Sleeping rough, series 2 – Episode 7: WalkMan

I remember taking refuge in the music in my ears. Music! A voice directed at me. It had been days since I heard a voice directed at me. Longer even since I spoke myself. An now this. Carefully I hummed along with the song that I knew vaguely.

I stayed away from the city. I thought it wise. Lately I hung out at the beach mostly. The Boulevard, the Pier, the harbour, the dunes. I had a hideout in the dunes. A neglected World War II bunker. It had been used by vagrants before, but it was abandoned for a while now. I could see that. There was some rubble in it left by previous users. Some got covered with moss and plants during the winter and early spring. Grasses grew high up in the entrance. I did not venture far in, because some ten odd steps after turning just one corner, it went pitch black in there.
I cleaned out most of the rubble from the first room and made it somewhat comfortable with stuff I had found. An old blanket was one of my best prized assets. I covered it with cardboard boxes though, because it was filthy.
I made a place to relieve myself a bit further down the dunes. And I set up a place to cook even. I had found an iron pot that did not leak. And earlier I had found a working lighter. I cherished that and I would protect it with my life. I collected a stash of dry wood from the beach and from the bushes. And some material that would burn easy like old newspapers that I neatly rolled into tiny long rolls. For hours I had been doing that. Just to keep busy I guess.


I found that now was a time of abundance in nature. There were all sorts of sprouts edible out there. Early morning at low tide I would collect mussels along the docks of the harbour. I would pick some thirty, sometimes fourty of them and put them in a plastic bag with some holes punched in it. I would let them sit in the fresh water reservoir in the dunes behind the bunker all morning. Early afternoon I would clean them with a sharp stone and a big nail I found earlier. And then I would put them back in the fresh water some more so they would wash properly clean. Early evening I would cook them over the small fire in fireplace at the entrance of the bunker. I needed my lighter.
I had adventured with some shrimp and even a crab occasionally too. But I never got the shrimp right. And never got a liking to crab gut. Then one of the larger crabs got a bite out of me one day. That got me respecting them a little bit better. I decided crabs were not for me.

With the mussels I would eat what ever else I would find during the day. Mainly the young sprouts of plants. Ferns, plantain, deadnettle, nettle, ground elder, dandelion and sorrel. For something more substantial I also harvested some larger amounts of young and fresh bulrush every now and then, and the young sprouts and roots of reeds as they were appearing right now. I learned how to prepare and eat all of it as I went. The roots of reeds were very sweet actually and did not need any preparation at all.
I never learned how to make proper use of the roots of the bulrush though. Pity. They looked like a prize to me.

For some extra taste I came to like marjoram and ramson too. But I also found my hands would smell of it for quite some time if I had been collecting those. The tops of coniferous trees did well to spice things up too, especially fir. And they were less smelly.

Cooking was quite an art. Not only did I not know anything about cooking when I started my experiments, I had only one pot available to me. Also I had to be careful not to be found out. I was in the dunes and there should be no smoke. I could not be spotted here. Sometimes I even worried about the smell. God, some foods smelled so goddamd good!


I would be busy some four to five hours a day. Finding and preparing my food. During one of my walks, I saw something. Shining in the sand of the footpath going through the dunes. I came from the woody area I was in, into the sunshine. Looked left. Looked right. Nobody was there. I walked up to the metalic shining little plastic box and picked it up.

I knew what this was. I had one just like it at home. A Sony WalkMan. My dad brought one with him from the States when he came home from a business trip some years back. It was not available in the shops in the Netherlands back then. A WalkMan. The headset was with it. Black spoungy pads for on the ears. Carefully I blew off some sand and I opened the lid of the casette deck. The tape was homemade. It did not say what was on it.

I turned to walk to the harbour. I blew away as much of the sand as I could and shook off the sand of the tape. Then I carefully put the tape back in the play deck. I sat down at the end of the pier. One of the long stone arms embracing the entrance of the harbour. The red light on the end of the pier was reflecting off the WalkMan. I put the headset on, covering my ears. I pressed the ‘Play’ button. And it played. I just switched on heaven.


Next episode

Whole story


About Jikai

Living a life of blessed less where my feet support my walk and my hands create my story. View all posts by Jikai

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