Daily Archives: August 15, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to…

If you read my recent post on a Suitcase of Memories, you will recognise this post for what it is.  It is a memory to be kept along with others in the suitcase aka my Memory Book.

Many years ago shortly after the birth of my daughter, my Dashing Young Scotsman was transferred to the Head Office of his company in Glasgow.  It was a family-owned company and the father (the old man) ruled with a rod of iron, or so they said.  Who you may ask is they?

This Elderly Gentleman (probably in his early 60s while I was in my early 20s) used to vacation for a couple of months in the South of France every winter.  On several occasions, my DYS (accompanied by me) drove his sports car to  Nice so that it would be available when the Elderly Gent and his wife arrived on holiday.  In this way, we saw the Monte Carlo Rally on two occasions.

One year, it was decided that the hotel was becoming too expensive and so they would take their caravan to Nice and would my DYS drive it there for them?  We could have a holiday in it once we got there as they wouldn’t arrive until a week after us.

Can you imagine?  A cold January day in Scotland and the offer of a week in Nice?  Would we go?  No contest.  The answer was a resounding yes!

So we packed the caravan with clothes and what we thought were necessities for a week, plus travelling time, in the South of France.  My daughter was about 18 months old and her doting Grandmother in London was delighted with the opportunity to look after her while we were away.

So off we went.  And the adventures began even before we reached London.  The caravan was large and was towed by a rather elderly, but very trusty  Land Rover.  It had only loose canvas covers around it and so the cold found its way in.  It had snowed during the day and by the time we were ready to set off the roads were icy.  Baby was warmly wrapped and snuggled into her carrying cot in the back of the Land Rover.  Can you imagine it.  We simply placed her carrycot on the back seat, no restraints/seat belts and packed cushions around her so that she wouldn’t fall.

Unfortunately, shortly after we left home we came across a nasty accident involving several cars that had slipped on the ice.  There were of course, no cellphones way back in 1961 and so we went in search of a telephone.  As we hadn’t been involved in the accident, DYS was only required to give his name address and home phone number and we were on our way again.

Of course, this delayed us and by the time we arrived in London, my parents were convinced we must have had an accident and Mother had seriously considered calling around hospitals.  How did we manage without our cellphones?

After a short sleep and some food, we took off again having left small daughter with grandparents.

We were taking the car ferry from Dover to Calais.  Unfortunately, we missed the ferry and had to spend the night on the hard in the caravan.  It was just as well because the caravan relied on gas lighting and some of the little gas light covers (and I really can’t describe them adequately) were missing and had to be replaced.  Imagine the horror of trying to describe what we wanted to a Frenchman, although my DYS was a proficient French speaker.  So we found a hardware store and purchased the lamps.  The downside to this was that the old guy in the hardware store offered to instal the lamps, which we gladly accepted as neither of us had ever seen them before, but having installed them, he stayed and stayed and obviously had no place to go.  We ended up taking him to the local hotel for a drink and bidding him goodnight there.

The next day dawned and a gale was churning up the sea even close in to the shore, making the access onto the ferry very difficult. One had to line up the car with the ramp and then when the driver and the sailors deemed it the right time, belt full blast onto the ferry.  No mean feat towing a large caravan.  And once the ship was underway well probably the least said about the voyage is best.  I think only a handful of us were still on our feet when we arrived in Calais.  DYS was not one of them and as he was the driver it was decided to find somewhere to park for the night.

We spent a delightful evening at a friendly bar near the waterfront (DYS was quite recovered by then) and were entertained by the locals.  You have to remember that the hoards from the UK hadn’t landed yet.  So we were made most welcome.

The next morning, bright and early on a bright and sunny morning we set off to drive the many miles to Nice.  DYS was quite used to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road but I kept seeing people reading newspapers instead of driving – obviously, they were the passengers.

To be continued…Yes, it does go on and on.  And I found this quote that’s most apt in the circumstances –

“Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation.”
Elizabeth Drew, Political Journalist and Author
1935 –