And so it came to be the evening of the day It had been hot, so hot that we had been reduced to bundles of sweaty tiredness and a grumpiness of temper which we were trying hard to ignore......jousting spouses squashed up in the confines of a little white van loaded up with computer equipment, bedding, a change of clothing, sundry other items, and a dog, would not bode well for a happy travelling experience as we navigated our way out of France. The miles were waiting to be travelled.
From SW France to the West Midlands of England via the Channel Tunnel, that was the plan according to the route I had copied from the Internet. It seemed like a good plan, very straight forward, staying on the tolled motorways which would hopefully have services which might be open, it still being the time of the Covid lock down so we didn't know what to expect. Would there be fuel? What about toilets? Would we be prevented from travelling by the French police? Would our travel papers be acceptable? Would we be turned back and prevented from leaving France at all? So many stories abounded, so many worries nestled in our minds.
We were done with the house. Everything was packed in boxes and stacked neatly in the Half Barn because no removal company could take it to the UK because of the Covid lock down, so it had to stay. Time to lock up, and go. Too tired to think about anything other than the long drive ahead, we were more relieved than sad as we drove out of the courtyard and locked the gates behind us.
Twenty seven hours of driving were ahead of us. Why so long? Well......
- there was Maz to consider. She had to stretch her legs and do her toilets, so we stopped every two hours or so.
- then there was me......so exhausted by the heat of the day and the effort of it all, I kept getting faint and sick, but not dreadfully so, just enough to need to get out of the car fairly frequently for some fresh air.
- and then there was the route planning which I had downloaded from the Michelin web site. Almost as soon as we were on the motorway it proved useless. We thought we knew the route from when we first travelled to France, but everything had changed and new junctions had been made, and we ended up taking a detour which cost us time and miles. Not to worry, thank goodness that all the services were open so Lester bought a map book and we found the route again. We don't 'do' SatNav. We like to see the route on paper because it's in our control and we know where we are. I don't trust voices coming to me from out of a box on the dashboard.
- and our little van is not a speed machine, so everyone over took us, and that included big monster trucks of which there were many.
Hooray! And finally the Channel Tunnel. What a relief! We were out of France. No one had stopped us along the way to say that we did not have the right travel papers, and even at the French part of the border crossing the Frenchman in the booth only cast a cursory glance at our passports and then threw them back at me, as if to say 'we don't want you English here anyway'.
Sitting in our van, loaded on the train. It was mid afternoon of the following day. Then through into daylight and we were in England, but we did not feel 'Oh we were home'. At no time through this process of transition did we feel that we were 'going back' to what we knew before we went to France, it was always that we were 'going forward' into new experiences. new challenges. This is what you have to do if you are going to be a Life Traveller,..... which is someone who does not necessarily travel to far distant places on this planet, but someone who travels through the days of their life embracing and accepting whatever challenges life brings to them, with a hopeful optimism that everything will come out alright in the end, even if there are a few tears, grumbles and tempers along the way.
Managing the UK motorways was a doddle. We were familiar with them, at least up until the end of the M40. But then there was the Birmingham area to get through. We bought another map book. It was getting late. We plunged into the tangle of junctions, an error of judgement kept us on the wrong road, but then that road suddenly magicked into the right road, and hooray.....we were on to Telford, and then to Shrewsbury, and then round and round a big roundabout we went as we searched for the right exit but couldn't find it, so we headed off into the Shropshire countryside hoping that somehow our destination would appear in front of us. It did eventually.
We would have preferred to stay in a hotel but the Covid lock down had shut them all, so we slept in the van. It was nearly midnight, twenty seven hours after we left SW France.
And in the morning, a cheery young lady, pristine and blonde, arrived at the cottage and gave us the keys to our new, but temporary, home. It did not disappoint. The cottage is a black and white traditional English cottage, with hanging baskets, and an English flower garden surrounding it. And it is set in a picture perfect English country village, which also has it's own typical English village pub just a few steps away, which opens again next weekend after being closed because of the lock down.
We feel very blessed.
Bye for now,