I want to retire. I want to retire and spend my days travelling and writing about travelling.
I have this image in my mind of me sitting in the window of a pub overlooking the beautiful village where it is situated. I’m sitting enjoying a pint of ale while exchanging stories of my travels with the locals who are telling me all the ins and outs of village life.
Suddenly they burst into song. A local ditty made more joyous by their local dialect. I buy them all a drink and the landlord tells me about a local character who I should talk to. The evening eventually ends with me standing on a table singing a raunchy sea shanty taught to me by the retired fishermen of Cork who were featured in chapter seven of my third travelogue.
The next morning I’m up early and following a ‘Full English’ I set off to meet up with Bert. He’s got plenty to say about the village and even more about the folk who live and lived here. I’ve taken lots of notes and I’m just about the leave when Bert asks if I’d be interested in hearing about his grandfather. I’m already running late for a meeting with my publisher but it would seem rude to leave now that Bert is in full flow.
“My grandfather was on the Titanic. He’s one of the few crewmen that survived.” He worked in the engine house and his story of survival is astonishing. Bert shows me a letter from his grandfather written to his son, Bert’s father, detailing exactly what happened.
When Bert’s father died thirty years ago they found all sorts of documents and letters about the Titanic in the attic. No one had any idea they were there. There was even an unpublished memoir which finally set the record straight about what the orchestra were really doing when unsinkable did the ultimate in not doing as it was told.
Bert tells me he’s read all my books and wants to hand all of his grandfather’s archive to me to, “do with it what you see fit”.
Friday night on Colchester Station
He offers me his collection of First Day Cover stamps, a 1933 penny, the formula for Coca-Cola and the recipe for Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls. In fact there’s a load of other stuff he wants me to have also. The only condition is that the Picasso is given to the National Gallery. I can “do whatever” with the Monet and Lowrys.
Of course in the real world I’ve been stuck on a freezing cold Colchester Station for two and a half hours listening to people exchange stories of past fatalities on the line and their long nights of Hell waiting for replacement buses. But still I dream of travel writing.
As for Bert, he’s probably warming his hands on a log fire, sipping a 25 year-old malt and wondering what on earth he’s going to do will all that crap in the attic.