I found him in his van stirring a giant tub of adhesive. Bought for a fiver, he said, with supreme relish and an inane grin, retail value one hundred quid. Spoken with the matter-of-fact air of a chap who was used to such bargains. Satisfied, relaxed and definitely sleepy.
I'd met Baz down the Marquis the night before, but prior to that it had been a long time. I'd been down in Brighton getting married, making babies, commuting to London. He'd been gallivanting round the world. India, Thailand, Tibet, Guildford, Milton Keynes, all sorts of exotic places. Come and see my van, he'd said, so here I was, the fumes already hitting me hard. Guess I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue.
I mentioned the scratch I'd seen down the right hand side. 'Handbrake snapped off,' he said, sheepishly, 'found myself rolling down Dad's drive.' He'd fixed the handbrake himself. I had visions of a broom handle rammed in its place.
It was an old VW. Technically a transit but an abnormally large one, once royal blue, now faded and sorry. He'd gutted the thing and was in the process of converting it into a home. Didn't pay for this, he said, or that, or that, got this for a tenner, found this by the road. Thriftiest man I know and the son of a carpenter, his handiwork was beautiful. Fitted bookshelves, nifty bed-come-sofa, cute little gas stove mounted on a perfectly-crafted "kitchen" area. 'What'll you do about water?' I asked. 'You can always find an outside tap,' he said with a sly wink.
'Where are you off to?' I asked. 'Two weeks in Norway, ' he replied, 'doing a bit of "environmental research" then up North in the van.' I wasn't sure whether snowboarding counts as "environmental research" but hey, why not?
He showed me the leisure battery, explained the relay switch, demonstrated where his gadgets would charge from. TV, laptop, phone. He was in the process of insulating the van.
'Regarding insurance and all that, is this legal?' I asked. He laughed, 'don't you worry about that. It will get a bit complicated when I install my wood-burning stove....'
Last I heard he was working as a "freelance environmental consultant" somewhere in the North of England. But what I'm really trying to say is, if you see a large blue van rolling backwards down a hill, a trail of burning books in its wake, chased by some angry victims of water theft, let me know.