A Huge Mess, Pt V

Almost a month after the last part, which described already old events, here I am again with another part, and my memories of what happened have eroded to a large extent. Don’t know if it makes much sense continuing this. In the name of fun, let’s get ever more slowly up that mountain. Part IV left me in Oxford’s Community Centre, after which I gave some comments on education and veganism. I can remember cycling back behind S, and being quite slow and puffing as we were going up the hill. The tyre made a weird noise but I thought nothing of it. To my shame.

Because the next morning, Monday, I had to set off and reach the farm. I made a choice of going to bed early. And I woke up quite early as well. Something like 5am ? In any case, I thought I had it all perfectly prepared. I’d already made the journey to the farm on saturday, I knew how long it would take, approximately. I left the house around 6, and started cycling. Right after I started, the tyre made the same noise as yesterday, and this time I looked at it. Flat. Oh shit. I had only cycled for a yard or something, the way back was quick. I also quickly remembered I had no keys to get back inside. How irritating: I knew that there were just the tools I needed in there, but couldn’t get in. And being shy, I couldn’t bring myself to make so much noise that the guys inside would wake up and open up the door.

“Oh well,” I said, and I set off for the longest and most tiresome bike ride ever. I probably got the inspiration to write such a series from this one experience. Going up and down hills with a flat tyre, oh man. I was carrying a defective bag that wouldn’t stay buckled, and almost saw the contents of it crushed by a car when it finally decided to leave my back, and land in the middle of the road. I managed to leave my bike in a hurry and salvage it before it was too late. Did I mention that it was raining the whole time ? Yes, that was annoying as well. So I left around 6 and thought I’d have ample time to reach the farm before 9. That almost happened and this was a miracle. Apparently, I cycled about 10 miles in this way, and S later told me that this was amazing.

Arriving at the farm, I thought things couldn’t have been worse. I’d managed to be totally exhausted, before my first day of work at a farm even started. Awesome. I was given a few tasks without much explanation, and I wasn’t sure how to go about them; thankfully the two other wwoofers there were quite helpful and I was able to take a seat when I was too tired. By noon, I was miraculously feeling fine again, and I could talk about how much of a hassle arriving at the farm had been. The farmer had an idea that consisted in planting a new fence, and for that, we had to dig holes in the ground, and plant poles in them. He used a very heavy tool with two handles to hammer the poles in. This was quite demanding, especially for me and my as-yet weak arms. We started doing this together, and then the guy had to leave and he asked me and the two other wwoofers to handle it.

As we were hammering the poles in, I thought I’d just take my time and stop whenever I wanted to. I just told the other wwoofers that this was my first day at the farm. I also joked that if the farmer really wants those poles hammered into the ground, he can just do it himself. We had quite a good time chatting together, and I learned that these two girls were from America. How fun. I’d already felt their accent was unusual, but didn’t think much of it. (And this time it didn’t come back to bite me in the arse.)

The rest of the week was spent doing other farm work, feeding chickens, finishing to plant the fences, collecting eggs, grading and packing them. It was tiresome overall, but the sane kind of tiresome. Nothing to do with the insane kind, like when I worked on a vineyard a few years ago during the summer, picking grapes all day under the hot-ass sun and returning to the farm feeling like my back was 90 years old. I was feeling good.

That didn’t last. The arrangement was I’d have two days off on sunday and monday, so I could attend the community centre’s film nights. But it turned out another wwoofer had to come that next week, and I had no other option, except a second farm which wouldn’t respond to my emails and texts, and S’s place. Being fairly anxious, I asked her if it was ok to once again come around. I thought, from the unending comments of the sort “Yeah, don’t mind it.” that it would be fine. And then I got a text in the middle of the night saying that actually, no. That wasn’t an option. I spent the night being extremely sad and crying over the fact that I’d failed. I had to go back to France. What else to do ? I had no idea.

I left the next morning with the bike fixed, again with the help of the same very nice wwoofer. I did the Five Hours thing again, and just took my bags and cycled with both of those back to S’s. (Naturally, the bike wasn’t really fixed, as the back tyre could have been screwed back in a lot more thoroughly, which led to it eventually getting out of its socket, which led to me finishing half the journey on foot.) I explained to her that I probably should return. If I can’t fucking stay in an attic, then it’s just not possible for me to stay. Even if this was resolved at the last minute, somehow, it would still remain a problem that I didn’t have a sure last-option in Oxford. Yet, I wasn’t sure I should leave the UK, and S told me about other places I could try, like social centres and squats. She also advised me on the right coach to take to get back to Calais, not taking any position as to which direction I should go.

I went with her to the community centre, which was after all what I’d wanted to do for the night, and I was able to ask who could put me up for the night. Turns out that no one could, even though the turnout wasn’t particularly low. Someone gave me a 20£ note for me to get a Youth Hostel room, which I used. (It eventually cost me 25£. Youth power.) I had some money left, enough to go back to Calais, but also, enough to get to a squat in Bath. I had a vague plan to hitch-hike to there, but I gave up on that because I didn’t have any prior experience. I just took the train like a big pansie.

I asked the way to Upper Bristol Rd which is where the old squat was, and found a very helpful lady behind a desk who gave me very useful directions. I eventually found the squat and rang the door insistently, as a handle hanging from a hole was saying, yet no one was responding. I walked back and saw a man wearing black clothes and sporting a mohawk haircut head in the squat’s direction. Thinking he might be just one of the squatters, I followed him and sure enough he opened the door. I rushed in and told him to wait. I said S was sending me and I needed a place to stay for a little while. It that okay ? Sure. And I entered the old location of the Black Cat Centre, an enormous building that used to be devoted to offices, with plenty of room for me to sleep, and very nice activists that wouldn’t mind me staying. I’ll continue this another day; by the looks of the rate of my inputs, in some two years ?

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