I HAD only just stuck out my thumb when the lorry stopped. The driver leant across the passenger seat and wound down the window. 'Hop in - but if you give me any trouble, it is out,' he said.

Me give trouble? That was a new one. When I first started hitchhiking, at 16, I used to put on a pleading, girlie voice for drivers and always asked the same question: 'You aren't going to hurt me, are you?' It gave me a chance to suss them out. The usual response was an invitation to get in, followed by father-like warnings on the dangers of hitchhiking.

I jumped in and assured the anxious driver that I would behave. After a while he relaxed and told me what had happened when he picked up a young female hitchhiker six months earlier.

'It was raining and she looked cold, so I took pity on her. It was all right at first, just chatting away; then she asked me if I had any money. I thought she was after a coffee or a bite to eat, so I felt around in my pocket for some loose change. But that wasn't what she wanted. She said that if I didn't hand over all my cash she would tell the police I had raped her. I was stunned.

'We were on a motorway, so I couldn't stop. Then a police car came up behind me. I stuck my arm out of the window and waved it down. The police recognised her immediately. 'She does it all the time,' they said. But the whole thing really scared me.'

(Photograph omitted)