County Lines

Sunday morning and I am on my way to the shop around the corner to do something I haven't done in months: take out cash from the ATM.

Shortly afterwards Phil and I are taking the car for a walk, crossing the bridge to the other side of the river. Although it is a little over a mile from home I haven't taken this route in something like a year. The semi-permanent road works are gone leaving a road layout as confusing as it was twelve months ago. The pavements are brand new, re-shod in bright brick beneath to let signs in empty shop windows.

Driving past the car dealerships we are out into the sticks. Turning off the main road we enter a shaded rural lane. Spotting a gazebo we pull into a pub carpark that is cratered with potholes. Road resurfacing has not yet reached this part of the county.

Today is the first farmer's market of the year. An ad hoc system is in place. Enter on the right, take a socially distanced turn around the trestle tables and admire the many fresh goods for sale. Hand-reared, hand-picked, handmade. We buy bread, some sort of vegetarian pie, homegrown salad and admire the blocks of halloumi the size of bricks.

I take bank notes from my pocket and pay in cash. I receive change. It feels novel, almost illicit. I am dipping my toes back into the cash economy.

The clientele skews middle-aged and older. Apparently this is what you do when you are no longer desperate for a lie in of a weekend. There are few children and quite a few dogs. We stroll over the footbridge in a chill March wind. Muddy water churns beneath us as we assess the poor state of the lagging coming away from the pipes beneath the bridge. New subjects of conversation are hard to come by.

Returning through the gazebo we see two police officers at the entrance questioning the organisers. Uh, oh. The rozzers are here to put the kibosh on free enterprise. Like the Untouchables I fear they will tip up the tables, take a baseball bat to the jars of handmade jam and stomp the organic rainbow chard into the muck. We scarper before we are pinned to the ground, bound with zip ties and our vegetarian pie thing confiscated as evidence.

Bouncing out of the car park over the potholes we see the cops are actually having a friendly chat and I consider winding down the window and making a formal complaint about the 'gourmet' coffee on sale. I am no coffee snob but gourmet coffee is not dispensed from one of those hotel machines that splashes dark gritty water into a white plastic cup. A crime is being perpetrated under their very noses but I’m not a snitch.

We don’t transport our artisanal sourdough over county lines and arrive back in town without being pulled over. We purchase coffee not from a machine and stroll the streets. There's a long line outside the artisanal doughnut place that used to be a vape shop.

A siren starts up some streets away. We return to the car and drive home. That night a police helicopter hovers overhead.

I should prepare an alibi.

Buy Kerry and the Knight of the Forest and The Book Tour so I can afford to buy essentials like organic rainbow chard. Or give the books a positive review at the obvious places online where they are reviewed and sold.

Buy them from Page 45 (with a signed bookplate) or OK Comics. Or in the case of Kerry and Dumped, directly from me where they will be signed and sketched.

Take a look at my store/digital comics/patreon.

take care,


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