03/02/13 Dumfries

They call them ear worms – those tunes that play over and over in your mind – unwelcomed – and, in this case, unexpected.

Every time I thought of my destination – Dumfries – the theme tune to Mumfie the elephant started to play in my head.

The problem is – it wasn’t a very good recording…

“Mumfie is an elephant, a …something…little elephant, who always ….something something everyday….”

I was striding out confidently in the knowledge that I had, possibly, the choice of 4 places to stay in Dumfries…is an elephant, a …something….little elephant…

It was a crisp sunny day – I had awoken to a weather report saying it was minus 5 where I was.

Ridonculous I thought, I was positively toasty in bed. I went out to find Narnia.

One of Hubert’s (metal) handles had ventured outside – so, without a thought for my own safety I grabbed it, only to feel my hand gently weld to it.

And that’s why, officer, I had a 2 foot metal handle in my sleeping bag with me.

I’ve digressed. Gradually all 4 of the possible hospitalities evaporated, leaving me talking to a guy from Lancaster leaning on a wall.

He presented me with a bottle of Vimto and some directions as to where I might pitch.

In amongst all this I cried out to Facebook and the Twitterati, such was my disappointment at having lost all my places to stay. There was a flurry of activity as I found a perfect field and whacked the tent up.

I decided today would be perfect for a rest and have lounged like a loungy thing…

Until, that is, I heard from a chap who’d read the Sun article. He wanted to meet up – who was I to refuse?

There came a, “Chris, are you there?” from outside the tent.

Since I knew I was having visitors, I washed (wet wipes ) and put on some clean clothes.

I smelled like a nursery. The chap, who will remain anonymous for reasons that will come clear later, thankfully chose not to comment.

He whisked me away to McDonald’s for my tea – furnishing me with a Big Mac meal and a chocolate muffin.

We talked about a whole bunch of stuff including what made him want to help.

He said he was soft hearted.

He told me he occasionally saw things or people he wanted to support, “After all, you can’t help everybody,” he said.

I asked if he’d had any experience of mental ill health in his life – he said no, but he had a granddaughter who has dyspraxia and has minor learning disabilities, some difficulty with coordination and emotions – but she was happy – he was very keen to say you play with the hand you’re dealt.

We chatted more about something and nothing – I asked him how many children he’d had – he said three, but there were only two now.

In the middle of a busy McDonald’s I said, “What happened?”

He told me that when she was 17, his daughter had entered a suicide pact with her boyfriend. They’d taken their own lives.

He still thinks of her. He comes across as a proud man – God, that sounds nebulous – a man who plays his cards close to his chest.

After him saying he’d had little to do with mental health issues and now this. He held my gaze – again he said something along the lines of – you just get on with your life, I’ve got my grandchildren…

We talked a little more about what I was doing – we talked a bit about the impact of mental health, he’d smiled earlier when he’d said I didn’t look like one…

He drove me around a bit to ensure I knew which way to go in the morning. As I got up to get out of his car he put £10 in my hand, apologising because it wasn’t much.

I thanked him, saying goodbye as if this was the last time we’d meet. He smiled with a little twinkle in his eye and said he’d meet up with me again if I told him where I was – after all, he has a car.

It’s hard to say how touched I was by this gently spoken and unassuming man.

I really hope we meet again.

Walk a mile

Chris

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