I flag down a nearby security guard. Hi there I say.
Hey I’m just looking for my family. Have you seen three people in glasses? Middling to tall in height? Most likely wearing matching lumberjack outfits?
The guard raises a single eyebrow. How old, he asks.
Well, it kinda depends what time zone you’re in…
Whenever I take pictures of a place, everyone always asks Where are the people? My eye darts to lighting fixtures, architecture and bodies of water. Animals, at best. My photos tell the story of a holiday on a dead planet.
Part of me feels like rectifying this.
This is Okhrana Obristana, my character in Eurotruck Simulator 2. She is both me and not me. We have a strange relationship. She is a Soviet spy.
Starting out with a tiny shack in Hannover, Okhrana set out to buy her own truck and spread her company (TWWWYTT Ltd.) across all of Western Europe. Three months later she has two employees, a proper garage, and is qualified to carry almost every kind of hazardous substance on the market. I am so proud of her.
Overall this second week has gone a little smoother than the first. No homework, no cooking dramas. The chickens are swimming in warm, cuddly wood shavings. Mojo hasn’t rolled in anything, and hasn’t left anything for me to step on in the morning. We’ve got a routine, we’ve got systems, I’ve got a fancy coat. Everything’s starting to click.
People exist in the traces they leave. At the park I find a tiny clipping of purple flowers on the ground. Nearby is a small blue hairband. I picture a secret meeting, a romance fuelled by adventure. A parent’s voice cries out from down the street. They run.
We watch the Wallace and Gromit movie – Curse of the Were-Rabbit – and despite being ten years old, I think it’s the best movie I’ve seen in a while. All the different elements of this film interlock in a really satisfying way. Like it’s clear they wanted to play with old monster movie tropes, specifically with a small town going up against a monster that eats children. But it’s a kid’s movie, so what do they do? Swap ‘children’ with ‘vegetables!’
Then, logically, there has to be a ‘Biggest Vegetable Contest’ to make that relationship make sense, so of course Wallace and Gromit have to work in pest control, which puts them at the centre of the action when a giant rabbit starts demolishing people’s gardens, and then… it’s all just so neatly tied together.
It was also cool to see the film as a continuation of the evolving Wallace and Gromit formula. So much of the stuff in this film feels like ‘classic Aardman’ – the elaborate morning routine, Wallace’s bungling romance, animals flooding the house, technology causing problems – but these elements were only introduced two short films ago. Potentially with the exclusion of A Matter of Loaf and Death, each episode is better than the last. They build on each other. Their history strengthens them.
Driving over the Øresund Bridge – that famous Canadian landmark – I look out at the night sky and realise there’s no moon. The water below reflects a light with no source.
Zooming out with my camera to investigate, I notice that I’m being followed by a shadow woman.
I tell myself I’m safe even though I might not be.
I know his name is David even though I’ve never used it. He has a rapport with the other customers – they might call him ‘Dave,’ he might ask how their holiday went – but he and I have built up a stumbling, solemn relationship. I always bring a book, in case we’re alone, and are forced to wait out the cooking process in silence.
I think he noticed when I stopped coming. Now every couple of months when I skulk through his door – looking different but at the same time inherently familiar, stretched – I feel like he’s trying to win me back. He rounds down the price a little. He tells me to have a good night, and in his voice there’s this quiet desperation.
At one point Joanne stops by to pick up some lemons. She says hi.
Traipsing through a local alleyway, I discover that someone has installed a tiny door in their back fence. It’s hinged along the top like a cat-flap, but it’s too short for a cat to fit through comfortably. It could probably allow six largish rats to exit at once, or possibly one komodo dragon.
Another week goes by, and Okhrana gets her final hazardous material permit. Flammable solids. To celebrate, she upgrades the headquarters. It’s a huge, gleaming warehouse now; with its own gas station so she can refill between jobs. All this progress in one week. Okhrana wonders at what could be achieved in ten weeks. Years. Decades. How powerful she’d be.
We get better at what we do the more we do it. Truck driving, cooking, living. We may never reach a point where things aren’t hard, where we’ve nothing to worry about; difficulty has a way of scaling with our own growth. But it’s at least a little comforting, to think some day we’ll be bigger. We’ll wade through our old problems like they’re nothing. We’ll drive our big shiny truck straight through the wall of the UN, and declare that TWWWYTT Ltd – the company that owns all of Europe – is a front for the Soviet Union.
Soviet Union? the US Ambassador will breathe. I thought you guys broke up.
And we’ll laugh maniacally as our company logo extends outwards to reveal a hidden message.
THAT’S WHAT WE WANTED YOU TO THINK!
Happy Birthday everyone!