Our journey to Dover had two key stops: my parents’ house in Somerset and Dan’s father’s house in Maidenhead. Dan and I took our cars up to Somerset and waited for Rich who would drive up once the landy had passed its MOT.
We had been frantically dashing around for the past week trying to get everything ready. We still hadn’t managed to sell our old set of wheels, which were taking up space in our friend Sheona’s garden and the car needed an MOT to validate our European insurance. Dan and I were sitting in my parents kitchen when we received a forlorn phonecall from Rich informing us that the car had failed due to holes in the bulkhead. It needed welding. Poor Rich was stuck in cornwall for another day, forced to surf the clean, crisp surf and spend another night with friends in the pub. After this gruelling ordeal, the car was ready and Rich came and joined us in Somerset.
Rich and I drove on to maidenhead. We stopped in a service station to say goodbye to my dad, pick up my brother and meet an old friend of ours. The reason all these people happened to be at this particular service station near Andover was a result of the complicated, frantic logistics of the day (the details of which are best left out). The rainy KFC forecourt, although surreal did not detract from the poignance of the goodbyes.
A new problem had arisen on the drive from Cornwall. The torrential rain we had been fleeing had shorted out our indicators and hazard lights. The series of roundabouts and lanes on route to Maidenhead even more of a challenge, as we waved our arms out of the windows cutting across lanes. We also detected a new and rather worring wobble at speed. There was a much needed drink waiting for us at the Nuth residence which happened to be a bottle of champagne.
We awoke after an excellent evening of food and wine for a final day of admin. We opened our joint account, had the wheels balanced and packed the car. The latter task was the moment of truth: whether all the equipment, luggage and provisions were going to fit in the car. After many hours of carefully tessellating, pushing, stamping, strapping and bolting luggage we were ready. We were to tired to do a last check to make sure we had everything and drove off in a hurry.
Our last experience of the UK was sitting in the crowded booth of a port-side pub, waiting for our midnight ferry. A lone singer/guitarist rattled through pop songs to an increasingly enthusiastic Friday night crowd. We were then briefly reprimanded by the police for throwing a rugby ball around the ferry queue.
We dosed on the floor of the ferry for the duration of our voyage and were groggily awoken to Normandy; drizzly and cold in the small hours. We drove on though northern France. I only have vague memories as to how far we drove or in what direction. Tired and cold, we were looking for a remote forest or wilderness to put the tent up. These however proved sparse as our diesel engine roared through one sleeping French town after the next. In a village called Tetigan we gave up and pitched camp as hidden as we could, in a park hedge. All four of us slept for a good eight hours top and tail in that three man tent. When we awoke the rain had stopped and the world seemed a lot brighter. We pushed on East.