I’m thrilled to be featuring one of my regulars in my Guest Writer Spot this week. Here’s Murray Clarke with another entertaining story:
By Murray Clarke
The last part of the journey from Calais had been hell – fraught with danger and uncertainty. We’d travelled from the other side of the world, packed tightly together like sardines, with only basic rations to help us survive. Everyone had died – save me. I was the sole survivor. Exhausted and hungry, I desperately needed something to eat, and rest. Our craft had been destroyed shortly before we landed on the coast – blown off course by strong winds. I was plunged into the icy sea but had managed to swim safely to the shore.
Dripping wet and shivering, I staggered up the beach – still wearing the long brown hooded jacket I’d worn since the journey began. An early morning mist hung in the air. Not a soul in sight to witness my arrival. A sign announced: “Welcome to Dover”. It started to rain – pouring down in torrents like a tropical monsoon.
In preparation for the long trip, I’d learnt “Conversational English” and read up about “Surviving in the United Kingdom”. Communication was the name of the game, and the ability to exchange thoughts with those I met, would help me get by.
I felt a rumbling in my stomach. I looked up and saw an illuminated sign: KAREN’S KAFF. A welcoming aroma of cooking wafted towards me. Head down, I strode across the road, opened the door and stepped inside, glad to get out of the rain.
‘Forgotten your brolly, love?’ said a portly woman, looking at the water dripping off my clothes onto the floor. ‘Nasty weather we’re ‘aving. Take a seat. I’ll be with you in a moment.’ She waved me to a vacant table in the corner.
I sat down and cast my eyes over the long list of food on offer.
‘So, what’ll it be?’ asked the woman, returning to the table. ‘Tea or coffee?’
I looked at the man sitting at the table opposite, clutching a large chipped mug of something hot and steaming.
‘I’ll have what he’s drinking,’ I replied.
‘So, that’ll be a tea. Anything to eat, love?’
Keeping my head bowed, I sneaked a glance up at the photographs on the wall above the counter. I pointed to a picture that appeared to show the biggest meal they served.
The waitress scribbled in her notebook. ‘And a full English. Won’t keep you a moment, love.’ And off she went to get my order.
So, this was an English café, eh? The people seemed friendly enough. I’d have my food, then try and find somewhere to stay and grab a few hours sleep before deciding what to do next. There was, however, just one problem. I had no money. Foolishly, it wasn’t something we’d planned for. And I needed a change of dry clothes.
The waitress returned to the table with my tea and a large plate piled high with slightly burnt hot food. ‘Here you are, my love,’ she said, placing the feast before me. ‘Get that down you!’
Using my hands, I started cramming the food into my mouth like I hadn’t eaten for days. Which, of course, I hadn’t. When I’d finished, I licked the plate clean and sank back in my chair with a satisfied sigh. Now I was ready to face my brave new world. I waited until the waitress had disappeared out of sight into the kitchen, then I gently pushed back my chair and made a bolt for the door.
‘Hey, mister – you ain’t paid!’ The woman’s shout rang in my ears as I opened the door, and slipped quickly outside.
‘Not so fast, son. What’s the rush?’
I looked up to see a tall man dressed in dark blue, wearing a helmet with a silver badge on the front. An English policeman, I assumed. The café door opened, and the waitress appeared.
‘He ain’t paid,’ she said, wagging a finger at me, accusingly.
The policeman looked closely at my face – almost totally hidden under the brown hood. He recoiled in horror.
‘He’s got a spotty green face and sticky-out ears,’ he announced.
The woman leaned forward and stared at me.
‘Hey, you’re not one of those alien thingies from Mars, are you, love?’ she laughed.
I shook my head. No … not from Mars.
But she was close!