We have spent the last couple of weeks back in the UK, celebrating my ever-youthful mum's 60th birthday in style. While AM did some rental flat hunting in Cambridge, I trotted off to a hen do of one of my closest friends from school, grateful that the distance between the two countries was short enough not to prevent us missing out on important events such as these. Either we're all getting old or we just weren't particularly wild even in our youth (or both?!) but the hen weekend turned out to be a highly civilised middle class affair in the Cotswolds, complete with delivery of an online Waitrose order (tea), lots of lovely catching up (tea), caterers in the evening (tea... ok, wine) and a lovely stroll around Stow on the Wold and a visit to a tea shop (cream tea).
Our return to French shores took a slightly different route this time as we had decided to experiment with a night ferry crossing from Portsmouth to St Malo. Thrilled at the notion that our driving time à la France would be cut almost in half, we dumped our bags in our clean but tiny cabin (bunk beds!) and headed off to the vicinity of the boat where fine dining had been promised. Amusingly we spent our meal surrounded by an entire dining room of 60-something Brits, all chomping on their posh nosh whilst being entertained by that stalwart of high class divertissement, a white-suited pianist at a baby Grand. While we tucked into our beef, conversations that I could pick up on ran approximately as follows:
"...and I said again, for the tenth time, Frank - I'm not travelling underneath that body of water to get here. What if there's a leak, hmm? Where will we be then?"
"But that's the problem. We say 'lemonADE' don't we, but they just hear 'lemon' and bring you fizzy water with lemon in it. If you want lemonade in France you've got to ask for Sprite or something, see?"
"I'm just saying darling, that I can see our waiter standing over there doing nothing and all I asked for was some bread. Not to mention that fact that we don't yet have a wine cooler. And why didn't you ask for a nicer table?"
"The ship's kennel was nice, much bigger than his car carrier. I put his blanket in with him for the night. But really, he would have been good as gold in our cabin. Good as gold."
I gulped my wine and had to be restrained by AM from asking the pianist if he knew any Elton John, and if so would he mind terribly just scooting up a bit so I could I sit next to him while he played Tiny Dancer and perhaps towards the end just indicate with a slight nod of his head that I could play the last note. Thanks awfully.
The next morning, an all-boat (or so I assume, but perhaps they had just heard about my difficulties in awakening and singled us out) alarm blared into the room at 6:30am, informing us that we were 45 minutes from our arrival port. Conscious of the fact that I don't cope well with being woken by anything except my body's own time clock assuring me that I have slept for at least 8 hours and shortly afterwards, a cup of tea, AM hurriedly jumped out of bed, took one look at my frowning, pillow creased, bleary-eyed face and whispered that he would go and source breakfast.
Back on the road and 7 hours later we finally arrived at our home for the next 8 months, the glittering coastal town of Biarritz. The joy at having our own apartment to unpack into! The first evening we watched an immense lightning storm from our terrace, beer in hand. Today I wore my bikini to the beach in October. I think this might just work... Next on the agenda however, is the daunting task of navigating the French tax, social security and healthcare system. I've been trawling forums and websites, the befuddling results of which have already had me scratching my head. It might be time to put the kettle on...
“We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week...
The bottom is out of the Universe.”
― Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling