There I was the other day and on an evening walk I’d gone down the valley to roam somewhere different. And crossing our valley is our river, and alongside it the A66. There I stood for a moment and almost, almost – stuck out my thumb.
I’ve not hitched for years. But that’s alright because let’s face it neither has anyone else. Yet I used to and frankly all the time. Looking back I’m rather proud that I was traipsing all over the country from age fourteen. It’d give people the willies now but I did, there was no other way. I was fourteen, I had no money – how else was I meant to get down to Bournemouth, to Peckforton – or to just, like, wherever man? Nearly thirty years ago and one of those horrible realisations of time going by and for ten, fifteen years after when still and at times I’d thumb it. Hell, when first I moved out of my parents I commuted from Bournemouth to Chistlehurst every weekend, and by thumb.
I was not the only one. In prime places such as decent services (Fleet or Scratchwood for example) there’d be lines. Once outside Birmingham and no joke there were a good thirty or forty of us. Mostly I’d stick to A roads because you could get off and on anywhere. And there were awful times such as being stuck somewhere-near-to-Manchester’ish for six hours, and then it rained. And there were the famous hitches when and again yes, I put my thumb out yards from my door and got a lift all the way. I got a worrying lift from a very strange van driver. I got an odd lift from a couple in a camper van, and she was wearing red knickers. Still then it was not unusual, even for a lad of fourteen to cross the country. Well maybe that last, but I was odd like that and then.
Whilst the glasses are ruby still and I remember the sunny days. With no hurry to get anywhere I explored the country. It was not unusual for me going in one direction to get a lift that went after a while in another and stay with it. Often because I’d know someone there, so go there instead. Because that was fate – man – and I was on the cosmic winds. I was a few miles outside Chester when the world’s supply of bikers roared by and I jumped up and down in delight as they all and every one of them waved or made little salutes. I got a lift outside Twyford Down from one of the coppers that four hours before had been there too – if you know what I mean. I had cliché hitches where I ended up on Glastonbury Tor and just plain stayed the night with others there. I had terrible, terrible hitches and one where my ride tried to steal my bag. And always the ride would go by other hitchers, and you’d nod and they’d smile back when they recognised their own – I did at any rate.
It was and truly if you wanted it to be the freedom of the road. You met some brilliant people because and for the most part, idiots were not likely to pick you up. Truckers would pick up for company whilst the speed kicked out. Old hitchers gone straight would pick you up, because they always swore they would. Idiots would slow down to pretend they were going to give you a ride, then roar off. Tool would make the thumbs back or call out abuse at 50mph and as a hitcher I’d think of Rutgeur and yes, he had a point.
But no one hitches now.
So maybe I should.