How we used to get ready for a major expedition to France when we were working, I just do not know. Somehow, in a couple of evenings alone, each following a full day’s work, we’d collect the caravan, wash it, load it, load the car, leave everything ready and, on the final Friday evening, load the fridge, hitch up and get down to Dover in time for a 9:30 PM ferry. I guess our minds were fully focused on the job.
Now things are very different; time is not a burning issue. Now we can collect the caravan on, say Thursday morning, wash it in the afternoon and, if we feel like it, casually load a few things either in the car or caravan, do a bit more on Friday when the mood takes us, finish off on Saturday and dawdle down to Dover for any darn ferry we like, in this case, one at 7:30 PM – nominally, at least. We tried to increase the pressure on ourselves by, on Saturday morning, first returning our new Lafuma chairs and then returning to purchase the very same pair of chairs back again (please don’t ask!) but there was still plenty of time wasn’t there? Traffic should be light on Saturday afternoon and we didn’t need to leave home until about 4:00 PM, did we?
About 10 miles out, Carol started questioning whether she had locked the back door. A quick phone call to our neighbours reassured us that it was, indeed, locked. Fine. About 20 miles out I suddenly realized that, having removed the boot cover to facilitate loading, I had carelessly left said boot cover languishing in the garage instead of covering the somewhat valuable contents of our boot. Drat! Double drat!! It’d take an hour to return home and get back to where we currently were. Not time for that and make our ferry. I did have a boot liner which is black and, given suitable support improvisations, could be pressed into service as a cover. OK, good, keep going. About 60 miles out at the Dartford Crossing, I was calmly watching speedy solo cars overtake our lumbering caravan outfit. Some of said cars had euro number plates, others had a GB plate afixed. I had neither. TRIPLE DRAT!!! My sexy magnetic removable GB plate was also languishing in the garage. No matter, easily fixed – buy one at Dover in a service station as we top up with diesel.
Strewth – £1.31 a litre at both filling stations in Dover! This wouldn’t be a captive market, by any chance, would it? Oh well, so be it, 45 minutes to ferry departure so fill up, buy a GB sticker, and drive on to check in. Departure time, 8:45 PM. "Have we missed the 7:30 PM ferry?" "No, it’s running an hour late." "OK, thanks."
About eight coach-loads of revolting rug rats greeted us in the ferry boarding lines. Blasted bank holiday weekends and school holidays. We really should have known. In previous years we have travelled either a week before or a week after this. The ferry got even later (due, supposedly, to previous industrial action in France) and it actually departed at 9:05 PM. £14 each got us into the Club Lounge, mainly to avoid the bedlam of the screaming horrors running riot all over the boat but also for a desperately needed glass of bubbly and some coffee and biscuits. We at least now have no smoking in public; now it’s time to address children-free facilities for the civilized travelling public, too. According to the steward, several French ports remain blockaded to target the oil refineries. What the hell, I’m on the the side of the militants this time.
Disembarking at 11:40 PM French time, unwelcome rain was falling but we pulled in to our favoured overnight autoroute service area, the Aire des Deux Caps, safely at about midnight for a reality-correcting bottle of vino and a picnic. It rained pretty much all night but the noise on Billy Bailey’s roof lulled us to sleep.
We used to be able to do this on autopilot. Let’s hope it was just "one of those days" and that it doesn’t become "one of those trips".