Not Off To France

Posted on September 20, 2010
When I left home yesterday, I had a terrible sense of something not being quite right. The sky was lead grey, Autumn leaves were blowing in the wind, and I was feeling unusually depressed, despite the fact I was going off on a break. It’s not completely out of character for me to get a little bit of low in Autumn, but I had a terrible sense of foreboding that was unexplainable and unjustified. Maybe I had seen too much WW2 carnage on the various descriptive and disturbing DVD’s I had watched to educate me about my up and coming trip.

When I arrived at my Dad’s in Milford, my mood lightened quickly, and I began looking forward to the trip despite a continued and nagging doubt of what I was doing. My Dad, as is the norm, was in good mental shape, and we pottered off to the pub where we chatted about his war time experiences as a boy in Orpington, South East London. To be going on a trip of this kind with someone who was a boy during the blitz would, without doubt, enhance the experience. My only uncertainty about Dad was that physically he was weaker, and I wasn’t convinced that his reactions could possibly, at 79, be as strong as they were. Was he capable of driving a 19 year old camper van in France, I wasn’t even sure if I was?

Citroen Romahaome: Shocking stopping distance

Anyway, we were up and away early (5.00am) to catch the fast ferry crossing from Poole to Cherbourg, and despite having problems finding the lights, Dad seemed in control, and I was more confident of his ability to drive this thing than I was of my own. Everything was fine until we got to Poole, where we got seriously lost, then a moment of indecision nearly cost us our lives. Approaching a slip road junction with traffic works, we both got confused, and Dad braked just in time for me to see a bus, and my life, flashing past us, followed by an oil tanker that hadn’t seen us stop, careering just past my passenger door………….fucking hell that was close!!!

I still felt sick when eventually, on our second lap of Poole, we reached the docks, to hear the following news.

“I presume you are here for the ferry to Cherbourg?”


“Unfortunately it encountered mechanical problems last night and wont be sailing today.”

Just as he said that, the tail end of the exhaust pipe inexplicably, but with immaculate timing, simply fell off. All what was missing was the Laurel and Hardy Music.

So that was it, trip abandoned, how deflating is that? I offered to drive back, Dad needed a rest I thought, and in any case I fancied a drive of it. It was only then that it came to my attention that it didn’t matter what reactions Dad had at 79, driving this thing meant you had to try and anticipate things half a mile ahead of you, it had the stopping distance of a cruise liner, the acceleration of a disabled tortoise, and a steering wheel that Geoff Capes would have found hard going. Driving this made me realise just how much cars had evolved in the last 20 years, it was actually physically, as well as mentally demanding in all aspects. They should put these in Gymnasiums.

Maybe we would have been okay, I can’t recall my Dad having a crash in the 42 years I have known him, but what about in a foreign land, and on the wrong side of the road when you have to be constantly thinking ten seconds ahead of everyone else? Maybe he was about to break his duck in spectacular fashion, and the cancelled ferry was God telling us that it wasn’t yet time for us to leave this planet. Was that what my sense of foreboding on Sunday afternoon had been, if we had got on that ferry were we going to meet our maker by getting obliterated by an over zealous French Juggernaut driver?

I just about got it back safely (braking at the top of his road to give me enough time not to drive through his front window) and Dad kindly made me breakfast before I went on my way, feeling sad that I was missing the trip I was so looking forward to. I stayed awake by narrowly avoiding going through the windscreen when I temporarily forgot that my brakes were slightly keener than the ones on the motor home. We are going to try again next week, this time with a modern car and B&B’s, perhaps Dover to Calais where we can guarantee a ferry crossing.

Ce la vie!

1 Reply to "Not Off To France"

  • Anonymous
    September 21, 2010 (3:58 am)

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