I haven’t written an update for a while, and to be honest, I’ve been enjoying getting back to normality (and trying to learn how to parent teenagers), with limited success. I think that writing Fanny through my grief and treatment was my way of releasing stress when I had nobody else to tell. Now, I do have someone to tell, who loves me deeply, but with that happiness and contentment has come a bit of Writers’ Block. Our stories don’t end as long as we’re alive, but perhaps I wanted Fanny to have her happy ending, and I wasn’t sure if there really was any such thing.
In fact, I suppose I thought a new beginning had come instead – in July last year, when my husband’s ashes were interred in the graveyard of the church where he and I had married 15 years before, almost to the day. I’d…
We’ve just landed home from our epic car journey through France and Spain. 2,715 miles on the clock. The worst of those miles were those completed here in the UK.
I’m not being entirely fair. We had more than a few traffic-jam moments in Barcelona and Toulouse, but we’ve also enjoyed miles and miles of empty motorways and other roads, particularly in France, where driving was nothing but relaxing.
What really makes a difference though, are the motorway service areas. I’ve written before about France’s quiet uncommercial aires, which complement the ones with restaurants, shops and all the trimmings. Even these can be havens of peace though. Look at the Aire de la Porte de Corrèze. Yes, it’s got all the usual facilities. But it’s got space and peace too: a country path, a woodland walk, and a quiet pond.
Now look at the ‘Extra’ service area on the A1 M near Peterborough. Outside space is strictly for parking in. Land is scarce and ruinously expensive in the UK of course. But if only we could have stretched our legs and breathed a little fresh air as we took a break in our journey north. It would have made so much difference.
Our third address in France was within a couple of miles of a splendidly ruined castle, Lagarde, commanding wonderful view of the Pyrenees. And on Saturday, there was an event which commanded our attention from 10 o’clock in the morning, till 10 o’clock at night when it closed (we did pop home several times, but always came back for more). I took masses of photos so I could share the day, but readers of my last post know why I no longer have the camera. These shots are courtesy of my phone.
It was an inspirational day. Dozens of enthusiasts from all over southern France came to share their knowledge. All were dressed authentically: linen was the material of choice – no cotton or polyester need apply. They brought history to life, demonstrating the labour-intensive nature of making chain mail armour, for instance. A chain mail tunic represented 400 hours of work, and cost as much as a farm. Attack someone dressed in one and you wouldn’t kill him. Far better to demand a ransom from the family of such a rich man.
We met a pilgrim on his way to Compostela, a shell at his belt.
We watched fighting spinning and weaving, musicians and dancing. There were thrilling demonstrations of horsemanship.
As night fell, the medieval world fell away. Jugglers and acrobats quite literally played with fire, and the event concluded with the most exciting and memorable firework display we have ever seen. I got some rather good pictures. Nobody will ever see them. Grrr.
It brought the Château de Lagarde to life. We had an inspirational glance of the life of a bygone age.
We’ve been on the move since my last post: firstly to friends near Laroque, then to Emily and Miquel in Barcelona. England – France – Spain – France and back to England again: passports required to get out of and back into England.
The trouble is, returning to England may prove tricky. No passports.
The first thing we did in Barcelona was to go and meet Emily and Miquel from their flight from Seville. I left Malcolm while I went to link up with them. A man wheeling a luggage trolley veered into the car, and so Malcolm jumped out to have words with him.
We were duped. As he did that, Luggage Trolley Man’s accomplice whipped my handbag out of the car. So …. no handbag, no purse, no credit cards, no camera with some 140 shots on it, some of which I wanted to share with you, no keys and NO PASSPORTS.
Thanks to Emily and Miquel, we’ve reported the whole thing to the Police, and since then we’ve applied online to the British Consulate for emergency travel documents. We’ve done every single piece of work towards getting these, and for a single-use piece of paper, we’ve been charged £100 each. New passports will be £75 each. Temporary migration for us was incredibly easy. Immigration – less so.
All the same, we’re having a high old time. We are neither political nor economic migrants. We need to keep things in perspective, and put it down to experience.