January mid morning somewhere in England - but sunshine instead of grey. Birds who can't quite believe it have started to sing, and I'm walking towards a cup of coffee down the A666 instead of up it to Hardacre Collage, which is the spelling mistake I became redundant from last summer. Inevitably, as I walk, I recall adventures I had between 7.50 and 8.20 a.m. over twenty years of going in the opposite direction.
It's a dead straight line to the college out of terraced housing with shops into modern industrial brick, steel, and roundabouts. The walk took twenty-five minutes, and it became so automatic that sometimes I would find myself threading my way through the knots of smokers on the lovely college tarmac wondering how I had got there. For a drab journey with a stressful conclusion, it was not unpleasant though - until I encountered my stalker.
He nearly ran me over one day in his plain white Citroen Berlingo van as I crossed a side street This was rare and hilarious entertainment for him and his mate, which unfortunately I added to as I swore and waved two fingers. From then on, every time he saw me, he would slow up, wind down the window and shout, before speeding off laughing hysterically. My strategy was to ignore him completely, which took some doing, because he kept it up for eighteen months off and on, and any white white van coming towards me made me twitch. I could clock his registration without turning my head. Wasn't there another route to work? Not really. Catch a bus then? It was quicker and cheaper to walk - anyway, bugger it, I wanted to walk. Why didn't I go to the police then? Well, I did, and it stopped for a while until he turned up in an identical white Berlingo with a different registration.
You never quite knew where on the road he would be, and what he shouted changed over the months. It was "Yah!" to start with, bellowed long and loud. After some months of nil response it became "Hello Billy." On one occasion he waited on a side road completely hidden by a newspaper that quaked, I suppose, with suppressed delirium. On another occasion he stopped and shouted "I love you Billy!" Where did he get the energy at that time of day? Was he still drunk or high from the night before, or just a hyper-active bully?
I never found out, and before he got his just desserts I just plodded on planning lessons in my head, pondering notions like karma, and fantasising colourful retributions. How did van man finally get his come-uppance then? He was waylaid up a side road and remorselessly thumped with dictionaries by ESOL teachers? Sadly - no. The other basses in your choir ambushed him on motorbikes, and intoning Come On Baby Light My Fire, made him strip naked and set fire to his own clothes? Of course not - but nice. You acquired a catapault and put a marble through his windscreen causing him to crash and burst into flames? No, no flames at all. OK, you went boringly to the police again who had another word. No, noisier and more rewarding than that.
My goodness, it's gone coffee time! I've got a CV to polish, contacts to tug, work to beg! Come back soon to learn how van man gets it. Also, meet bicycle man, the opposite of van man.