Friday 15 September 2017

Carry-on Camping-car

Well this makes a change. Here I am writing from a small bench beside the Atlantic ocean, somewhere in Southern Brittany. The sun is shining and all is, for once, well in the world. Our small and near ancient camping car has behaved relatively well so far on our 2000 mile journey up to UK and back. A glass of Pouilly Fume has been poured and a magret de canard is awaiting its fate on the bbq, as I frantically hit these keys to appease the R&DN editor with a few words of monthly ranting, hopefully before the grape juice takes its merry toll. And thus it should be easy, with so much time on my hands. Sadly, said hands are strapped in bandages, after an altercation with a wine glass a few days ago, which I managed to crush beneath my steely grip whilst boarding the ferry in Poole, slashing holes into my palm and fingers, extracting enough blood to scare a Tarantino movie in the process. Not content with maiming my digits, yesterday I went out cycling on a wet road, only to collide with the kerb and tumble onto the tarmac in quite spectacular fashion, nearly plummeting through a bar window, much to the amusement of its revellers. Inexplicably, on both occasions I was stone cold sober – and therein stands a warrant that sobriety is excessively over rated.
Our trip to UK was expectedly frantic, which included a wedding in Alveley near Bridgnorth, at the splendidly reconstructed Mill Barns, now a purpose built wedding venue. And what a great spot it was. There is a rumour about whose matches put paid to the old place but I don’t think anybody has been fingered for the insurance crime.  I have no idea who did the carpentry for its replacement but suspect he used skills passed down all the way from Joseph of Nazareth, such was the intricate lattice in its splendid vaulted ceilings. From there, via a trip to visit my Ma in Rock, we hot-wheeled it down to Cornwall for a couple of nights in Polpero, a sleepy fishing village on the south coast near St Austell. I have to say it is a magical place, like stepping back in a time warp into the 1970s. Sadly the restaurant that we chose was also stuck in this space-time continuum, complete with swirly carpets, dreary elevator music and a menu straight out of Abigails Party, which included prawn cocktails and Blue Nun. The Madame who ran the place was a relic from 60s Polish aristocracy, who appeared to have managed to salvage all her furniture prior to the revolution. In fact the only thing that had been modernised were the prices, which would have made a Swiss banker blush. From there we headed to St Ives, one of my favourite haunts of old. A meal in the Porthminster Café, right on the beach made up for the previous night’s terror, so fabulous was its food, décor and staff. Despite gentle drizzle, a few hours meandering among the local art galleries the next day also added to the bonhomie. I even tracked down an artist from whom I purchased an original painting some 20 years ago, which hangs in pride of place in our hallway in France. One doesn’t wish to inflict mortality on anyone but I was rather hoping she may have passed on and the value of her art gone stratospheric. Needless to say this wasn’t the case but her fame has spread widely and she is now a fellow of the Royal Society so there is hope yet for this piece. I certainly couldn’t afford to buy another of hers, such was my wanton, as some of the exhibits were the price of a small family car.
And so, to Brittany, or Bretagne, once a home land of the English. To be fair, this part of France appears to be much more like Scotland, or even Wales, such is its terrain. One part called Ty Gwenn felt like we were in Clwydd, for a moment, hence we left with great haste for fear of being chased out with pitchforks for our British number-plates and sheep mentality. In fact the whole area sports such interesting place names, many beginning with the word Plough, a reference I imagine to the settlers who turned the first soil in the area. Were it not an ancient land, one could almost vision the English chuckling as they came up with names such as Brest, Quimper and Pornic, all of which wouldn’t look out of place in a 60s risqué sitcom. Yes, I could just image Sid James scripted with enough innuendo one-liners to fill 2 hours of Carry-on up your Coq-au-campervan!
Anyway, with the rain subsided, one assumed a backlash of Hurricane Irma, we have a few more days R&R before arriving back home to the chores and impending winter we left behind. By mid October it will be all hands (assuming mine have mended by then) back to the pump as we embark on yet another winter project in Scotland. I may have mentioned a few months ago that we had an eye on a couple of fishermen’s cottages in Fife, which we now own. Subsequently we will be back to battling with lawyers, bankers and planners, in an attempt to put a modern spin on a wee 19th century house overlooking the Firth of Forth, so we can one day call it home. I have to admit, I am excited with the prospect that at last, after 50+ years, the chance of owning a beach house is now a reality, albeit a shale beach, in one of UKs poorer climes. But, none the less, by this time next year, we may have seals for neighbours, as well as Glaswegian grockles gnawing on fish and chips, of course. We’ll still remain residents in France though, so I can keep fit mowing the lawn every 3 day and maintain the inhalation of garlic.
So, as the season approaches of unavoidable Strictly-Cum-Master-Factor, tonight I have the ocean as a TV and waves as the soundtrack, while I take few moments to peruse through the adverts of ‘What-beard’ magazine, (the publication of choice for the caravan community). Ahead, the distant future remains just a small dot at the far end of an ever extending tunnel – although, inevitably, it will turn out to be a rapidly approaching train before morning!