I left Glasgow for the south of France, a journey of over 2000 kilometres, in horizontal rain and fiercely gusting wind. This lasted for 300 miles. Trees were inside out, windscreen wipers going like the clappers and I was obliged to grip the steering wheel as if my life depended on it, which it did. This was an adventure, but a tiring one.
I had three audiobooks, but at 70mph could hear only snippets, particularly Dara O’Brain who delivers his punch lines soto voce. These frustrating moments were followed by deafening crowd laughter. Luckily I’d also brought Dvorak’s Cello Concerto which I used as karaoke and sang along.
Sadly, the American lady on the borrowed sat-nav was inaudible too and had no volume control, but she was clear, if bossy, and always kind when I went the wrong way. ‘If you can, turn around …’
I also survived the drunk Englishman who was keen to introduce himself and point out several times, without falling over, that he too was travelling alone in a campervan, was single and the divorce was through and everything. He’d seen me hanging around in a layby in my campervan and in Newhaven during the afternoon, for which he immediately apologised, rather tellingly. This brought home my vulnerability in a van which is so distinctive. I asked him how he was getting to his destination. ‘In my huge motorhome,’ he slurred, ‘because I’m single now and the divorce is through and everything …’
I exited the boat, shot off into the night and drove for two hours until I reached a rest area.
The following day I negotiated French autogas which isn’t called lpg but gpl and has a different nozzle on the pump. I had a special adaptor but no idea what to do with it, but thanks to a kind worker at a service station, I mastered it without blowing myself or the service station to smithereens.
I drove all day. Shortly before bedtime the satnav directed me off the motorway, which was about to become a péage (toll road), and down a winding but beautiful road with a red sunset for a backdrop and a perfect layby set a little off the road to spend the night.
The next day I survived a traffic jam on the ring road at Toulouse to be reunited first with my daughter and then with my sister and her daughter.
But ten kilometres before the finishing line the windscreen wipers refused to budge. Despite the red sky at night, there was a large rain cloud hovering. This shroud remained through the following morning so I raced into town and after several attempts, found a garage who fixed it. I negotiated all of this in French, to no-one’s greater amazement than my own.
Je suis arrivée.
Thursday, 7 July 2016
Friday, 1 July 2016
There is nothing difficult about this trip really. Just that it’s long I’ll be travelling alone and Vanessa is a very small quite elderly campervan. The van is in tiptop condition with new spark plugs, rewired sound system, full service and repaired lpg fuel tank. The AA (automobiles not alcoholics) are covering any breakdown and Tomtom has already worked out my route. I have a Scotland sticker for the bumper to indicate friendliness to the EU. What could possibly go wrong?
Sadly I forgot to pay the same attention to my own health and have jiggered my knee squeezing past clothes horses in my small kitchen. I can barely walk, but I can still drive, which is a relief. I have been advised to stop every so often for tea and waggle my leg under the table while I’m at it.
Many have gone before me in this travelling solo in foreign lands business. I will do my best to emulate them.
I have some paid editing to do, but otherwise this is a visit to family and an opportunity to get on with the new novel which has stalled at 19k words. Even the young novel needs a health check.
So, my washing is still drying in the rain, everything that shouldn’t be in the van has been removed and spread all over the house, and everything that needs to be in it is accumulating by the front door.
How will there ever be room for creative thought? I am massively excited. And also scared witless.