feeling pretty good. I pulled out the details I had for them and gave them a ring.
Their answering machine message informed me that they were in France for a week, and not due back for three days. I had very little cash on me. I had the intention of abusing their hospitality for a little bit while I found a part-time job, or got some money transferred from home.
I made some calls and found a backpacker’s hostel type thing not too far away. I could afford to hang out there for a few days, no problem. I wandered back over to the ticket office, intending to get a train a few stations up the line to where the hostel was.
I screwed up. I asked for a ticket to the wrong place. I can’t remember the two I confused right now, but suffice it to say that it was a fair bit further than three or four stations away, and when I was asked for the princely sum of fifteen pounds for the priveledge of the trip, I expressed my dissatisfaction verbally, and walked off.
I should point out that I probably could have saved a lot of hassle if I’d simply uttered something like “but that’s only four stops from here”, at which point the person selling tickets would have been able to tell me about my mistake and all would be well. Of course, if that had happened, I would have missed my moment of perfection.
So here I was, in the middle of Reading and full of righteous indignation. I decided to walk. I looked at my map, and noticed that there was a really convenient path to guide me there – the Thames. On my map, it was a little blue line, weaving slightly, but more or less taking me straight from point A to point B. I set out.
It was an hour or so later that the scale of the map became apparent. It was getting dark, and I knew I wasn’t going to make it. My bag (over-packed, since I had assumed I’d be heading right to someone’s house) was feeling very heavy, and I was very tired. It was obvious I was up for a night under the stars.
I dropped everything near a big hedge, where there was a convenient tree that I could get a bit of shelter from if it rained. I made use of the last of the light to gather up wood so that I could build a fire. I figured I’d put on a lot of clothes and keep a fire going all night, and sleep a bit when the sun came up and it was warmer.
I was sitting in front of my fire a bit later, when I noticed a fire going on the other side of the hedge, too. I didn’t think much of it until a guy walked through a gap and came over to me.
“Hi,” I said. “You must be my neighbor.”
“Yeah,” said the man, while looking around my little campsite. “Are you sleeping here? Don’t you have a tent or something?”
I admitted that I didn’t, and this hadn’t really been planned. He grinned at me and invited me to join him over the other side. He seemed nice enough, and I didn’t really have much else in the way of options, so I grabbed my stuff and walked through the gap in the hedge, into a large field.
There were two of them – one guy, and his wife/girlfriend/whatever. I can’t remember their names. I do remember the names of the horses they had, though – they were “Tyson” and “Scramble”. The horses were for pulling their beautiful old wooden caravans.
We drank tea. They offered me food (scrambled eggs on thick hunks of bread). They talked about England, I talked about Australia. We discussed television, and living without it. We talked about travelling, and staying in one place. We discussed music quite a bit, too.
Then we smoked the best hash I have ever encountered in my life.
I have never felt more at peace then that night. I clearly recall being stoned out of my mind, lying in the middle of a field with my head on a horse’s chest, listening to its huge heartbeat, while staring up at a completely unfamiliar star-filled sky.
I slept in one of their caravans that night, and they moved on the next day. I built a bit of a shelter and stayed in that field until my relatives got home. I’d love to know what happened to those wonderful, kind people and the horse whose heartbeat I can still hear in my mind if I close my eyes and listen hard enough.