Monday, 12 November 2018


There's a to-do list on my computer called 'impressions of spirit'. Basically all those encounters that left a particularly lasting impression on me. Kevin's the first on the list.

Kevin- 07/14

On a grey and drizzly day somewhere in central Norway I got stuck on a roadside bend in the hills. I waited patiently in the face of the wheeled milieu till my brain leaked out through my ears and decided to join the rabble of pines lining the road. We waited in a different mode, peering over the crash barrier-cordon to silently cheer on the trickle of cars. It must have been a race since none were stopping. After about forty minutes of spectatorship a camper van pulled over suddenly and I was a person again, surprised it was a camper van because I’d long since given up on even trying with them. Most of them had Dutch or Belgian plates and a retired couple glaring at me with suspicion behind map and steering wheel.
In this case I didn’t see the driver. As I walked up hefting pack over shoulder the side door popped open and a smiling blonde haired man stuck his head out. Slightly round face, short hair, crow’s eyes framing blue's eyes.

“Hey there, we’re heading south for about an hour if that’s any good?”
“Thanks a lot, that would be a massive help.”
“Oh are you English? Maybe you can help my son Kevin practise his English.”
I follow him into the van and a boy looks up from his place at the table.
I greet him and shake his hand. He is a very relaxed-looking ten-year-old, and minus some puppy fat he is his father’s double. I can see this because the man is standing beside Kevin with his hand on the boy’s shoulder, beaming with pride.

“You see I named him Kevin because he looks so much like Kevin in home alone.”
I briefly wonder how much a newborn can look like Macaulay Culkin in his prime, but I take the veracity of such origin stories pretty lightly given how many conflicting ones I’ve heard about 'Michaelangelo'.

I hear a toilet flush. The bathroom door opens and a startled woman emerges. She looks like she could be Thai and it later turns out that she is.

The father explains he’s picked up a hitcher to teach Kevin.

“Ahh, ok! Welcome to our van!” She beams at me.
Husband and wife climb back into the front seats and off we go.
Kevin and I are left in the back of the van as we wend through the alpine drizzle.
He speaks to me in perfect English, with an accent somewhere between Norwegian and American.

“This is weird. You’re the first hitch-hiker I’ve ever met. I’ve only seen them in video games.”
I laugh and assure him that we are out there in the world, whilst taking out my paper and pen to doodle. Kevin’s relaxed air is interesting. To me it seemed borne of a sort of worldly confidence that I roughly associate with eldest siblings and only-children, rather than the relaxed air of someone whose head is in the clouds (speaking for myself here).
He’s relaxed in the way that someone like Alexander Von Humboldt might be relaxed; prepared to be surprised by newcomers but not expecting to be fazed. In fact, writing this now I bet Kevin had met a thousand hitchhikers and was just trying to make a rudderless traveller feel noteworthy for a moment. Courteous devil. 

“So Kevin, tell me what you like doing?” I am slowly drawing a sort of amorphous monster, the kind of thing I usually draw to let my head wander.
“Well I like minecraft. I mean I’m always on minecraft building things, buying things, selling things. And then what I really like to do is troll people.”
I look up from my drawing, interested. Kevin continues.
“I’ll say I’m selling something and get someone to follow me to a far-out part of the map where I’ve built a trap. I kill them, film their reactions and stick them on youtube. Oh man, some of them actually cry. You wouldn’t believe it.” He is smiling just at the memory of it. My first thought is that Kevin needs very little help with his English from me, given his ability to operate in the cybersphere at a Machiavellian level, entirely in his second language.

Kevin’s stepmother walked to the back of the van and came to the table some minutes later, offering us a plate of spring rolls.
We thanked her and continued our conversation, munching away as the road straightened out and we descended slowly into flatter territory. I asked Kevin what sort of outdoor activities he enjoyed and he explained to me that he saw most of the outdoors in Norway as being either dark, wet, cold, scary or exhausting. He preferred to be inside, usually playing videogames. I asked him to explain more about his aversion to the outside world and we carried on, sharing ideas about how differing variables would affect these approaches. He pointed out I was bigger, older and perhaps more weatherproof. I added that I was probably less technologically engaged. At that point in fact I was travelling without any electric or electronic devices, with the exception of a torch. An entertaining decision during the 24-hour daylight of summer in the far north.  I told Kevin that on the solstice in Lofoten I emerged from my tent after an indefinite period of bad weather. I asked a passing walker for the time and he told me 9 o’clock. A moment later I had to run after him to see whether he meant the morning or the evening.
Kevin seemed unable to waste words in acknowledging such a misguided experiment. The conversation turned to art somehow as he began to take interest in my doodling. It was just at this moment that the van slowed to a stop.
His parents told me they were about to turn off the main road and so this was me.

I thanked them for the lift, the spring rolls and the conversation, tore the drawing out of my notebook and handed it to Kevin.
I grabbed my bag, said my goodbyes and disembarked from the camper van. As I stood by the roadside putting my bag on my back I noticed Kevin was still in the doormframe, eyeing the drawing. He looked up at me, waved and shouted.

“You’re a creative genius!” I laughed and said thanks.

No comments:

Post a Comment