Sunday, 12th September, 2021
Woke up at 4.30 am again this morning. You’d think I wasn’t active or tired enough to induce long sleep. Well, my sad, lonely and monotonous life was lit up, warmed up and filled with sunshine yesterday. Reunited with lots of old friends without rejection. I haven’t treated them well over the past 50 years but there is obviously a pent-up desire to meet again.
I spent a few hours on Messenger talking to Dr. John Ridley in Catterick and arranging to meet him for coffee in Ripon on the morning of a day that I will also be reunited with Kevin & Chris Dagg and my ‘God daughter’, Julia. We have agreed to meet for tea in the afternoon in York and then on to Julia’s home also in York when she gets home from work. Really looking forward to that. Haven’t been to York for a long time.
Then contacted Nigel and Julie in Bridlington. I agreed to go up there for a day. Julie will show us around the seaside town that I’ve never been to before. As long as Nigel is well enough, we hope to meet him and his wife as well. Either at the beginning or the end of that day, I hope to visit poor, old Tash in Leeds and maybe meet Chris Tolley as well.
This is all quite revolutionary for me. I’ve hidden myself away for so long – going as far as a remote, Greek island to be isolated. Arriving at the age of 70 and other things happening this year releasing memories have opened me up and made me more receptive to this. I feared rejection but found, instead, that others feared the same. Julie is incredibly nervous that she won’t look the same as I remember. I assured her she and me both!
Before all that, we have our French trip. We will have to leave the house at 7.00 am tomorrow so I will be up at 5.00 am and in the gym for 90 mins before showering and packing the car. The crossing is around 11.00 am and we will have the afternoon shopping in Cite Europe and relaxing in the hotel’s Health Club. Feels quite exciting to be moving around again although there are lots of other places I would like to go and things to do as well.
Today is delightfully warm and sunny. Got to mow the lawns, water the tubs and then do my walk and gym work. Sorry if this is such a boring routine. It is, of course, Retirement.
Monday, 13th September, 2021
Madness! Sheer madness! Woke at 2.30 am but couldn’t get back to sleep. Well I am up at 3.30 am and in the gym. By 5.00 am, into the shower and by 7.00 am the car is packed and we are on our way to the tunnel. It will take us about 2hrs 30 mins to get there and we will have time for coffee before driving on to the train. It is very warm and humid this morning. I’m feeling good after my shower and fresh orange juice. Looking forward to the adventure.
Our train departs at 11.50 am and takes just 35 mins but, because of the time difference, we arrive at 13.35. Off to Cité Europe for some shopping and then check-in at our hotel for rest and relaxation. I may have to do an hour in the gym when I get there because I am an obsessive.
The major shopping centre was quite quiet. We bought wine and salad and returned to our suite to indulge our senses. The wine was delicious and makes a mockery of the stuff we buy in UK. For just €5.20/£4.43, I bought this delicious bottle from Carrefour. Really enjoyed it with garlic olives. Je t’aime! The bottom of the bottle gives it away with a wonderful sediment. I will buy lots more of this to take home. Je t’adore!
For anyone who likes pints in Irish pubs and shouted conversations over loud pop music, this isn’t for you. Gentle, thoughtful and indulgent experiences are more my style. The day has been delightful with lovely sunshine and a top temperature of 27C/81F. I have managed a better than usual exercise target and finished the day better than I started. Sometimes, we are rewarded for our goodness.
Tuesday, 14th September, 2021
Great sleep last night – the sleep of the good. Woke at 6.45 am (5.45 am UK). Going to get my exercise done early and then enjoy the day. Confucius, he say, You can do both!
Lovely walks around our hotel. Vast, open spaces, France is so … French. Dozens of huge, brown rabbits everywhere. Walked for a couple of hours and then back for Breakfast – Yoghurt & Fruit for Pauline. Freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee for me.
We are going out to the shops but not for me. Pauline is going to throw our euros at dress/shoe/bag shops. I will be the supporting act.This is not somewhere I feel comfortable but sacrifice is necessary. For me it is enough to know that others are happy. I am selfish enough as it is.
I will plan tomorrow. I think we will drive along the coast – Sangatte, Wissant, Le Touquet, and on. This evening is incredibly warm and emotional. I am incredibly emotional. I have spent all my adult life trying to control this tendency, maintaining a plateau of response. Suddenly, this year, emotion has flooded back and overwhelmed me from every angle. This has not been me for 50 years. It slightly embarrasses me but I can’t currently stem the tide. It is just something I have to resolve.
The wonderful, warm and moonlit evening makes me emotional. I’ve just been watching Long Lost Family on my iPad and wept at the sadness of three siblings in their 40s missing finding their Mother by a matter of 4 years as she died in her 90s. My head is screaming, Why didn’t you look earlier? My heart is bursting for them. The sheer sadness of life-long separation!
Wednesday, 15th September, 2021
A lovely, warm and sunny morning for walking early through the fields of France. Just under two hours breathing the glorious warmth of cut grass, reaped wheat and baled hay under a big blue sky.
