These Days. Part 1. The Crossing

Tuesday 22 August

So, the French odyssey began this day with the boat to Blighty on our way to Boulougne via London, and Deal but firstly Leeds. Six days of travel and visiting friends and family before a month in France.

I woke up to the familiar clangs of the Irish Water Board doing whatever they do weekly across the road at 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep. In my stomach, colly wobbles pattered about my stomach about travelling, but my head sported a sombrero of calm (I could see it, black, broad, intimidating) because these days I have had so much time to be organised! I used to feel excited about change or travel but with age has come a more sang-froid approach to everything, which might seem good but it’s a little boring!

However, despite the organised calm, I woke up to find a thousand thoughts spinning about inside my brain …will I remember how to drive on the English motorways? Are they going to let Poppins in (I didn’t mention her to Stenaline)? Will she be alright in the car alone on the ferry? Will I find somewhere to stop and walk her? Should I take my favourite tea? I don’t have enough time with my best friends, Ruth and Maria. Have I forgotten anything? I haven’t done enough about the Friday picnic in Finsbury Park. Am I going to be too tired driving now because I am awake too early and thinking these thoughts? Will I take my pillow? What about my duvet? I keep making decisions, like no, I won’t take my duvet, but whatever I decide, the same thought pops back up again. Oh dear,  despite the calm, these days, I find few answers, and generally only half arsed solutions that don’t satisfy.

Sunday 28th August DEAL

As you probably guessed, I did remember how to drive and manage the motorways but that was more because, while the motorways point the same way and look as they did, they no longer resemble high speed, four laned madness. As it turned out bollards, accidents, variable speed limits, low emission zones, and traffic jams are the new dangers of motorway driving. Why have motorways, I wonder, when they don’t work? The North Wales shore lines and mountain tops looked pretty spectacular (they seemed to have got rid of the long line of caravan parks that marred the view) as we dashed (if you can dash at 40mph) through Anglesea on the start of our long motorway whizz drive to Leeds where we eventually landed up, thanks to Mrs Google guiding us  through the back roads and by routes of Yorkshire avoiding various collisions, junctions, and breakdowns.

Mags and Joe, brother and sister in law, welcomed us with open arms, wine and array of cheeses. A perfect reception, if I may say so. Next morning, Mags and I were making bread,  preparing salads, walking Pops and catching up on the perils of old age, retirement and the general lack of world leadership while walking through the lovely local park full of forests, lakes and cricket pitches. We were joined in these discussions later in the garden by other brothers and sisters in law who came to pay homage to the Irish contingency of Fitzpatrick’s, including the latest addition to the family, Matilda of ten months…our first family grandchild, possibly the next world leader!

After lots of hugs and farewells, we made our way along the M1 accompanied by thunder, lightening and lashing rain, floods, more variable speed limits and low emission zones (no locusts). At this stage we were hoping that our Irish number plates would provide some protection from these unknown and rather alarming warnings and announcements. Again, thanks to Mrs Google, we got to our destination where Maria welcomed us with delights from Waitrose. Over the weekend, we had a lovely picnic for the friends and Family in Finsbury Park (thank you, Maria and Waitrose), and there, while we continued the debate on poor leadership, trans issues, and outdoor swimming opportunities, Pops chased squirrels and rats through bushes and burrs so that she became more burrdog that collie! The next morning, I had to spray her with coconut, vegan kitchen oil, and spend three hours picking them out to release her tail back to its former glory.

So here we are at the water’s edge, looking across to France doing the last of the visitations. This time staying with my brother who has banned any discussion on the decline of the West. Not a bad idea. We went to visit Margate and a rather wonderful Ingrid Pollard exhibition the Turner Art Gallery (do google her), and the eccentric but wonderful Walpole Hotel which does perfect cream teas and sports a wonderful exhibition of ‘stuff’ from the last 200 years. Lovely soft bed linen at Marc’s and a perfectly cooked Pot au Feu of which Poppins had the bone!

The visitations have been a fabulous start to the month. Thank you, everyone. Just half an hour on Le Shuttle today and we will be in France for a month!

The Walpole Hotel, Margate

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