So, I take the morning off and text ‘Steve’ (once I’d fortified myself with the coffee, cigarettes and ‘Days of Our Lives’) to let him know I can meet up with him this morning, and he dutifully rang me back and told me he’d meet me in Tescos in Aintree Road.
There was something of ‘24’ about all this, what with me meeting mysterious visitors from Syria to pick up packages, although I’d rather my contact had been called Mahmoud or Abdul or something. Steve doesn’t really have that ring of international espionage about it.
Getting to Perivale was fine. I took the A-Z with me, even though international spies seem to know instinctively where everywhere is, and never have to consult maps, or else have them projected onto the inside of their contact lenses..
From the A-Z it seemed like I could walk through the Perivale Industrial Park and come out on Aintree Road. Beside the tube there was a raggedy path which had a sign reading ‘Car park’, but that wasn’t on the map at all.
So, I walked about inside the industrial estate for what seemed like hours, only to find myself going in a complete circle, and having then to go on a roundabout route through various avenues until I found Aintree Road. For some reason there seemed to be a preponderance of Indian men up scaffolding, looking at masonry and shaking their heads.
Aintree Road didn’t have a Tesco in it, so I had to ring Steve again, who gave me further directions.
I didn’t like to ring and point out, when I eventually reached it, that Tesco wasn’t on Aintree Road at all.
I had a coffee and Steve - who turns out to be a truck driver who looks like Rio Ferdinand - eventually turned up and handed over the merchandise; a gold cigarette lighter embellished with arabic lettering, and a small jewellery box with similar designs inside, as well as a letter and some pictures.
‘I had to open it,’ said Steve, ‘ in case it was drugs.’
‘That’s quite understandable,’ I said, and thanked him perhaps a little too much for going to the trouble of turning up. I was a little overwhelmed since it’s been a long time since I had coffee (or indeed, anything else) with a truck driver, and without wanting to be too rude to truck drivers as a community, they’re very seldom this cute.
Sadly, he stayed very briefly, and disappeared off to his truck to do some trucking, but it was very nice to meet him anyway, despite the labyrinthine route I’d walked to get there.
On the way back, I discovered that the raggedy car park path would have brought me straight through to where I wanted to be and saved me three-quarters of an hour of wandering about. I suspect that Argos, the God of Catalogue Shopping, is punishing me for not using his outlets as much as I should.
This evening, we tuned into the second episode of ‘Survivors’, Terry Nation’s seminal tale of life after viral apocalypse. The catastrophe is not quite as cosy as it was back in the Seventies, when the BBC series ran to about three or four seasons.
Basically, a global flu-type thing has decimated the world population, and the remaining few have to band together to survive. They’ve kept some of the original character names (such as Greg and Abby) and the central premise that Abby is searching for her son who may, or may not, be alive.
This seems a much grittier view of depopulation though, taking into account that our culture has become far more technology dependant than it was in the seventies, and perhaps that, as a nation, we have lost something of what it means to be part of a community.