:: Article

Not Far From the Junction (Excerpt)

By Will Ashon.


On Tuesday May 21st 2019, I travelled from Redbridge in East London up the M11, then the A1(M) past Newark, across to the M1 just below Sheffield, before heading South and eventually abandoning hope of a lift at Donnington Park services, having been moved off junction 24 by the police. At the time of writing, this is also the last of my hitching expeditions. I can’t explain why, just that it’s an ending of sorts. In presenting this text I’ve changed the names of all contributors, and everyone they mentioned, and disguised place names. Although everyone gave me permission to use their words, these were decisions taken in a moment, while a stranger sat in their vehicle, and I don’t want to get anyone into trouble. Transcripts are edited, truncated and, to some extent, manipulated. The text below represents a partial selection of the people I met and the subjects we covered.

 To be honest I used to travel all over with building and I always picked up the blokes that deliver the lorries and all that. Like the plates and all that. Because I was on me own driving so it was just someone to talk to. It don’t bother me. If someone wants a lift it’s fine.

You don’t see the blokes with plates anymore. In the last two years I don’t think I’ve seen any really.

 I play a bit of guitar but not really. Roofing takes it out of your hands so much, so it’s not much good really. Everything’s aching.

 We’ve only just started living together, which is why I’ve got the satnav on to get to hers.

Facebook, actually.

Yeah, a bit strange actually.

People post all their personal stuff, don’t they, which I don’t understand.

Then they moan when people butt in their lives. I’m like, Well stop writing your personal shit then! Then you’re not giving anyone the chance.

It’s crazy, isn’t it?

I dunno if she added me or I added her. I can’t remember. We’ve been Friends for a while but we just never spoke. And then actually, on Suggested Friends, she come up under a different name. So I messaged her, cos she was saying she had trouble with an ex-boyfriend and blah blah blah. So I messaged her to see if she’s got another account or if it’s her boyfriend, trying to add folk and whatnot.

And she said she had and we just got talking from there.

Yeah, she’s an hairdresser. An hairdresser and nail tech. She’s self-employed, she’s like mobile and stuff. So she can pick and choose what hours she does. She’s got kids so it works for her with school runs and stuff.

 It’s a strange scenario. It’s one of those, where you get made redundant and you never think it’s gonna happen to you. And when you do, you kind of become bitter and have to start again.

But you have to wipe the redundancy out your head a little bit because if you take it to interviews you’re gonna struggle.

It happens. It’s business at the end of the day.

My old man, as well as having the shop, used to work for British Railways. So he had an apprenticeship in train engineering and design. He did that pretty much for forty odd years and then same thing happened, he got made redundant. But thankfully Dad went into contracting afterwards, which worked out better for him, in terms of money, but in terms of experience as well. He worked on a lot more different projects. And it took him a lot further. And actually it secured him financially as well.

 I’d say it comes from the media. Cos the media likes separation, likes segregation. They try and control who does what, who speaks to who. Like racism. Racism’s mainly now because of the media. Cos where we live it’s very multicultural. And you get the media that’s trying to split yous up. End of the day, our landlord, he’s Asian, and we live in area where there’s a lot of Asians, but it depends how they’re brought up as well. We’ve been brought up, you respect and you tret how you wanna be treated.

 You’d probably call it a midlife crisis!

You kind of wonder, Who am I? Where am I going? What is life all about? And I’m certainly at that kind of stage. But what bufo has done to me, it’s opened a door. It doesn’t cure anything but it opens a door and shows you a light and then you make your own choices. But the ego is a strong thing. So dissolution of that ego is something which certainly one session wasn’t enough. I’ve had two separate ceremonies earlier this year. I went much, much deeper on the last session. My first session really was just all about ecstasy and beauty — I didn’t meet my demons. Where in the last session, I met my demons. Not that you can put it into any kind of words. There are no words for it. To be able to articulate what happened on that day, there are no words to express it. But it’s something that I’m so glad that I’ve done.

I feel like a soul in a shell. You know? And this is just an opportunity for my soul to express itself and feel something tangible. I mean, my mother died of cancer earlier in March, after a ridiculously short battle. Diagnosed and dead within eleven weeks. And I think what that really did for me was it gave me some comfort. If I can try and articulate it in some way, when you smoke this bufo, you fall back and you just feel that every atom, every particle of your body just disappears. You become part of the universe. I felt this real comfort. It took away any fear of death that I may have had. [laughs] I mean, of course, I’ve got my two children. I wouldn’t like them to come home to find out that Daddy’s been stabbed and robbed and dead, but yeah… Also it gave me a feeling that I know my mother is in a beautiful place and she’s gone back to source and, you know, I feel the same way. I feel that the time I have left on this planet that I wanna do everything I can to be good, to take care of whatever I can, to be good to people, to be good to myself. You know, to learn to love yourself. You can’t really love other people until you really learn how to love yourself. There’s still a lot of questions. I’ve not finished by a long shot!


Will Ashon is the author of two recent works of nonfiction, Strange Labyrinth, about Epping Forest, and Chamber Music: About the Wu-Tang (In 36 Pieces), which focuses on the first album by New York rap group the Wu-Tang Clan (both published by Granta Books). He previously founded and ran the record label, Big Dada (Roots Manuva, Wiley, Kate Tempest), while at the same time, writing two novels, published by Faber & Faber. In 2019 Ashon released the pamphlet Rafal’s Saga with Rough Trade Books and When Is The Present with Juxta Press. These two, along with Not Far From The Junction, form part of his ongoing project, Your Words Never Mine, for which he is currently collecting secrets.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, July 18th, 2020.