Case History – Day One

Day one. Just me and my suitcases.

First hassle. Fat Man In Straw Hat. More of him anon.

So, I had a nightmare move out of my apartment and into storage. Fearnley and Brown, the Cardiff removals company I’ve been using for over 30 years were, as ever, wonderful, and managed to keep me calm enough not to have a complete nervous breakdown. My friend Petra helped with the last of the stuff, and I closed the door without a second’s regret. Well, apart from having accidentally packed the bag of phone and computer chargers I was meant to be taking on my travels.

After being treated by friends to a fabulous lunch at The Ivy in Cardiff, I set off to spend two nights in Egham in Surrey to see Mum’s sister Barbara, my cousin Simon and the extended family before flying on Saturday, heading to Bansko in Bulgaria for the Digital Nomad Conference.

First stop, though, was at the dentist, for a scrape and polish. Except it’s not called that anymore. It’s called a new machine that sprays warm instead of cold water and uses a powder for cleaning and . . .something like that. Having been on my back twice for Smeargate (see previous two posts), here I was again, on my back, surrounded by machinery and people in white coats.

It went better than expected (I have sensitive teeth, but the warmer water helped) and I was happy to have been topped and tailed before my adventures began.

The train was packed and, it was announced, would be diverted at Bristol Parkway owing to technical problems.

I’ll cut to the chase of Fat Man In Straw Hat.

I had my bags sitting by the door and, when I joined them, FMISH said, unnecessarily aggressively, ‘Agh toot blonger oot shtoom.’

‘Pardon?’ I said. For some reason, the stress of the past few weeks has had an adverse affect on my already diminished hearing.

‘Agh toot blonger oot shtoom!’

Was I already in Bulgaria and being thrown in at the deep end with the language?


‘Oh, right,’ I said. ‘Sorry, I’m a bit deaf.’

‘So am I,’ he said.

Trust me mate, with a stomach that could give the moon a run for its money in a total eclipse, your hearing is the least of your problems.

I tried to stay calm and asked if he and his equally enormous wife, who was balanced on a walking stick, were going on holiday. They were off to Sicily and flying from Gatwick.

With a few minutes to go before Reading, he started.

‘I hope you’re not going to be dilly-dallying.’


‘I hope you’re not a dilly dallier, because we’ve got five minutes to catch our train, and if you’re going to be dilly-dallying, we’ll need to be ahead of you.’

Was I a dilly dallier? I was pretty sure I could have been off that train in five seconds flat, even armed with my two large suitcases. What timescale constitutes dilly-dallying, anyway? I was pretty sure that if anyone was going to fit the dilly-dallying bill, it was FMISH and his hobbling sidekick. She was also in a straw hat, by the way. Dear lord; you just know they’re the kind of people who go to Spain and return carrying a stuffed donkey.

Just before the train pulled in, I made room for them to go ahead of me. Bloody hell! Talk about dilly-dallying! It seemed as if nothing short of the assistance of a JCB was going to get them onto the platform. I wondered whether it was they who had caused the technical problems on the train in the first place.

My last vision of them was on the escalator, not in any rush whatsoever, just dilly-dallying their way to Sicily, from whence they will doubtless return with a packet of dried spaghetti and a Pavarotti CD.

Back in Egham, I’m in a hotel where the bedroom door doesn’t lock, the balcony overlooking the river is out of use, and I don’t have enough money to see me through to the end of next week in Bulgaria unless I get my rental deposit back pronto.

Homeless on the streets of Sofia. That’s a curve ball I didn’t see coming.