Marge in France 2015 – Part 1: Before the holiday…..

So things did not go exactly to plan since the last blog, as this draft (I didn’t publish at the time) describes:

August 2015: Stressed is not the word – work stress, finance stress, family secrets stress and stress caused by the impending bereavement of Bruces  Mum, Sue.  No matter how I tried I could not get rid of the constant anxious knot in my chest and, as a fat smoker in her forties. I was a prime candidate for a heart attack, something had to change and after our holiday it did.

Home had become work and it was not unusual for me to spend 12+ hours chained to a laptop with no escape.  The “family secret” was one I had to keep until my then son felt comfortable  to come out as transgender.  I now have a beautiful daughter of whom I am very proud but at the time I was full of anxiety about how our close extended family, including her grandparents, father, brother and step siblings, would take the news.  They took it in their stride and all of my fears were completely unfounded but the disclosure wasn’t made until we returned and I held it all in as we bumbled around France.  Financial stress is a constant companion but all of that paled into insignificance as we learned there was nothing more that the hospital could do for Bruces Mum and she had weeks to live; the journeys to France began as she lived in the Vendee in France.

Weekend 1: Left Leicester for Kent and took my work with me.  Picked up Bruce, who now lives in Kent Monday to Friday with his sister as he is working away from home.  Sat waiting for eurotrain thing for ages and then drove through the night to the west coast.  Unfortunately Sue had slipped into a coma, a brief moment when she acknowledged Bruce’s presence but nothing more.  It was very sad and surreal, we left Monday morning as I needed to get back to work but we should have stayed, some things are more important.  We got the call back in Kent Tuesday Morning, she had passed away.

The following Friday:

Weekend 2: Left Leicester for Kent and took work with me, silly me,  my brain was a thick fog of fuddleness.  Eventually I thought “sod that”, forgot about work and left for France for a funeral, picking up some passengers, a tent and other belongings along the way.  Arrived in the Vendee in the evening and set up the tent in the garden of the gite for the rest of the families arrival by minibus in the early hours of the morning.  The weekend followed with a beautiful funeral service, a very special wake at their local bar and celebrations of Sue’s life until the early hours of the morning. Laughter and tears to celebrate the life of the hostess with the mostess, she will be missed so much by so many.  We made our way home on August Bank Holiday Monday to prepare for our holiday in France starting on Friday.

The following Friday:

Weekend 3: Needless to say we were both knackered and the normal holiday excitement was lacking.

When I collected Marge the Hymer I thought I’d never make it round the M25 to Kent, let alone around France.  The left hand drive didn’t bother me, in my other life I had a left hand drive coach built Hymer.  What was difficult was the clutch was miles away; so much so that when I pressed the clutch to go into 5th gear, my left foot was at full stretch as was my right hand and I disappeared below the dash board!  It was noisy and the extra width took some getting used to.  Driving the Hymer was like a fully body work out for me, not a bad thing as I could do with it but it wasn’t the easy drive I expected! The accommodation bit was fab and I loved the drop down bed but it was soon apparent we probably wouldn’t make it down to the South Coast and I checked the weather for the best alternative – The Loire and the Dordogne had big sunshine symbols and were chosen as we needed to be west to collect some things from Bruces Mums home in the Vendee on the way back to the UK.

I collected Bruce, tired and exhausted from work and we went to catch the train across the channel. He pulled out a beer and put his feet up and  after a few hours driving in France (me driving not Bruce with his beer!) we pulled into an Aire and slept like babies!  How wonderful to just pull up and fall into bed.

 

marge

Marge The Hymer

 

 

 

France, Camping & Us…………….

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.

Lightening

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.

Divorce

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.

Today

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………………………………………..