The Calm Before Calais

11th July 2012

I’m on the boat to Calais, white froth lapping beneath the rumbling engine. It was an easy hitch from Brighton to the ferry. A Polish man took me from the garage on Preston Road to a lay-by on the A23. There were two lorries parked up and a small white van sandwiched between them. I stood in front of it with my little white ‘M25 East’ sign and a big grin. The man nodded and wound down his window. “Yep, I’ll take you.” Dave was a lovely man in his late 60s. We talked about how the weather effects people’s moods – “doesn’t bother me though”, he said chirpily, “I’ve always got a sunny disposition.” I could imagine that might be true. “You must have had a good life”, I told him. “Oh yes”, he said, nodding, “oh yes.”

My third lift was with two women I met in the coffee queue. The mother was admiring my pot – beige with brown flowers and big black fire-stained patches, strapped to my pack. It goes clink when I bump into things. I asked if they were going down the M20. They looked alarmed, then laughed – “We don’t have a clue where we’re going!” But after consulting their GPS discovered they were going my way after all and took me to Maidstone Services, where I met Tim. He wasn’t really going my way when I asked him, but he came back for me five minutes later anyway – “I got picked up by someone when the volcano ash was happening”, he said.

Tim dropped me at the ferry terminal, where I walked up and down the short row of cars parked outside. A seventeen year old with dreadlocks and his mum took me onto the boat. They’d just come from Brighton too. The guy will be moving there soon to study music. I wrote down lots of links for him while we waited a full hour for the boat.

Smooth sailing over the Channel. A calm before the potential storm of Calais, where a well-loved Sudanese man was found dead a few days earlier.

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