Full moon over Stafford Services

Notwithstanding my love of wild camping sites, it is occasionally quite comforting to stop overnight in a Motorway Services, catering as they do for the professional traveller.  Most offer a voucher for a meal as part of the overnight stay deal and a free shower.  Stafford Services charges £22 for 24 hours with two £5 food vouchers thrown in and I think that’s a reasonable charge.  Stafford is an old-style Roadchef place with a small lake, plenty of trees and a pleasant walk through woods for the dogs.  Blue loves Services because of the almost-tame rabbits and I think she imagines that I stop at Services just so she can attempt to chase them.

I found an edge of the carpark spot looking through the woods as I had arrived just as it was growing dark and there were a lot of spaces.  An hour later and the lorry park was almost full with a full moon to boot rising through the trees.  It was almost romantic. There is something comforting about rows of lorries with drivers all cosied up in their cab beds.  Perhaps it reminds me of dormitories which I slept in at school.  The gennie hidden and locked to the trailer ensured a night of comfort and the tv signal was good.   I don’t mind the distant sound of the motorway or the occasional middle-of-the-night big engine startup and drive off.  The sounds keep me grounded in the real world.  

The two £5 food vouchers are valid for a week and although £5 doesn’t go very far at a Services, it’s at least a small incentive.  The next morning I had a traditional breakfast which was ample, well and freshly cooked and a lovely mug of coffee and had to top up the price with about a pound.  Other services are less generous and definitely less salubrious. 

I’m on my road to an annual three-day show which I really enjoy.  Reputedly the Victorian Christmas Festival at Portsmouth docks is the largest Christmas event in Europe.  The old dockyard is a great location with narrow rows of Victorian and earlier industrial buildings.  The whole site is dressed like a film set and many local drama groups are engaged to dress up and present mini dramas across the site.  A visit includes access to Victory and the Mary Rose and although the ticket price is expensive, there is a lot to see with many themed shows and attractions.  Hundreds of stalls, fairground rides and food franchises complete the whole and thousands visit it every year. I have a great location with the Second Sea Lord’s residence behind the stage.

For the last few days I’ve had the Who song ‘Substitute’ earworming into my head and I just can’t lose it.  It was played during another podcast I regularly listen to which is well worth a trial if you are into such things.  Called ‘Little Atoms’, it’s basically an in-depth book review with an emphasis on ‘ideas and culture’ (whatever they are).  Each episode consists of an interview with the author about their latest book.  Neil Denny was talking with Jon Savage about his book ‘1966 – the year the decade exploded’ and Jon loves the lyrics of ‘Substitute’.  It was played on the podcast which was where I caught the worm.  Readers of my blog may remember my early love of the Who and of my friend and my fractious meeting with Keith Moon round the back of the stage at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival in 1960 something. I love the lyrics of ‘Substitute’ too.  ‘I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth’ is a line of pure genius. Another line in particular used to fox me in the days before you could look up such things on the internet - ‘Substitute my coat for Jim’.  I had no idea who Jim was and why they might want to substitute his coat.  I guess I was thinking too of the plastic mac in the song that could be seen right through.  I realised this morning as the song’s refrains ran interminably round my head it probably was ‘substitute my coke for gin’. Ah the innocence of youth.  When I next have internet I will look it up to be sure.

All the best from a road near you,

Mr Alexander

Mr Alexander