It had been an easy ramble along the Wirral way on the south side of said peninsula.
It was a bit rainy, but hey, I’ve experienced vastly worse.
I’d spent some time today with Derry, a mental health campaigner, she shouted me brunch while we shared stories of all things mental health. More on her in another blog…
As I walked, I kept my eyes peeled for a suitable point to put Marvin (my tent) up.
I smiled as I remembered an initially friendly encounter with an older woman this morning.
I’d said, ‘It’s not as nice today…’
She said she didn’t mind, and was thankful to God and Jesus for the beauty of it all.
Cool, I thought, looking around at the colouring leaves on the trees and feeling the fresh air on my face, we have lots to be thankful for.
Who we thank, well, that’s up to us.
As we parted she said, ‘Let me leave you with a question as you walk on your way today,’
‘Ask away,’ I said
‘Where will you be spending eternity?’
Less of a question, more a threat.
I noticed there was a country park with lots of space to pitch up on my route.
Since there is no right to roam law in England, I wandered up to the visitor centre and asked if I could camp on their grounds after telling the front of house man what I was up to.
He told me he couldn’t allow it. It’s a council area and he couldn’t authorise it.
I asked if he would do anything if I camped out of site…er sight.
He restated his point. He wasn’t for shifting.
I chatted a bit more about what I was doing.
He told me that folk with mental health problems were supported to do some work around the park.
I told him that I rarely found myself in this sort of pickle (at the same time thinking ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen if he, as a fellow citizen, told me that he would turn a blind eye’)
He phoned a nearby static caravan park – they might be able to be more flexible, he told me. I just need to go round and have a chat.
Then he said, ‘In 20 minutes, we’ll all have gone home – there will be no rangers here after that.’
I felt he was giving me the, er, nod.
That said, he had spoken to the chap in the nearby caravan site – it would be rude not to take a wander across.
The chap met me with a very warm handshake – smiling and listening to my tales of derring do.
He was happy to allow me to camp, but since he was the member of a committee he had to phone a couple of others to get the absolute ok.
He described what I was doing pretty well – and then said something like, ‘No, he’s raising awareness – he’s not mental…he’s a good guy…’
What to do? I felt that this man in front of me was also a good guy – although I felt the need to shoehorn in the fact that I was both mental (at times) and a good guy.
The committee agreed I could stay – in no small part due to the enthusiasm of the chap standing in front of me.
‘So, what was your motivation to do this…?’ he asked.
And so I was able to tell him that I had a mental malady even though he’d given me the all clear.
We stumbled around the subject for a bit – but we’d done ok.
I went to put Marvin up and was obviously delighted to hear and feel one of the tent poles broke in 3 places and tore through the fabric.
After all the negotiation I was tentless.
I fought with poles and tent for a while – all I needed was to make sure Marvin would stay up for one last night.
With much jamming, coercing, and oh dearing, I managed to make him look almost tent like.
Almost – he still looked like something that might have had a chance of winning the Turner prize.
The friendly chap had invited me to pop in for coffee at the campsite bar later.
The combination of an early morning tomorrow, psychological fatigue and a buggered tent made me politely decline.
Lying in bed, er, in the sleeping bag, listening to the rain, I was delighted at the cascade of offers of support coming through the interweb…I told these generous folk I was fine for the night…
But the world wasn’t done with me yet.
‘Is he awake?’ a young voice
‘I don’t think so…’ possibly her mum
‘Hello?’ definitely me
Before I knew what I was doing I’d been welcomed into the pub – furnished with a lager shandy – sitting chatting with Leah (mum) her 11year old daughter, Karen and her husband, Phil – names omitted because I was drugged and fuzzy.
In that friendly atmosphere we talked about all things walk a mile and mental healthy. It took no time for folk to become open and honest.
Leah went out with her daughter momentarily – when they came back her daughter spoke very quietly to me, ‘What do you like?’
I looked at her mum for a bit of guidance – when there was none, I said, ‘I’m not sure what you mean,’
This smiling young person came back with, ‘Do you like salt and vinegar, ready salted or cheese and onion? Do you like lemonade, coke, or shandy bass?’
‘Ready salted and shandy bass, I think,’
And off she went.
Leah told me her daughter had described me as ‘a nice man’ and would like to help – she had some money from helping with the bingo…
With a smile, Leah gave me £10 to help me on my way…
Her daughter came back with crisps and the shandy bass…
‘Thank you,’ I was blown away by this…
‘I’ve got 30 pence left,’ she said, giving that to me as well.
I looked at her mum and she nodded vigorously.
I goodnighted into the night and lay awake for a while thinking, well, ‘Lordy!’
Ella is coming up tomorrow to help me get a replacement for Marvin. I’m not afraid to say it’ll be lovely to see her.
What’s the worst thing that can happen?
Folk, who may not completely understand, reach out to help in their own way.
People who do understand need to be held back to stop them charging to the rescue.
If that’s the worst that can happen…
Walk a mile