The request was so casual, I barely noticed its relevance.
‘Can you carry one of these’ laughed a middle aged woman wearing a green GAP hoodie. She was struggling with at least 5 shopping bags as her soft brown curls fell into her eyes.
‘Sure’ replied my good-natured self. We walked off the ferry together, careful to step over the edge of the ramp obeying the overhead warning signs. Her husband was meeting her in the collection carpark she said. My bus would be another hour, so it was no problem to walk the bags with her to the carpark. I was marvelling at the white cliffs to our right, before I noticed she was no longer by my side. I turned round and saw her crouching, tying her lace. I smiled and waited for her to catch up; there were no more than twenty yards between us.
‘This way please’ my upper arm was lifted and held firm.
‘Ouch! That hurts’ snapping my head back to face the course of the pain, I took in two dark uniforms. Not police but similar. ‘What is going on?’ fear washed through me and confusion reigned.
‘We have reason to believe you have smuggled goods into the UK.’ there was now one on either side of me and members of the public slowed as they passed and stared, children cuddling soft toy bears wearing berets and stripy scarves, hiding behind the legs of their parents.
‘What? I don’t understand.’ I had no choice but to take paces which matched their own. ‘I’ve been visiting a friend in Calais for the day, I haven’t been anywhere else. Please,’ but my pleas fell on deaf ears as I was unceremoniously dragged into a custom building and told to sit on a blue metal bench. More uniforms.
Through the window, I saw a straggling line of foot passengers crossing to the carpark in the distance. A green hoodie visible for a second before disappearing from site amongst the cars.