Sunday, 15 November 2020

The Trials and Tribulations of a Hitchhiker

My girlfriend’s mother gave me a lift in her Citroen Dyane to Hook of Holland. From there I was going to take the ferry to England.
I had not seen my parents in 6 years.

She dropped me off at the entrance to the port. I walked the rest of the way to where the ferries left for Harwich. Unfortunately, I had missed the day ferry and would have to wait all day for the evening ferry.
I decided to hitchhike down to Ostend in Belgium.
It was a shorter, cheaper crossing, there were more ferries leaving from there, it was not that far and it was better than just waiting around for 10 hours.

It took me all day, and I ended up in Zeebrugge, not in Ostend. Townsend had a morning and evening ferry service between Zeebrugge and Dover.

There was a kiosk for tickets. I asked the ticket seller when the next ferry was leaving.
He pointed to a ship in the distance and said, “You just missed the evening ferry. The next one is tomorrow morning”.

That was somewhat upsetting.
I walked around for a bit thinking about what I should do next. There was a bench in a bus shelter that I designated as my sleeping quarters.
Then I went into a bar that was just opening for a cup of coffee. 

The proprietor came over for a chat and I told him about the situation.
He said not to worry about food and drink, as pretty soon the bar would fill up with English lorry drivers who were going to take the morning ferry.
They had day money for expenses which they spent on drinks in his bar. He would add a meal and drinks for me onto one of their bills.
They would not care and anyway they would be too drunk to notice.

The bar did fill up quite quickly and I did get a meal and drinks.
Later in the evening the ticket seller came in. When he saw me he waved and went over to talk to the proprietor.
They both came over to my table.

The ticket seller said, “This is a new ship and they are offering perks. Co-drivers can travel for free. If one of these lorry drivers who has no co-driver is willing to take you with him, I will write out an extra ticket for you.”
The proprietor stood up, looked around his cafe and walked over to an inebriated lorry driver who agreed to take me as his co-driver.

Things were looking up. I thought that I had also found a good place to sleep: international lorries have beds.
Unfortunately he had found me a Yorkshire driver who not only looked like an extra from Steptoe and Son, his lorry was also more a rag and bone man’s truck. It had no beds and I had to sleep in the passenger’s seat. 
Still, it was better than the bus shelter.

Early the next morning someone came round to the lorry with the new tickets. Everything went quite smoothly after that. 
We drove onto the ship and there was a man in uniform there checking the incoming vehicles.
“Driver and co-driver” he said in a posh voice. 
“Yes, sir” we both replied. If I had been wearing a hat, I would have tipped it.

Then it was time for breakfast.
One of the perks Townsend offered was a free British breakfast. 
I appreciated that.
Another perk was allowing the drivers to buy duty free cigarettes and alcohol at a reduced rate (the rate for the crew).

My Yorkshire chauffeur gave me money to buy an extra round of duty free goods for him under my name, which I was pleased to do.
When we reached Dover, I gave him his cigarettes and booze and bid him farewell. 
His lorry had to go through customs and there was a long queue.

I was lucky and almost immediately got a lift up to London from a foreign student who was driving a Citroen Dyane.

No comments:

Post a Comment