I turned up at my drop on the Lakeside Industrial Estate, in Hersden, Kent, in good time. Everything was going well: traffic flowed reasonably well; ‘One-Speeders’ were staying home; even Canterbury, on the whole, was passable… Hope was high, confidence reigned that I’d to where I wanted to be, when I wanted to be there…
Usually, when one completes a delivery, the reception’s cordial: friendly but perfunctory. You pass the goods over, they sign the paper-work, and you bid each other farewell.
Generally speaking it’s that way. And most of my ‘clients’ are friendly. But some go just that bit further. Like the chap at Lakeview.
The address, the unit the company occupies, is tucked into a corner. It reminds me of a house where I lived in Milton Keynes (Waterside, overlooking the Grand Union Canal): the ground level facade has a front door and a ‘garage’ space. Everything else is upstairs. I came in with my arm-full of footwear and placed them in a non-conspicuous place by the door (not easy seeing as the entrance is metal framed and clear-glass panelling). In order to get the paper-work signed, I ascended the stairs. The first person I encountered was engaged in a phone conversation, as was the Administrative woman in another office. It didn’t look good…
I turned about, not really sure what to do. Then I found my man in the kitchen brewing up.
“Would you like a coffee?” he asked.
A fresh brew! Wonderful…
Alas, I had to decline! I had a hot date lined up and was determined not to miss it.
“Ordinarily,” I replied; “I would, but I want to get to Chapel le Ferne…”
What’s so hot about Chapel le Ferne? Well, nothing much… Except it is the home of the Battle of Britain Memorial. That wasn’t the date I had in mind. It was this: the little town is home to a best kept secret – it has a stand-up that does top burgers.
As a rule I’m not a fat-filled red-meat scoffer. Most days I board my van with a box filled to bursting with cheese sandwiches. At 5am my culinary imagination’s still a-kip. So, cheese it is. On some days, usually after nine straight days of cheese sarney making, I fancy a change.
And that day I fancied a change…
A few weeks back I chanced upon (although I actually knew it was there) the stand-up under the junction with the B-something-or-other and the A20. On that occasion I was kind of desperate. My day was running out of control and my plan of stopping at West Well was going west. I hauled up in the lay-by and clambered out… disappointment filled my mind and clouded my judgement… So I ordered a cheese burger.
“Sorry,” said the bespoke-burger-monger; “I only have proper cheese. Do you mind having that?”
Would the Pope mind have Mass on Sunday?
“No…” I replied.
Genial Burger-Monger proceeded to produce my heart’s desire and I paid the fellow. Whisking my wears back to my commercial conveyance, I bit into the victuals I had secured… and angles sang on my taste-buds, a genius composer penned an impromptu symphony on my tongue… Yeah, it was pretty good fare.
Looking at my run that Friday I calculated a hit on Chapel-le-Ferne by midday… and a date with a delicious bacon-burger beckoned. So my kind offer of a glorious scented coffee had to be declined.
But let me tell you, my burger did not disappoint me!
I consumed this tasty morsel with the serenity of Folkestone below me, looking out over the misty, watery wastes of The Channel. Following that I managed a coffee break at West Well once my final drop was completed.
It was more from necessity than a desire for coffee that caused me to pull up there. You see, Nature had been trying to contact me for some time. I simply had to pick up the phone!
It’s not actually in West Well, the place I stopped; rather at one of the lay-bys on the A20 west of Ashford, but not far from the village of West Well. At these lay-bys you’ll find another genially staffed stand-up and an out-house of solid and immovable proportions: it’s build like a… well… an out-house. The most immovable thing about this public convenience is the doors. Bolt shut with a finality that would make Rapture look temporary. Very inconvenient!
This single-story building stands amid trees in a triangular fenced-off area with the lay-by and the A20 running down one side, a spur road leading off into the woods behind it, and car-park over its left shoulder, as one looks at it.
I purchased a coffee from the said stand-up and decided on a rather stout tree for my relief. As I returned to my van, I noticed a young female had suddenly appeared from somewhere. And she’d come along with the guy in the car I’d parked in front of. Nonchalantly, I placed my coffee in the cab and sauntered off into the copse. I positioned myself so the young lady in the car couldn’t see me: or the good folk in the car-park behind me (should there be any). The roar of a passing truck alerted me to the fact I was still in full view of vehicles belting down the A-road from Ashford. So I turned, manhood in hand, away from it… just in time to watch a double-decker bus stormed down the spur-road.
I gave up on the tree and its temping prospect of arrest and public humiliation and sought safer ground by the out-house. There I found, the day after International Women’s Day, the female toilets had been unlocked… I took the risk and the liberty for shelter.