While I was at work today my lovely younger brother dropped off his 2 man inflatable canoe for us to borrow and take to France. My 3 boys were all at home, as it’s now the school holidays, and Bruce and I were at work………cue Operation Test Drive Canoe without parental permission. They didn’t let a lack of foot pump stop them, oh no, Olli (14) just blew it up with his breath, I would have expired, but 15 minutes later it was fully inflated. They then carried it across 2 fields and on to the Grand Union Canal where they proceeded to row 4 miles towards Wistow, Wigston& Leicester. The first I heard of this endeavour was a phone call from Olli asking if I was back from work because they were thirsty, I was in the hairdressers so no chance of me delivering drinks and every chance of me delivering a lecture on Waterway Safety and general anti-accidental drowning measures. The canoe is now drying out ready to be packed for France, I will leave you with these pictures.
There are people in this world who are so organised they do next years Christmas shopping in the January sales, they are the sort of people who thrive on lists and who can work 12 hour days, cook dinner, shop, socialize and still have time for their family! I’m not one of them. Instead I leave things to the very last-minute before I swing into action, Christmas shopping is a dash around Fosse Park 2 days before Christmas. Every time I leave things to the last-minute I swear I’ll do better next time, so with that in mind and only 1 week to go, I am being organised and making a list that I can’t lose or throw away – here goes:
- Find Fugly log book and obtain new number plate for trailer.
- Stick trailer back together again – that’s got to be a mans job, I choose which bits of feminism I support and I don’t support the bit about women having anything to do with the fixing of cars or trailers.
- Fix lights on trailer – man job.
- Obtain new bulbs for Fuglies headlight and tail light – I think I can manage that.
- Put new bulbs in – man job.
- Screw Fuglies undercarriage back together – 2 man job.
- Re-gas Air Con – take to a man who can.
- Clean and wash Fugly – womans work – only joking, I’ll bribe the kids to do that one.
- Print Breakdown Recovery Policy and Ferry booking.
- Swear at printer ink running out.
- Finish all work paperwork and file.
- Order Euros.
- Hide Euros.
- Remember to find Euros upon departure.
- Remind boys to bring their passports back from their Dads house.
- Remind them again.
- Remind their Dad.
- Steal passports.
- Get all of the clothes washing done – oh how I’m laughing to myself.
- Write a shopping list.
- Go shopping.
- Buy lots of things we don’t need and nothing we do need because the list is lost.
- Fill car up with Diesel after buying copious amounts of Tuna from Tesco in order to get 5p off per litre.
- Clean the house.
- Pack whatever clothes are clean.
- Trim, shave and wax all unsuspecting hairs, wherever they be.
- Pack car.
- Go back for the customary forgotten child.
One thing that my 43 years life experience has taught me is that it all gets done in the end so I’m not going to stress too much, besides I’ve got a whole week to do it all in.
In the beginning…..
For a few years I holidayed around the world in 4* hotels, neatly packaged and thoroughly sterilized from the airport departure lounge to the Welcome Reception and Drinks by the pool. The last package holiday involved myself, husband and two young boys staying in an “All Inclusive”, fully karaoked, Rep ridden hell hole in Cyprus where we were wrist-banded up and our free will was handed in at reception; needless to say I hated it. I realized how lucky I was to be able to see so much of the world but it always seemed a shame that although I saw the world, I didn’t feel it, I understood little of the locals way of life and absorbed little of the atmosphere and culture. I longed for the freedom of my own child hood holidays, spent mainly caravaning in the UK and on one occasion camping in France, St Jean Du Mont to be exact. I wanted my children to be free to explore their natural surroundings, to eat local and feel the pleasure of tasting their first real shandy by the sea with a packet of plain crisps; I wanted them to walk through the pine forests on the Vendee coast and marvel at the little bugs that glow green in the night. And as for my first sip of Orangina………. I love the outdoors, dislike cities and crave open spaces and have no time for rules or regulations, especially on holiday. I wanted to start camping again but there was one obstacle in my way – my husband.
Our only attempt at camping had been aborted as I had begun to unpack the tent from the car on a lovely cliff top camp site near Cromer. My husband had such an aversion to camping he refused to move from the car, went a funny colour of green and demanded we left immediately. We never attempted it again but roll on a few years, after we married and our two boys were just starting school, we met some friends who spent every year in France in their old motor home. Cutting a long story short, I eventually persuaded the hubby to buy a motorhome on the grounds he would have his own shower and bed and it wasn’t camping at all. Even now I can’t believe I got away with it, but I did, and Lightening our beloved Swift Kontiki Motorhome was born.
From the moment I saw Lightening (named by our sons because of it’s speed…..very slow) I was in love, but it took the hubby a while to begin enjoying it. The summer that we bought it, we booked a ferry and travelled to France and I have never looked back. The freedom, the weather, the open roads, the people and culture all combined to create the perfect holiday. My boredom threshold, which had been severely tested on package holidays, would never be tested again; when we tired of a place, we moved on. Holidays once again became a big adventure and myself and my two boys loved them with a passion.
Moving forward a few years and the Hubby and I agreed to divorce, which we managed amicably but with a great deal of sadness. Our Kon-Tiki had been stolen 2 years before our divorce (I don’t think the loss of KonTiki and our subsequent divorce were related but who knows?) and it had been replaced by a lovely Hymer with fixed bunk beds for the boys. I was awarded custody of the Hymer but, due to a huge change in my financial situation, I had to sell her. I began the year of 2008 penniless and motorhomeless with little prospect of returning to France for the summer – how wrong I was!
New Man and Wind
In January I met Bruce, by February we were an item, by March our children had met – my two boys and his son and daughter. By Easter we had all pitched a £100 trailer tent in the snow and spent, quite possibly, the coldest and most uncomfortable night of my life under canvas! In June Bruce and I worked for Greenpeace at Glastonbury and shared our new huge tent with the rest of the security crew – unbelievably not only did we go to Glasto for free but we got fed and paid – spot on. Spending the summer in France still seemed a million miles off, we quite simply had no money and no way of conjuring up the money to take us to France. And then something marvelous happened and in the space of a short phone call we were all going to France. Bruces’s friends had bought a small piece of land near Carcassonne and had pitched a Yurt on it. They had a well for water but no electricity and had asked Bruce (who is very handy at all things gadgetry/technology/Electric etc) to find them a suitable wind turbine to generate electricity. In July we all set off – a car, 6 passengers, wind turbine on the roof, trailer tent (tent bit had been removed and large tunnel tent plus all equipment , clothes, food etc could be stored in the trailer) 6 bikes and two batteries all set off for the south of France. Our hosts were paying for the diesel and we were to camp for free on their land, perfect, I couldn’t believe my luck. The holiday was a great success and we partied through the night once we had the wind turbine up and running.
Three years on we are all under one roof, except my step daughter who visits and stays with us often. My eldest boy G is coming up to 16years old in July and I am aware he may not want to holiday with us anymore so I am determined to take us all for a last family camping holiday in France. I have booked the ferry for the 21st July and have a budget of £100 per day for all 6 of us (not including fuel and tolls) This is where this blog comes in, I hope to record our journey and whether we manage to keep within our budget – the adventure starts here………………………………………..