Segments - 06 - The Old Man

01 - Meeting Her

02 - The Services

03 - Exeter Hotel

04 - Christmas

05 - New Year

06 - The Old Man

07 - Why He Started

08 - Cambridge

09 - Norwich

10 - The Party

11 - Millau

12 - Heading East

13 - Nice in Nice

14 - Making Progress

15 - Revelations

16 - Doubts

17 - The Connection

18 - Levelling

19 - Space

20 - Finale

After the delights and fears of New Year he's back on the road. As ever a part of him feels good to be free again, another part is already missing the warm bed and the excitement of her. Her, she's not her any more she's Tabitha, Tabby or Tabs. That at least is what she's calling herself. He's barely been on the road for 2 days when he's scanning through his emails he notices a new tweet from @tgsadventures.

"You made impression David wants to speak with you." That's all it says. David, who's David? He thinks for a while, standing outside this pub using their wireless in the cold wind is not helping his concentration at all. He looks to step inside, the landlord is already staring at him through the glass door panel. He needs to think and to warm. He steps inside and orders a lime and soda, the cheapest drink he knows of. The landlord serves him suspiciously, he's used to that, people fear the unusual and with his pack and presently wind burned face he does look odd.

David? He's a few connections and FB friends called David but she wouldn't really know about them, or would she? She is a bit creepy like that. Oh, hang on, David from the New Year party? That's the only David that makes any sense. Gosh, what kind of impression could he have made?

He replies "From the party? What's this about?" As he sips the drink he ponders and hopes for an immediate reply, nothing comes back. This is going to bug him for a while. He hopes he made a good impression but what could a travel agent from the North West want with him? Oh I hope I'm not in trouble.

He's heading towards Cambridge, he's been invited to a large party for bikers from a follower of his blog. In fact considering he's not done anything differently the blog is starting to gain momentum a little. 200 views per day on average, not exactly enough to make him famous however there are a few regular followers and contributors.

He is struggling to get there. It's the post Christmas quiet time. The few trucks on the road have been unhelpful, in these so-called "dangerous" times car drivers never stop to pick up hitch hikers. He's been walking, at this rate it will almost be summer by the time he gets to Cambridge. It takes all day to walk from one town to the next. He's frustrated by the lack of progress. This is when he misses the bike most. Hell, even a push bike would be most welcome right now.

The next day while trudging under the weight of his pack in the middle of the Peak District he picks up a wireless connection from a house. Useless, it's secured. As he rests on the wall staring at the tablet an elderly gentleman shuffles, half bent double, out through the squeaky door. He thinks nothing of this until the chap asks in a hoarse voice "Where you to my friend?"
"Cambridge...eventually" he says with irony in his voice.
"You're a long way off my friend."
"I know."
"You're a long way from the next town too."
"Again, I know."
"Come inside and warm your cockles my friend, come in."
" I don't"
"Don't turn me down boy! Come inside"

Inside the house it is most peculiar. It is decorated in a fashion from the 60's, dull too, yet spotlessly clean. Incredibly tidy, no ornaments, no pictures and no personal touch. Surreal yet it suits his orderly mind.

"Tea, Clem?"
"Yes please." And then "How the hell do you know..."
"Shush boy! No need to be excited. I know who you are I read your blog. You're off to you're motorcycle thing, you're not going to make it walking."
"No, so you're a follower?"
"I don't like the term follower, it makes you sound like Jesus and I'm some kind of disciple. I am a regular reader Clem."
"I see what you mean, it's a modern term I suppose."
"It's an incorrect term if you ask me. People ruin this great language of ours you know."
"A language needs to change to survive."
"I can understand that. But as I get old I find the words I use all have different meanings. Gay for example, When I was young gay meant you were happy, now it means you have sex with other men. I have no objection to men having sex with other men, I don't like the way they hijacked my word for happy though."
"It's a fair point." He can see there's little point arguing the philosophy here.

It turns out the old, bent man was an early computer wizard. He's programmed in machine code and Cobol. He's worked on the early mobile systems. This all explains the tidy, immaculate and orderly house. There's money here and there's a somewhat Autistic obsession with electronics, books and alphabetical order. The chap also lacks a few social skills by interrupting him and a persistent sniff.

"I knew you were coming this way."
"How? My blog?"
"That and the transmission I picked up an hour or so ago."
"What transmission?"
"Your mobile data transmission from your tablet."
"Ah, right. Just how technical are you?"

The old man has been a technical wizard all his life. He still is. While he's retired he still reads all the latest digital telephony manuals and has an impressive array of both purchased and self built equipment. He's shown receivers, aerials and test rigs. Even Clem can't understand the old man's babble when he tries to explain his attempts to decrypt the digital mobile signals on a Mac computer.

Clem is thankful for the rest and the strong hot tea. It's getting on though and he'd like to make a move to find somewhere to pitch for the night. This thought makes his heart sink. It was cold, wet and windy last night, this evening is looking like frost. Combine the wet tent and damp sleeping bag and even with the 5 season snuggle factor it is not a recipe for a great night's sleep. He starts to collect his things.

