Across Continents

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Midnight at the oasis

It might have been a dream. Fragments of past memories. Night in a Scottish lay-by. Little sleep in the cramped confines of a Ford Cortina. Industrial scenes. "Bladerunner" perhaps. But this was very real. Gone midnight. Inside the cafe young women shepherded customers, mostly lorry drivers, to tables.

I joined a driver and his mate I’d met earlier in the day. Bowls of hot food – rice, steamed soft dough balls, vegetables, stew – quickly appeared. I was glad of the warmth indoors. Outside, cold as sharp as the harsh lights of the many small workshops on both sides of the road. Lorries parked up in ordered lines. Others trundling past, like shadows amidst all the dust.

Welcome as the food was, I’d still to secure somewhere to spend the night. My hosts sought to reassure me there wasn’t a problem. And yet I’d already established there were no spare beds left in this vast truck stop. I was confused. Our late night meal eventually finished, we returned to the rasping, bitter cold outside. The driver gestured towards his cab. But, I quickly realised, not to retrieve my panniers. Rather, to sleep. In the passenger seat.

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