Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Journey Through The Netherlands: 11. Returning To Rioting Blighty

I woke abruptly at 4.50 am. I could not have blamed the rooster this time. I rather missed his croaky tones. As the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, the rooster seemed a preferable option to the monotonous clunking sounds of the boat's engines. At least the rooster stopped after one hour.

The boat shadowed the North East coast and the lights of Scarborough, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Sunderland shimmered through the grey murk of an English dawn. The deck was deserted, apart from a fat middle age couple with dyed hair, attempting to do some form of tai chi chuan. They were English and were so hungover that the merest raising of an arm, put them in danger of overbalancing.

I saw the two grumpy Scotsmen in the shop. They were more bad tempered than they were the previous night. Their eyes were watery red and they had a vacant look as I heard them mutter to each other:

"Och, me heid. I've got a sair heid."

"Aye," echoed the other. "Sair heid. It's awfy sair." The last I saw of them, they were moving at speed to the deck rail.

I knew how they felt. I'm seasick myself. I get seasick watching the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race on the television. Once, returning from a truck trip to Poland many years ago, I was sick over the rail on the DFDS ferry to Harwich. That was before the boat had even left the quay at Bremerhaven. The boat and the quayside were crammed full of people, mainly West Germans waving goodbye to each other. Then all the excitement, all the chatter stopped as they all turned to watch my abysmal performance. It was similar to to an H M Bateman cartoon - the man who was sick before the boat went to see, or something like that. You could hear a pin drop. You could feel the harsh edge of Germanic displeasure biting into my neck.

When at the DFDS reception they had asked if I had anything to declare, I thought silence was the most prudent course of action. Thankfully both voyages were calm. Thankfully I could hide amongst selected others who were in a far worse state than me.

"What's being happening in the News?" I asked another bus driver who was waiting to pick up his passengers outside North Shields ferry terminal.

"There have been these riots in London." he replied "A funny thing happened to me, though. The Unions rang me and asked me to take them to London. I normally charge £450 return, but I knew there was going to be trouble. The word was out. So I said no - my windscreen costs £500 to replace, so it was not worth it. They rang me back and said would I do it for £800? I still said no. I didn't want the bother, but imagine that the Unions have all this money to spend. Incredible."

Welcome back to Britain 2011 or is it the early 1970's and the start of the three day week? When's the next ferry to the Netherlands?

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