"Where do you think you're going?"
"I'm am extra super thankful for your hospitality sir, but I can't take any more of your time and I need to find a place to sleep"
"Stay here tonight. I'd offer you a bed but there's only my own. All the other rooms are filled with my projects."
"Oh I can't, I'll be fine." He's wasting his time. The old man is insistent and if he's honest with himself he would prefer the warmth of a real house. He fears the old man may become a little boring, there's only so much techie stuff you can talk about and this man is way beyond geek status. At least it's warm.

The evening proves to be most fruitful. Indeed the old man can talk of nothing other than technical things. Clem manages to squeeze out of him that this is the family home, his parents long since passed, presumably in the 60's when the house was last decorated. The fruitful aspect comes from learning how his tablet has been "adapted" to appear like a WiFi only tablet and the phone network 3g systems hidden.

The old man opens the case quickly, despite his wrinkled fingers. With a watchmaker's screwdriver he points to this and that, explaining where the sim card is and how it's in the non-3g case hence no access hole for the card. That all makes sense to Clem. He asks how he's being tracked.

The old man's eyes light up like and excited child. They shuffle upstairs to a room set up like a nutty professor's lab. It's half futuristic movie set, half scruffy geek hole. Switches are flicked and computers booted. With a wry grin the old man seems to be moving easier, the adrenaline is pumping.

It seems he's built his own little mobile phone station. Highly illegal, perhaps, but as his range is only short and it's not connected to the rest of the network he believes he's doing no harm. It does however allow him to trick Clems's tablet into connecting into his private network and to properly analyse Clem's data stream.

It turns out there's no real magic. There's a child tracking app, the sort of thing a protective parent can set up on their offspring's phone so they ALWAYS know where they are. The old man demonstrates how easy it is to hide the app and to hide the 3g symbols and settings too. This is not the work of some uber geek at a government secret agency, this is script kiddie stuff. Clem is disappointed in himself at how little he knows about tablets.

After another cup of tea and a ham sandwich the old man shuffles off to bed, leaving Clem with the settee and his own sleeping bag. As he lies there he ponders about her. She is still an enigma. She is still messing with his head and not being honest. She is still in his thoughts. She still makes him horny when he thinks of her.

First thing, before daylight the old man stands in the doorway dressed in a thick crumpled towelling dressing gown. Stand is not perhaps the right word, stoops perhaps. In the harsh man made light he looks particularly old.
"Why have you not mentioned her on your blog?" No good morning or wakey wakey, straight in there with a challenging question.
"I...I urgh...I don't know. I I don't want people to know. No, well, no, er, It's not relevant to the blog, it's not what people want to know." He's sort of lying and sort of avoiding the issue. He doesn't want to look stupid, in case he's being manipulated or makes a fool of himself.
"A woman that is tracking you, that is interesting surely."
"Yeah, it's, it's curious. Oh hell, I don't know, I just can't explain it on the blog."
"Are you sleeping with her?"
"That will be yes then. I envy you Clement. I envy your adventure."

Imagine that. He knows a few followers, no, readers, have mentioned that they like to read about his travels but he still feels like a charlatan. He's not in some far flung country learning new cultures, he's not wrestling snakes in the Amazon or roaming across the Russian Steppes on a vintage Dnepr motorcycle. He's a nobody, almost a tramp, moving from field to settee to field to campsite and going around in circles. Why would the old man be envious?

Breakfast consists of fried bread, crispy bacon, fried egg and a yoghurt. The kitchen remains frozen in time, of the 60's and yet immaculately clean.
"Do you want to get to Cambridge in the next couple of days?"
"Yes" says Clem "But I doubt I'll make it in time. I'm just not getting the lifts at this time of year."
"I'll take you, on one condition." Clem feels a little uncomfortable. "Tell me more of this mysterious woman."
"Erm, er, well..."
"Not the sordid details boy. How much do you know of her, how much do you want to know of her. I can help you find things out"
"Erm, well, er" He still feels uncomfortable. He could really use the lift and what can this old man do anyhow? "I'll have to ask...only contact me about her, don't spread this, it's, well, private?"
"I can be discreet boy." Clem hates being called boy, he's in his 40's now, not 12. He realises the old man is looking to jump onto his adventure. He's looking for some spice in his life. Maybe it's harmless, maybe it's creepy. You wanted adventure, well now you're having it. Stuff it.

He explains. He relates the tale as best he can leaving out the sexual content. The old man seems curious yet unimpressed.

As they travel along in the old man's Suzuki Swift the old man keeps on prying for more details. He wants to know about the "Porn Queen", the theft from his tent, the location of the second meeting at the services, the New Year party and the clothes. He offers no insight in return. Clem expects to hear his suggestions instead he gets further interrogation.

As the distances to Cambridge reduce the old man insists Clem records his email address into his tablet. After that he goes silent, deep in thought as the A14 drags along. "I have my thoughts about this, tell me again why your started travelling."