Saturday 13 July 2013

Fever Diary – 6th December 20—

The red hoods started to appear shortly after we tramped into Stratford-upon-Avon. We had managed to hitch a few rides since we left the village hall but had been forced to rely on our weary feet for the last three miles.
The garments were placed on the tops of lampposts and perched rakishly on traffic lights at zebra crossings. As we passed the puzzling attractions of the ‘Falstaff Experience’ (a pub in a woodland glade?) I began to perceive a pattern to their placement. Looking down the street from the bridge over the Avon, I could see a long line of the red markers leading up the Warwick Road. As the direction was generally north, and not knowing their significance, I decided we would follow them as far as we could. Pedro was reluctant as he knew the hoods were somehow associated with what he called ‘beeg hassle’, but I persuaded him that if at any point they veered off a northward course, we would abandon them as a guide.
Our progress had so far been very slow and as we stopped at a garden centre cafe for tea from the ubiquitous plastic beaker, I reviewed our prospects while we sat on railway sleepers stacked around the car park. I estimated that if we continued at the present pace and with such visibility, we were unlikely to reach Jura any time soon. Either we would be apprehended or it would take a good month and a half to reach our destination with no guarantee that we would have the resources to pay for the ferry from the mainland.
I was finding the travelling extremely tiring and although I had so far been in general good health in the AW, I knew that the nights spent huddled without tents in bushes or bus shelters were taking their toll. The money from the Carolan Portal for the syndication of my column provided us with the essentials in the way of food and drink, but did not stretch to lodgings or a new tent. We found ourselves seeking out homeless shelters and finding them almost impossible to get into due to the vast increase in numbers brought about by a more severe welfare regime that had driven many from their lodgings and out on to the streets in great numbers. I began to realise how lucky we had been to have survived so long at the State’s expense and thought once more of Emily who had sent daily messages up until I had been forced to abandon the MC. I was, as expected, almost in mourning for the ridiculous box of tricks, but this lasted only a few days as I took up my journal again with pencil and notebook, despatching my columns to the newspaper from post boxes along the way.
As we neared Warwick itself and passed around its southern edge, we found ourselves part of an increasing band of travellers, many with backpacks and tents, tramping along the red cowl route.
Finding no shelter that didn’t risk exposure, we carried on walking well into the night until we veered off the main road and lost sight of the hoods in the darkness. We tramped for hours across frozen fields until we were utterly lost and bitterly cold. I even started to regret the loss of the hooded top I had been so eager to give away.
Finally, I could go no further and flopped down in the middle of a field, not caring if it snowed and covered me in the night. Pedro was eager to at least find some woodland where shelter might be found, but I was already falling into unconsciousness as I listened to his entreaties. I curled up like a chick inside the egg and fell into darkness, my hands clasped around my knees. In my head the lions roamed again, their hot breath on my cheek as they paced around my body, occasionally rasping their great tongues across my hands.

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