Opinion

Nick Andrew: Spending Christmas in my car

Nick Andrew has lived in his car for more than 10 years. This is the reality of the spending the festive season on the road

A few weeks ago jersey gave way to fleece. Now I am sporting both. As I face ‘homeless’ winter number 11 after giving up my job teaching, overwhelmed by debt and depression, I know that layering clothes is the key to keeping warm. At night I sleep under my 10-tog duvet, fully clothed with my feet toasted by thermal socks the size of unfashionable wellies. I slumber soundly, feeling lucky that for the last 10-plus years I have had a car to kip in.

Christmas on the road is a bit of a nightmare: parking becomes more difficult, laybys are busier with more delivery trucks. I have to change my daily shop to weekly because the shops get too busy, and my diet slightly changes as I can store food in the car longer due to the cold. Nearer Christmas week, every aisle is clogged with overfilled trolleys. There is no way any human can eat that much food. The waste is inexcusable. These people should be made to live in a car until they learn to temper their intake.

Every morning my insides react to a mix of roughage and coffee in predictable ways. I have to calculate which toilet is the nearest and how long it will take. In December I have to factor in an exponential timeframe, influenced by how close to the seasonal apocalypse we are. It’s a horrible feeling sitting in a line of cars, trying to get into a supermarket car park with your tearful inner child screaming: “I need a poo!”

Christmas on the road is a bit of a nightmare: parking becomes more difficult, laybys are busier with more delivery trucks

No matter what the temperature, as a musician I still have to practise and study. I practise in the morning and try to work (composing, writing, studying) at night, preferably in the warmth of a pub. As pubs become busier, it is nigh impossible to find a socket to charge my laptop or smartphone, so I have to plan my work very carefully. I can charge electronics in my car but I have to be careful not to drain the battery. You don’t want to be stuck in a remote layby, in −17°c with a flat battery (trust me).

Running the engine uses more (increasingly expensive) fuel, which makes me more empathetic to pensioners who can’t afford to heat their houses in winter. Back on the roads there are more police interruptions due to condensation on the car window. They like to check you are not becoming a seasonal suicide statistic and this can also lead to a breathalyser test, especially popular north of the border where the alcohol limit, along with the constabulary boredom threshold, is lower.

For goodness’ sake don’t mention snow! The merest suggestion empties supermarkets of food and causes countrywide chaos. I don’t mind the snow. It makes the air warmer and roads clearer. Being an old-school Scot I know to drive slower with less air in my tyres, to buy extra food (sweeties) and carry a shovel in the boot. I keep the world turning by helping those that get stranded, and if I get stuck I’m already home.

I count myself very fortunate that I can drive my home, home, to my (untragic) family

I know many people who like to work or be alone at Christmas. This can be due to a tragic family event or just a tragic family. I count myself very fortunate that I can drive my home, home, to my (untragic) family. I see them once a year. I don’t earn enough to go back more frequently. After so many years of ‘when are you going to get a house?’ my lifestyle is now accepted as ‘typical Nick’. I still get spoiled at Christmas with underwear and socks. The luxuries of central heating, washing machine and a graffiti-less, potpourri smelling toilet are most welcome. I really can’t get used to sleeping in a bed though.

Aside from this, my personal relationship with Christmas is very ‘Bah Humbug’. The festive season brings less money as more gigs get cancelled. It’s an expensive month with more travel and last-minute present buying. I do my shopping on Christmas Eve amongst the indecisive and hopelessly unorganised. Buying last-minute presents, performing a Christmas Eve gig then driving 500 miles and unloading in time for my sister’s kids to wake up makes perfect sense.

Then it’s all over in the fart of a well-brandied pudding. After a couple of days off, next is the drive down south for a Hogmanay gig, followed by the long, grey, bleak month of nothing that is January.

On the upside, I have fresh socks and pants. Hooray for Xmas!

Nick’s book Backseat Bedroom is out now. Zipper Tongue’s album Above All Noise is on Amazon, iTunes and CDbaby

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Ultra-processed food is often blamed for obesity – but we should be looking at government policy
Mark Game

Ultra-processed food is often blamed for obesity – but we should be looking at government policy

Billionaires are making a killing during cost of living crisis – we can't afford to accept this
Daisy Pearson

Billionaires are making a killing during cost of living crisis – we can't afford to accept this

Healthcare for trans youth is a human right – it should matter to us all
trans rights human rights
Chiara Capraro

Healthcare for trans youth is a human right – it should matter to us all

Christopher Eccleston on his love affair with running: 'I always feel better after a run'
Christopher Eccleston

Christopher Eccleston on his love affair with running: 'I always feel better after a run'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know