As I’m sure everyone who knew him would attest to, there was never a dull moment with James. Whether good, bad or ugly, dull was the one thing it never was.
Not going to lie, I saw plenty of the bad and the ugly, but in hindsight, I feel privileged that he trusted me enough to show me his uncensored dark side, the inner demons that he had to fight every day.
But that’s not the memories I want to write about right now. No, I want to write about the funniest memory I shared with him. One story that I will probably tell for the rest of my life.
This story must be over a decade old now, as it was the time before he got his driving licence. Whenever I visited him back then, he always wanted to show me the Bedfordshire countryside, “because she’s stuck in London and never gets to see the greenery”.
One time, after an unsuccessful trip to the theatre (because he’d been reserved two seats by his friend who was in the play, and he showed up with a 6-strong crowd – late), he decided that he wanted us to go for a drive, with our friend Alex, who was designated driver, by default, as the only one who could drive legally.
After a pitstop outside Wootton Upper School, where James stood outside the gates and screamed out exactly what he thought of them (you can imagine… “fuckers, cunt… etc etc etc”), we ended up on top of a hill – a place I now know was somewhere along the Greenside Ridge.
The view, overlooking Houghton Conquest, was beautiful.
The three of us stayed up there, in the dark, pondering about life for a while.
The clock struck past midnight. It was time to go home…
Except, there was a problem.
Evidently, the ground was soft and muddy – I guess it had been raining during the day; I can’t quite remember. Alex did the usual drill – keys in ignition, engage gears, foot on the pedal.
Plenty of wheel spin, no movement.
Car was bogged down in the mud.
“Shit. Right, you’re the lightest one. You get in the driver’s seat, foot on the pedal when we say, and we’ll push.” James was always quite quick to give the orders.
“Ok, but you realise I’ve never driven before?”
“Start the engine, put it in first gear, foot on the pedal.”
Let’s ignore the fact the car was a manual.
Let’s ignore the fact I’d never even had a driving lesson, or done my theory test….
I do the rest as I’m told.
*Keys in ignition, start engine, left hand on gear stick for first gear, right foot on the pedal*
The car dies.
“You fucking dropped the clutch, you cunt!”
“No one told me my left foot had to be on the clutch the whole time I put the car in gear you wanker!” (Like I said, never driven before.)
With clearer instructions, we tried again.
*Keys in ignition, start engine, left foot on clutch while getting first gear, right foot on the pedal, and slowly lift left foot off clutch*
“ARRGHHH fucking stop, you’re covering me in mud!!”
It took me a little while to hear his screaming. Evidently, it was the right back wheel of the car that was stuck. Only the right. Which meant that James got a load of mud all over him from the wheel spin while Alex got out clean.
If I recall correctly, he did get covered a fair bit!
In the end, we had to be rescued by James’ mum, who kindly drove up to us with a tow rope, despite having endured a long evening at work. She felt quite sorry for me when I said it was my first driving experience and the car didn’t even bloody move!
A decade on, this remains my only driving experience.