Working the Food Truck
My life took on a new pattern. On weekdays, I’d get to my pitch early and serve tea and bacon sandwiches to people on their way to work. Customers then eased off, with casual trade through to sometime in the mid-afternoon, when I’d pack up my signs and head on home. On sunny weekends and holidays, there was always a queue of traffic at the roundabout leading to Hunstanton and the other seaside destinations. I’d be there early, and my customers were frazzled families on their way to the coast, desperate to pacify the kids with ice-cream and pop before the last few miles of their journey. Friday and Saturday evenings were also a good time to be out by the roundabout, with locals going to the bars and tourists out for a late night drive. I found that I could double my prices after 11 pm, so I started staying late on those evenings when there seemed to be a lot of people around. Graham seemed happy with the profits, and I was pleased to have a steady income.
Late one Saturday evening I heard the unmistakable sound of a sports car engine driving into the parking lot. Into my line of sight walked a middle-aged man who seemed unremarkable, apart from the fact that he was wearing a Jaguar Owners Club leather jacket.
I smiled and told him about the XK150 Coupe I owned, and we got into a conversation while he drank his coffee, and I served other people. I found out his name was Ian, and he was a serious Jaguar nut. He was a farmer and stayed close to his farmhouse every day except Saturday when he’d drive one of his Jags into town, get a few drinks, have some fun and generally blow off steam. He had a passion for all cars, but his special favorite were Jaguars, and in his spare time he worked on restoring old Jags. He invited me to his workshop, and soon I became a regular visitor there, either working on my own Jag or helping with his latest pet project.
Up until then I thought I knew about cars, but working with Ian showed me how much more there was to find out. I learned to appreciate the skill that goes into maintaining a fine motorcar, and how to tune my own vehicle to perfection. Before long my Jag was purring like a pussycat and roaring like a tiger.
Although my weekends and holidays were spoken for on the food truck, I made sure I had weekday evenings to go out and party. I didn’t have the string of casual girls that working the sea front had got me, but I did OK with the ones I did meet. Most evenings would find me propping up a bar somewhere, and it wouldn’t be long before I got into a conversation with a friend, new or old.
From my flat above High Street News, I could look down into the Jolly Anchor, and I often found myself checking to see if I could catch a glimpse of Ruby working there. Her shifts were during the day, but sometimes I would spot her there when I was back early from the van.
I took to going in the Anchor every afternoon when I was in town, and sometimes I’d get to be there when Ruby was working. At first, she was hardly civil to me, just serving my drink and going to the other end of the bar. Over time, however, we got into a more friendly sort of relationship. We’d talk about general topics, like old school friends, the weather, how the Linnets were doing, all the non-threatening things that we had in common. She never asked about my love life, and I was careful never to mention anyone I might be seeing, nor to bring any girls into the Anchor when she was working. When I asked about David, I got general replies about how happy they were together.
You might wonder why I was so obsessed with Ruby. Truthfully, so was I. At that time I had lots of casual girls in my life, and didn’t want to settle down, or even to have a steady girlfriend. And yet Ruby still had a particular fascination for me, almost a feeling of unfinished business. It didn’t stop me going with any other woman that would have me, but I guess it stopped me being committed to any of them.
It was a frantic time of my life, and looking back I don’t know how I had the energy to do it all. I was often working 70 or 80 hours a week in the food truck, spending time tinkering with cars, and still be out partying until the small hours of the morning. Then up the next day and do it all again. I was making a lot of money for Malcolm, and I was getting a fair cut of it. I was content with my lot.