“I was coming to Durham because it’s somewhere I remember as being safe, somewhere that my parents can’t reach me. My brother came to university here, you know: he did all this sports stuff, on top of a science degree or something. I was never quite sure what. I came to stay with him once or twice, and it was nice, because I didn’t have to be with my parents who moaned at me and nagged me to do my school work. I did it, but not to please them: because I knew I had to.
“I used to stay up here. My brother’s name was Mark. He graduated and left a couple of years ago, so he’s not here now. But I remember there was this building, where people always used to go if they had nowhere to stay, and they let you in, pretty cheap and all. I wanted to go and stay there.”
Alan interrupted, despite his promise not to speak. “But why Durham? I mean, you live near London, don’t you? So why not somewhere a little nearer?” He was genuinely baffled as to why anyone would willingly travel so far, as his idea of an exotic holiday was Scotland and Ireland was uncharted territory.
“I didn’t want my parents there,” Rich admitted. “I haven’t got a problem with them and we don’t argue or anything, but I know they’re disappointed with me because I didn’t do anything with my life. I think they thought I had a hope and I dashed it. So I just have to get away from them for a few days. I was going to stay three or four weeks, try and get a job, if I managed it stay up here and if not go back home.”
“No jobs up here,” Linda said dismally. “It’s too small a place. There’s no jobs for locals, let alone strangers like you.” She shook her head. “Sorry, Rich, that one’s definitely a no-go. You’ll have to think of something else.”
Rich acknowledged her with a nod of his head. “So I figured. But by that time I’d bought my ticket and it was a little bit late. Besides, it was worth a try. I went and sat in a café while I waited for the train, which was where Linda found me, and that was how I ended up here … not exactly how I was expecting the day to go, but it was cool enough, and I was glad of the lift.”
“Not as quick as the train,” said Davide, who had been listening to their conversation with interest. “But you did get a nice lunch, which was more than you might have ended up with on the train.”