Walking home from work in the dark last night, about half-past seven, I came across a short stumpy individual in a puffy anorak, next to the gateway into the field behind the primary school. He was holding onto the fence with both hands.
“Can you help me?” he said. “I’m stuck.”
“Yeah. I came here, and then I got… sort of… stuck.”
“You mean you’re lost?”
“Yeah. Thass it. I came here, and then I got stuck.”
“Well, I’m going across this field to the estate on the other side. You know, Quaker Drive and Quaker Lane. You can follow me along the path if you like.”
“Yeah. Thanks mate. That’d be brilliant. Thanks mate. I really mean that. You’re a life saver. Thanks mate.”
So I set off along the path and he came stumbling along after me, keeping up a constant stream of drunken gratitude. “Thanks mate. I really, really appreciate it. I really mean that. Thanks a lot mate. I mean really thanks a lot. Sorry to go on about it, but really, thanks a lot mate.” At the gateway on the other side of the field he got himself hooked on a bramble – “Fucking hell! Scuse my French, mate,” but then he seemed to know where he was.
“Do you know how to find your way from here?”
“Yeah, course I do. I turn right through here, and then once I’m home, I’m home, aren’t I? Thanks mate. I really appreciate it,” he said, stumbling off the pavement into the main road rather alarmingly, as there was traffic coming, but then stumbling back on again. “Where do you live, mate?”
I was a bit worried, for a moment, that he was going to want to come home with me. “On the Goudhurst Road.”
He was horrified. “On the Goudhurst Road! Fucking hell! Excuse my French, mate.” Then he lurched onto the footpath on our right, and staggered out of view.