We got up and set off at a snail’s pace today. We bumped into Euan, in a dressing-gown and sipping a mug of tea, near the toilet block this morning. He and James had enjoyed the hospitality offered to them last night; all the breakfast they could eat, and the couples looking after them had insisted on feeding them even more. I wasn’t jealous, no, that’s a lie, I was very jealous. We had a terrible night’s sleep and had to pack up a damp tent this morning; not an ideal start.
Progress seemed slow and unremarkable as we stumbled forth into Kegsworth. It seemed to take forever to get into Loughborough, which was a totally underwhelming disappointment; it was as if Westerhailes had claimed independence and set up on its own, even Subway was closed down. We queued for our meal deal in Boots, and I talked to Nat by phone as we watched townsfolk feed pigeons.
Eventually we made it to the Birstall sign, at which point Robert rang the hostel owner arranged. We followed his directions and met him on the corner of a road in a residential area. He stood there in a baseball cap, shades and joggers, supported by a walking stick, grinning like Jack Nicholson. He had the voice of Michael Caine.
We strode, and Richard hobble-strode, back to his. On the way he made us guess how old he was and repeatedly emphasised that he wasn’t prejudiced. He off-handedly introduced a Dmitri character before revealing that he would be eighty-one this year. When we got to his he asked us what we expected to pay, followed by giving us a rate of £25 total. Apparently (this might have been his catchphrase) “this is a non-rip-off area.” He imparted all the local tricks of the trade; buying clothes at Sports Direct and going to Lidl for groceries. He revealed these “secrets” to us as if these stores were only particular to the area.
He then said that if we both requested we could watch some gay DVDs, but we’d both have to request. That, I thought, was a reasonable condition, but a strange offer. He showed us the room and told us the adjacent room is paid for (by Dmitri, the maths genius). He showed us his own room in case James and Euan wanted to stay (we’d have to share the double bed in our room, one of them would get the bunk bed there and the other would get the bunk bed in Richard’s room), he told us that they wouldn’t get the same cheap rate as us, but not to tell them that. I noticed a few calenders in Richard’s room which weren’t exactly to my tastes.
We went back downstairs and Robert ended up in a play fight with Richard. Both had boxing gloves on and were jabbing at each other, Robert was quite tentative, but Richard was insistent and dealt out a few antagonistic left hooks. Richard then insisted Robert put some hand-cuffs on me, followed by Robert being hand-cuffed himself. Richard told us how to discern whether any given pair of hand-cuffs were fake, before releasing us with the trick. We all collapsed onto the comfy sofas chuckling away. We talked a bit to Richard before going to a chippy he recommended. He was reminiscing about Dmitri, a foreign student who obviously provided Richard with good, intelligent company.
After fish and chips we returned and showered. Robert warned me that Richard had told him not to bother locking the bathroom door, and when I went down stairs he said the same to me. He had previously let us know that he didn’t care how we walked around, to make ourselves at home; we could walk around naked and he wouldn’t bat an eye (not my style). I went into the bathroom and tried to lock the door, but it was stiff and I decided not to bother, for some reason I trusted Richard (luckily that trust wasn’t misplaced).
I got out of the shower and ended up chatting to Richard in my boxers for twenty minutes, after which I got dressed and we came to meet James and Euan at the pub (where I’m writing up this journal).