Traffic noise is constant here during the day. Most residents are able to zone it out and as I live at the top of the site I’m not so affected by it. I’m often walking the dog at 3.00am and at that time of night the A20 is silent, there is no traffic – nada, unless the M20 is shut for some reason. It’s so quiet that a visiting friend, totally unnerved by the absence of street lighting and activity, bought me a personal alarm to carry at night, in case I got attacked.
‘Who by?’ I argued. ‘There’s no one around!’
‘Exactly!’ She declared in a voice that didn’t invite discussion.
Actually, she had a point and there was an incident I was about to disclose then thought better of it.
I was doing my normal 3.00am last (or first depending on your point of view) dog walk of the day. There was no moon and it was as black as pitch beyond the site boundary. My walk takes me outside the park through the exit, along the road and back through the entrance – we have this one-way system in place for traffic.
Ahead of me, along the footpath by the A20, I caught a glimpse of a pin point of red light. It looked like a cigarette, but at a low level, as if whoever was smoking was sitting on the ground.
“Hey buddy are you okay?” I threw out the question into the darkness.
“Not really,” came the disembodied reply.
“What’s up then?” I respond in my ‘Street Cred’ voice.
“I’ve taken a bit of a beating.”
At this point I’m about five feet away from the figure on the ground, his back against the wall, although I still can’t see much of him except that he’s struggling to stand up.
“Where were you making for at this time of night mate?”
Then the whole sorry story came out. This guy – never did get his name – had been on a night out in Maidstone and had consumed a significant amount of alcohol – my assessment, not his admission. On the way back to the station he was set on by a bunch of youths who stole his wallet. So he boarded the train home without a ticket, allegedly, fell asleep and went past his station and was now trying to walk back home along the A20 with sore ribs and a blinding headache. He’d already ended up falling into the bushes a few times in the confusing darkness and had now decided to stay put in the relative safety of ground zero until daylight. I asked him where he lived and when he told me I knew he wouldn’t make it in this condition and it was too cold a night to be lying out here drunk and possibly injured.
My son was about the same age, though hopefully with a bit more sense and having lived with an alcoholic father, a lot more insight into the way excess alcohol reduces a person to idiocy. This guy seemed harmless enough so what were my options?
“Okay so here’s the deal. If you can stand up and walk to the far entrance. I’ll get my car and run you home.”
“I can’t pay you for petrol all my money was stolen.”
At least his story was consistent.
“I don’t want payment I just need to know that you’ve got back home safely.”
He made a concerted effort to stand and managed to steady himself enough to start walking.
I trotted back home, let the dog in and got the car out.
He was waiting by the entrance and between us I got him as far as the bottom of his road, some four miles away.
He didn’t want to be taken to the door. He lived with his mum and was hoping to sneak in unnoticed. He was obviously clueless about the mind set of mothers. She would be wide awake worrying - guaranteed.
So that was the story I never told my friend and the alarm has never been utilised, in fact it hasn’t seen the light of day. It was put in a drawer and that’s where it remains. It isn’t that I’m being obstinate and refusing to use it because I don’t think I’ll ever need it but it’s one more thing to remember and I have enough trouble recalling the check list of torch, tissue, poo bags, medical alert card and house keys. Oh yes and mobile phone – see, nearly forgot that.