Back for Breakfast. Still associate Hotels with self-indulgence and big, cooked Breakfasts. Unfortunately, that has to be denied at the moment and, maybe, for ever. Now, I pass the Salle de Petite Dejeuner and exercise instead. I am paying for a lifetime of self-indulgences with self-flagellation.
We have to have two Covid tests – one in France & one in UK. The one here has to be done three days before we set off back. This morning, we walked into the village to the Pharmacy.
I was ready to use my basic French to request a Covid Antigen test:
Pouvons-nous faire un test Covid ici? Combien de temps cela prend-il et combien cela coûte-t-il?
I felt quite cheated when the notice in English on the door announced that we could have tests at a cost of €38.00 each and would take 20 mins for a result. They were lovely people and very friendly. We both tested negative and we’re provided with paper and electronic copies of the results. We walked back, past the magnificent Maison du Maire.
We watched Prime Minister’s Question Time and then we drove out to Wissant Beach. It is popular with the British although we were virtually the only ones there today. It is called Wissant because the locals heard the British describe it as White Sand. Unfortunately, by the time we got there today, the sun had largely disappeared.
Tomorrow,we are intending to drive down to Boulogne to do some shopping and visit the Fish Market. All that IT preparation has allowed me to watch Liverpool on BT Sport via my iPad. Great match!
Thursday, 16th September, 2021
Up early on hot and sunny Summer’s day. Out for a two hour walk in the beautiful countryside before Breakfast and then driving to Boulogne. We have been here many times but recent events have badly affected it.
We parked up at the Fish Quay which is still functioning but minimally. Shabby and run down would describe it now.
We have been coming to Boulogne for well over 30 years and the wonderful cheese shop of Philippe Olivier for just as long.
Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to eat such calories but I can look. Story of my life! It does look good but so is my self discipline.
We drove to the Auchan hypermarket on the outskirts of Boulogne and bought some food for our meal. We chose roast chicken with salad and a lovely bottle of red wine that went straight to my head. We ate crab & langoustines with salad last night and a bottle of white wine that went straight to my head. French food and wine is a nightmare. It tests my self control to destruction immediately.
The abundance of fresh and healthy produce in French markets is something to behold. There are no empty shelves or shortages of products anywhere. They are untouched by Brexit in that respect.
Friday, 17th September, 2021
Up early on a warm, Friday morning. Out for a two hour walk that, fittingly, starts at the tribute to the workers who constructed the Tunnel. I remember being excited about driving under the sea until I realised we drove on to a train.
We were still mainly travelling Hull – Zeebrugge in those days but we were early ‘tunnellers’. While I was out, I heard from my cousin, Sue, who lives in South West France. I had unearthed a photo that was sent to me from an Ancestry site which featured my Grandfather, Richard Watthew Sanders who started the family Building Company; his sister, Kesterton Sanders who was a spinster Headmistress of a school in Derby and one of Grandad’s daughters, Edwina, who was a classical pianist and Mother of Sue.
Sutton-on-Sea was a horribly staid (and cold) East Coast, seaside town that was the base for all our early, family holidays. I hated it with a passion. We rented a house and a beach hut for the fortnight. Brrrr!!
Knowing how much I love getting mail, I bought this postcard for friends in UK who don’t have email addresses. I really hope they enjoy getting it.
Walking down into the village to the Post Office now. Wonder how long this will take to reach the North of England!
Now 7.00pm and still warm. We’ve been at 24C/75F during the day. I haven’t slept under the bedsheet all week. We had to buy fly spray yesterday after squishing a mosquito and finding a tissue full of blood. Fortunately, haven’t found any bites yet. It’s been a lovely few days and done me good to break out of the UK island prison. There are very few things that I’ve missed, I have to say, though the re-entry requirements are incredibly demanding although an IT genius like me will manage it in the end.
Saturday, 18th September, 2021
Up to 5.45 am and out on a jog by 6.00 am. It was still dark but warm. Sheer madness but it has to be done. Travelling back through the Tunnel at midday so I’ll be busy for the rest of the day.
At the outset, it was so dark that I was struggling to see the track. On the return, beautiful colours of the day were obvious although the floodlights from Eurostar were still standing out.
Out for almost 2hrs and then back for a shower, coffee and packing the car. All the forms have been completed so it ‘should’ be straightforward.
Off to Auchan for fresh produce like salad, duck and fish. Immediately down to the Tunnel sous La Manche. Unlike any other time we have been, there is almost nobody there. There are almost no lorries lined up.
We drive off the empty train onto an almost empty M20, M25, M23. The journey down and home has taken us about an hour less than normal. We are home, in the garden with a mountain of mail, a bottle of Bordeaux Superieur and 24C/75F of warm sunshine by 2.00 pm. It’s been quite a busy day but I’ve still got an hour in the Gym before my meal and relaxation. Slept really well last night. Let’s hope I do tonight. Back in my own bed usually makes things easier.
I’ve had a week of self-indulgence but now have a month of hard, crackdown on diet and exercise. That will mean no alcohol, low-calorie meals and a controlled mindset. I have to take control of myself and my body. Self-denial is good after self-indulgence. In a stupid sort of way, I’m quite looking forward to it. Soon, I will be fitted for some new suits and I will be at the next stage for new clothes all round. No point in stopping now.