The journey back part II



We’re back, although when I close my eyes I still feel as if I am on the road somewhere between Toulouse and Bordeaux. Day two of the journey home was slightly less intense than day one, aided by the fact that we had to start very early so half the team were asleep for the first three hours and by the fact that the ferry broke up the journey a bit.

The night in the Ibis Budget did not go quite so well, however. I checked the internet for potential traffic problems in Calais. “Floods in the south east,” I told my partner. “Spreading to somewhere called South Essex.” There followed a brief conversation of what area South Essex might cover and whether it might affect our route home. Only son was in the bed with us and tends to wriggle. He also overheated the central space meaning that it was a choice of getting too hot under the duvet or too cold out of it. At around 1.45am he sat bolt upright and said “I don’t need anything”.

Unfortunately, five minutes earlier he had needed something very urgently indeed. The top of the duvet was moist. “Sorry, mum,” he said, ever polite, and went straight back to sleep, as did I. Around 3.30am he did an involuntary kick with both legs and practically knocked me out of the bed and took over the top quarter of my side. I turned around to face the bottom of the bed and lay my head down, right in the wet patch. Lovely.

By 6am I was only mildly awake and had to go next door to wake up the older half of the family, never an easy task. The doors opened with a code, but daughters two and one appeared to have circumnavigated the code by double locking the door from the inside. I had visions of having to climb up the building on the outside and knock on the window. Fortunately, daughter two had set an alarm.

We stopped for a croissant breakfast just past Tours. My partner had a cafe au lait to wake him up and took the wheel. Only son and daughter three started to write some postcards. Only son’s postcard gave a detailed description of the Hotel Ibis Budget and no mention whatsoever of Barcelona. The two in the back did some sort of drawing game. Only son is a bit of an artist. He did a very in-depth sketch of a mosquito in Spain. Granted, there were a lot of examples to observe, most of which seemed to make a bee-line [as it were] for me, but he had obviously taken a keen interest in them.

We got just past the Rouen system by lunchtime, but were running late for the ferry. We drove into our normal lunch stop service station, but it was packed as it has more than the customary two toilets and a couple of trees and even extends to a water observation tower and giant fish.

We got to Calais, passing a migrant camp by the side of the road with two armed policemen beside it. We queued up at French customs. They checked the boot of the car in front of us, but mercifully not ours as we had all manner of things stacked precariously behind the back seats. By the time we got to the P & O bit it was 15 minutes to departure time so we were told to wait for the next ferry. Only son was feeling very lively by this point and we headed to the toilet/eating area where he bobbed around eating his sandwich.

By the time we got on the boat all his contained energy was ready to let loose. He ran round and round, crawled over the seats and generally fizzed, like a bottle of shaken lemonade. I pointed to the little girls sitting in the play area doing colouring quietly. “That could be you,” I said. He jumped up and down some more and asked to go to the Duty Free store to get his friend a present. We bought a Darth Vader Pez dispenser and some jellybeans for a jellybean challenge, which was probably not a wise idea in the circumstances. Daughters two and three and only son asked me to dispense jellybeans and they had to guess the flavour. Fortunately, Dover soon loomed into view and we were back in the car.

I drove the last leg and was flagging a bit by Maidstone, but thanks to the power of Diet Coke and a big traffic jam for the Dartford tunnel I managed to keep going. “We need to pay the tunnel charge by midnight tomorrow,” I told my partner. “No problem,” he said.

We got home to whoops of joy from the back. Daughter two went straight to her room to start creating new artworks, daughter three settled down to watch catch-up Eastenders and daughter one retired to her room, possibly missing the fact that her holiday room had a lock on it which she had used at all times.

Only son turned to Octonauts, from which he has acquired a surprising amount of geographical knowledge. The following day was devoted to washing, gardening, food shopping and the like. Everyone went to bed late, still on Spanish time. I was just about to drift off when my partner sat up and whispered urgently: “We haven’t paid the tunnel charge.” Midnight was approaching.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Picture credit: Wikipedia.

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