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Smallville: Journey's End

Peter B Farrell, bringing with him a large number of postcards and some square plates, returns home at the end of a gloriously enjoyable holiday in France.

There have been 10 earlier chapters describing Peter's holiday adventures in La Belle France. Click on Smallville in the menu on this page and go back to the beginning of the journey: A Planned Departure.

Packed and ready to go we vacated our rooms at the small hotel in St Vaast on the Normandy coast. Unfortunately the deal did not include the usual early morning croissants (“It’s only jam and bread”) on the pavement. The instructions were to leave the keys in the hall ”s’il vous plé“.

No doubt there would be early morning cafés in the small holiday resort; but not so, as we found out later after traipsing the streets.

Luckily Diana’s unerring instinct led us to a small bar which obviously catered for returning fishermen from the night shift. The décor consisted wholly of the debris off the ocean floor after decades of fishing expeditions by the locals.

The smoky interior didn’t put us off and the amiable bar tender provided us with thick black coffee before ambling round the corner to a contact in the bakery for our customary croissants. We decided it was inappropriate to complain of the lack of serviettes and cheerfully settled l’addition.

“Merci beaucoup, au revoir m‘sieur.”

A mere 15 kilometres brought us to the port of Cherbourg. With two hours to kill Kevin dutifully delivered Margaret and Diana to the doors of the Hypermarket.

“We’ve only about 30 euros left, unless you want to risk your credit card, but I wouldn’t advise it as Christmas is looming.“ My hint to Margaret on our current financial situation fell on deaf ears, as I knew it would. I might as well have saved my breath.

“Square plates,they have square plates.” Margaret quickly deposited a set in the enormous shopping trolley and I began to regret enthusing over this particular fashion that we had encountered in numerous restaurants.

“Pâté, will the bread keep?” I wasn’t sure, but the wine would and I sought out some more Coté de Rhone.

“Crime et Châtiment, d’aprés l‘oeuvre de Dostœïevski.” I had attempted to read Crime and Punishment a number of times; the DVD starring Vanessa Redgrave and John Hurt might get me to the end and it was only €2 euros.

”Improve my language skills too.” The fact that it was in French could be seen as an added bonus.

After getting through the check-out we packed the car and Kevin drove the short distance to the ferry terminal. We soon joined our allotted queue of family saloons and awaited boarding instructions. An ear-splitting roar startled us as the next lane filled up with a line of low slung sports cars.

A ritual was then performed as each occupant, dutifully clad in long baggy shorts and desert boots, leapt out of their cars and gathered in small groups. Sunglasses were pushed back on to heads, tyres were stared at and given a prod, nods of appreciation at the gleaming exhausts.

“Aaagh.” A murmur of admiration as a bonnet was lifted. The owner of the Lotus started the engine and gunned it. We heard excited murmurs of revs per minute and brake horse power.

“Perhaps he‘s firkling his tappets,” from Kevin.

“Or nadgering his grommets;” I added.

“Oooh.” Sounds of ecstacy now as the Lotus eater/owner brought out a spanner and made a minor adjustment to the windscreen washer, or something near it. Satisfied with the adulation he replaced the bonnet. The crowd moved down the line to get a glimpse of E Type Jaguars, Porsches and MGBs. It then dawned on us that this was the return of Motor racing fans from the Le Mans circuit. The famous annual 24 hour race had taken place just two days ago.

When boarding started, the noise from the line of sports cars was deafening as engines were revved up for the 20-yard drive to the ferry. The line of sedate family saloon cars soon followed, with engines purring.

Later, settled in our lounge seats for the short crossing, we were joined by four mechanics from a British team. The excited talk was all about engines, tyre pressures and lack of sleep.

Just about this time Margaret had her usual bout of mal de mer; sitting on newspapers hadn’t worked and I lost faith in this old wives' tale. I rallied to her side with the sick bags and the mechanics soon beat a hasty retreat to the bar.

Just over an hour later we approached Poole harbour. Margaret recovered sufficiently to stagger to the car and we disembarked for the journey home. We celebrated our return in typical French style, with produce from the Hypermarket and wine from Languedoc and admired each other’s best buys.

I seem to have accumulated a large number of postcards; but they would always serve to remind me of our eventful journey through France.

“Look, square plates all sizes.” Two weeks after returning home I stared at the display in our local supermarket. A close examination revealed the logo: Made in France.

“We could do with a few more; they must be in fashion and just in time for our dinner party.'' Margaret had invited friends round. Duck and pâté would definitely be on the menu.

After a short preview, Crime et Châtiment would not.


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