We decide to take a trip out to our local site of historical interest, a castle. They’ve tried to big it up in my local area, putting in a visitor’s centre, better signage and even installing a set of steps up to the main viewing area.
But there’s not really much castle left when all’s said and done, just a few walls and some interesting grates that descend into murky depths littered with empty cans of Fosters, Carling, Red Bull and more Fosters. I think the locals are having a drinking game to see which happens quickest – the rest of the castle decays or they fill up the wells with empty beer cans.
Criticism aside it is set in beautiful rolling countryside and has plenty of room for little monsters to run around, which is exactly why I decide to let my two loose, on a lovely sunny day.
I generally keep the little one locked down in either her trike or pram. Today however I decide to let her stretch her legs and enjoy the remains of the castle.
This all goes well until her brother decides to go adventuring to the lower parts of this lovely, lovely ruin accessed via steps.
Now I’m a patient guy, but I’m also keenly aware that I have shopping to do, clothes that need ironing and Christmas cards to write. In short my daughter takes her sweet time moving. Unless there’s food involved, then she can reach 88-miles-an-hour in times that Marty McFly would be envious of.
So, to stave of starvation and old age, I decide to pick her up and carry her up and down the stairs, and around the castle, as she is prone to just coming to a dead stop and refusing to budge. This doesn’t go down well though, and she voices her dissatisfaction very loudly.
I notice a couple of ladies stood a little apart, with their dogs, watching us approach. I don’t think much of this having gotten used to people staring at me when one (or both) of the kids is crying.
However I know something is up when one of them approaches me. ‘Excuse me’ she says with a very worried expression on her face. I immediately put my daughter down. Had I been carrying her incorrectly? I thought. Surely using just one leg is sufficient and she hadn’t been upside-down that long. ‘Could you have a look over here’ I look and see what she is pointing at. Next to one of the larger walls of the castle is a bundle of quilts, with a pair of shoes next to them.
Her friend is on the phone, and judging by the conversation she’s talking to the police. ‘We don’t know what to do and it’s freaking me out’ she continues ‘I’ve tried saying something but there’s been no reaction. I’m not sure if there’s a person under there or what…’ she trails off with worry in her eyes.
I check the kids are OK, they are, the girl is watching events unfold with interest while the boy is clambering around on what possibly used to be a WC.
I approach the pile of quilts, shouting out ‘Hello!’ several times, and wondering what to do. After all, unless they’ve been left out for charity I’m unaccustomed to seeing quilts and shoes outdoors. I’ve just about decided to pull them up and go ‘AHA!’ in my best Alan Partridge voice when there’s movement.
A tall hairy man throws the quilt covers back, as though his alarm’s just gone off and he’s got to go to work, and stands up. ’Are you ok?’ I say to him, several times. He doesn’t respond, he doesn’t even look me in the eye, just calmly folds up his quilt, puts on his shoes and ambles off. He doesn’t have a bag for the quilt. I wonder where he’s come from? Has he had a falling out with the missus? Come over from Calais? Maybe I’ll see him next month on one of the many Channel 5 Benefits programmes?
I tell the lady and her friend that they can call off the police. He’s going, and he’s not dead. ‘At least he had a lovely view during his stay here’ I say to the two ladies heading back to my kids. The laddo is clambering round one of the larger walls now. He starts moving round the corner of one, then stops and comes back the other way. The man-with-no name must really like the view. He’s relocated twelve feet to the left, got back under his quilts and gone back to sleep. His shoes neatly placed next to the quilt. Now there’s something you don’t see every day.