It was New Year’s Eve, and my husband and I had just settled ourselves into a cosy corner of a pub in Ashbourne, after an hour long walk from the cottage where we were staying. The town centre is very cute and very local. It might have been my city-life paranoia, but the few pubs we'd been in that afternoon had invited heads to turn in our direction in a curious "you're not from round here" kind of way. Having sampled a good few already, we had planned on one more drink in the George and Dragon before heading back to the cottage before it got too dark and we scared ourselves half to death on the way home.
On the table next to us, two guys sat down and ordered some food and a pint of coke each. They were beardy, outdoorsy types of guys with waterproof jackets and boots thick with mud. It was an intimate little pub, and because they were so close to us, I couldn’t help but notice that they were playing some sort of game that involved passing notes to one another, writing something, and then laughing raucously.
I'd had a few drinks by this point, so I didn’t think twice about leaning over and asking them if they were writing Christmas cracker jokes.
The guy with thick, auburn dreadlocks tied up on the top of his head responded cheerily that no, they were not writing Christmas cracker jokes (obviously), but they were playing a game called ‘conditionals’. He went on to explain the game and invited us to play. Toto, I don’t think we’re in London anymore.
One person had to write a conditional sentence starting with ‘if’, ‘when’, ‘supposing’ etc. For example, ‘If Greggs ever runs out of pasties....’ and then you have to swap papers and blindly complete the other person's sentence ‘....Piers Morgan will become Prime Minister’. (Please, Greggs, keep those pasties coming...)
It was a brilliant game! And I was torn between feeling terribly guilty for intruding on their New Year party for two, and thrilled about having been introduced to it. They didn’t seem to mind us gatecrashing their party though, and we ended up chatting to them even when their food arrived and we insisted that they go ahead and eat in peace.
The man with dreadlocks introduced himself as Chris, and told us that he and his friend Tom had travelled over from Nottingham to explore Thor’s Cave, a natural limestone cavern located in The White Peak.
“I’d have assumed that’s what you were doing here too,” he said to me. “But you look too clean to have been there today.” That would explain his muddy boots then.
Chris told us about being a musician, and we chatted about his visits to London and across Europe where he’s toured as a DJ or as a session guitarist for other bands. It turned out that he’s also been to many of the same exotic places we have visited – Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Croatia - and we united over our love of travelling. I asked him if playing music is what he does for a living.
“Well actually, I’m training to be a psychotherapist,” he continued to say. Wow, this guy has many impressive strings to his bow. “I am waiting to finish my course before I go travelling again. I want to have something that I can use to relocate anywhere I want in the world, so I can work as well as travel. As soon as I’ve got my qualification, I’m out of here. I want to have the option of playing music to keep me going, or something more professional.”
For my husband and me, this is a glorious dream that we always talk about: how to make money in any country we may want to lay our backpacks for a while. Every now and again we come up with hair brained schemes that would allow us to do exactly that. But Chris, he’s actually doing it.
It’s brilliant to meet people like this; people whose dreams aren’t dreams for very long – they’re reality. They’re exciting people to spend time with, and their whimsical, wanderlusting spirit is contagious. It makes you think that every wild and crazy idea you’ve ever had is possible. This is potentially a little bit dangerous – but it’s fun too.
He told us about a book called Vagabonding by Rolf Potts and promised that once we read it, we’ll be off in a heartbeat. The thought is all too tempting.
I’ve since looked it up online and there’s one paragraph in the reviews that already has me hooked. ‘Vagabonding is an outlook on life that emphasises creativity, discovery, and the growth of the spirit...”
That's the dream right there. I guess I'll have to read it first, and then we'll see where my shoes take me next...