Les Vacances – Prologue

It pissed down all the way from Manchester to Portsmouth yesterday. And south of the border they have the cheek to imply that it’s always wet in Scotland! The roads southwards from Cheltenham have improved mightily since the 80’s when the car was stuffed to the gunnels with kiddy ‘things’ and we made our annual pilgrimage to the warmer and sunnier climes of Fareham and later to the even warmer and sunnier climes of continental Europe It certainly wasn’t warmer and sunnier this visit. Here I am at 5.30am typing my first holiday post and outside the window of the Premier Inn in Port Solent the weather could be best described as ‘dreich’.

After the joy of travelling on the ferry to the Western Isles last October we’re back to ferry hell on the fast ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. Ten minutes ago I had a near screaming match with the French ferry operative trying to get me to steer hard right when parking the car on the ferry deck. Couldn’t the imbecile see that if I moved right The Tank would squash his collegue who was already jammed against the adjacent car? He gesticulated; I waved my hands in disgust; he shrugged and stomped off; J clambered over my seat to get out. So that’s what all the waving was about! Too many cars jammed into too tight a space. A clever design of the deck superstructure had placed diagonal supporting struts at the place least friendly to passengers getting out their cars. As usual with travel in this part of the world the customer comes second.

The ferry appears to be a floating creche…or a floating subdomain of Hell depending on your age. If they’re not running and shouting they’re wailing because they’re being stopped from running and shouting. It’s not all bad news though – the big guy in front is snoring and drowning them out. Nice guy though…on waking he immediately turned round and apologised. I said it was a shame he missed the whale and the dolphins. I can be a bit of a b@@@@@d when irritable.

The crossing is a wee bit bumpy. Trying to write this part of the post is a nightmare. It may be a fast ferry but under the swell of the Channel the ship is wallowing like a baby whale. At least it’s stopped the abandoned weans running about. Sadly now that the running about has stopped the wailing has grown louder and louder. Just a minute…it’s gone quiet…maybe they’re all in the toilet vomiting profusely.

Talking of toilets… my former years practice in the art of post-pub ‘dressage’ proved fortuitous as I lurched along the passageway towards the ‘wee boys room’ or in this case the “wee boys’ room of discarded stomach contents”. It was filled with the dead and dying.
I’m made of far sterner stuff. My inners had survived Thursday’s retiral binge of mighty portions of M&S cakes and biscuits followed by Friday’s traditional junk food fiesta on the long drive south…they weren’t going to be put off by a wee bit of splashy water.

I emerged from my cubicle to find an army of female cleaners bustling around the ‘gents’ all armed with cloths and disinfectant. I stood still for a second too long. Saved washing my hands I suppose.

The sea has calmed. The running and shouting has resumed. Someone has turned up the volume switch on the wailing. iPod time.