Sunday, 5th December, 2021
Quite tired when we got home after 2½ hours of M1 +M25 driving. I was driving so that Pauline and her friend could share a bottle of Prosecco with their meal. I drove Christine back to her home after a long and lovely Lunch with lots of talk. Her husband died 4 years ago. She still lives in the house they bought together almost 50 years ago. I sat in her husband’s customary chair. She has three grown up sons which helps but she lives alone and clearly finds it difficult. I felt terrible driving away, leaving her to spend the evening alone having drunk more than half a bottle of wine. It will have felt very lonely.
When we got home, we called in at our local Asda for petrol so we were ready for our French drive on Monday morning. In the bus shelter on a cold and windy evening was a youngish couple with push chair, a small baby, another toddler and huge bags of shopping. They were spending their Saturday evening getting the bus to do the shopping. I couldn’t imagine it and it instantly saddened me. As we drove away about 20- mins later, they were still sitting there, huddled against the cold wind and waiting for a bus. Every instinct in me screamed, Offer to drive them home. but Pauline cautioned me to curb that feeling. Covid has made these connections so much more problematic. They stayed in my mind all night.
Glorious morning today with lovely blue skies and strong, winter sunshine. Going out for an early walk because I have quite a few jobs to do before we leave tomorrow morning around 7.30 am. Clean the car, pack the car’s fridge and prepare all the paperwork for the crossing each way. Of course, yesterday, as we drove home, we heard that an extra testing hurdle had been added. We have to get a test in France before we return. Doesn’t worry me. If they don’t let us back in, I’ll cope.
My mind has turned to the The Menai Strait, to Anglesey and to the Holyhead ferry Terminal. I was last there 55 years ago and it didn’t look like this. It was night time, very dark and the ferry was full of drunken Irish. I was 15 years old and so excited. I have no idea what it cost because I didn’t pay but now it would be about £400.00 return including the car. I have a sister in Ireland who I haven’t seen for over 10 years. I think I’ll have to go over and visit her and fancy checking Anglesey out again.
This chap is my contemporary. His politics aligns with mine and he has taken to writing to me recently from his home in the Scottish Highlands. Social Media is so wonderful. It can cross 50 years and 730 miles at the touch of a button. Pity he doesn’t know how to use an apostrophe!
Monday, 6th December, 2021
Up at 4.55 am and out walking at 5.00 am. Dry, warm and quiet. In a couple of hours I came across just two others. A young girl jogging who I would have cautioned against the risk and a blue light darting across the park which turned out to be a man throwing a ball for his dog with an illuminated collar. Actually, this is a wonderful time to be out and experiencing the world. The mornings are getting lighter earlier and the birds started singing at 5.35 am today.
By 7.30 am, we were on the road to Folkestone. Wonderful drive today with no hold-ups. Almost no lorries which tells you something. We arrived about 40 mins early.
The Tunnel Terminal at Folkestone was almost empty. Normal times they are not. About 20 vehicles on the train instead of 220. The terminal was deserted. We sat in our car until called to load. The crossing was quick and easy and we drove off and straight to our Hotel. Our Suite was ready and it looks as if few guests are booked in for tonight. This hotel is predominantly used by UK visitors and they are in short supply at the moment.
John Ridley and John Morris contacted me this afternoon to wish me well and express regret that they weren’t here too. John Morris had wistful memories of Le Touquet which is one of my favourites as well. I offered to meet them there if they could stagger through all the barriers put up at the moment. I know they haven’t got a chance!
Tuesday, 7th December, 2021
Up at 6.00 am (GMT) on a cold – 3C/37F – morning. Outside, Christmas has visited the Channel Tunnel Constructors’ Memorial.
It was dark but the sun rose quickly to reveal a beautiful morning. I know I quote it with monotonous regularity and I’m sorry but Wordsworth informs the way I see things and Intimations of Immortality plays straight across this scene …
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come ….
A couple of hours walking left me thirsty and starving but I controlled myself with coffee and a banana. Soon we are going out Christmas shopping but, first, we will walk down in to the village to the Pharmacie to enquire about Lateral Flow tests required before we leave.
We had to take our tests within 48 hours of arrival in UK so couldn’t do it until 3.00 pm. The people at The Pharmacie are delightful. Aren’t all French women delightful? Of course we both tested Negative and received paper and digital copies of our certificate. I did all the uploading online and received clearance to travel on Thursday afternoon.
We visited three fantastic chocolate shops later in the day and managed to splurge hundreds of Euros on stuff that I will never taste. So much French chocolate even feels immoral but we will spoil people on Christmas Day with it.
Wednesday, 8th December, 2021
Woke up early to heavy rain outside and quite windy. After orange juice (from a bottle) and tea, went down to the hotel’s Gym. The Hotel is very quiet for lots of reasons.
It was popular with Brits. Brexit has hit British traffic. It is a relaxed hotel with a fine dining restaurant. Covid has killed the hotel & restaurant trade. It has lovely grounds to be enjoyed in the Summer and Winter weather makes it less attractive.
Our Suite is on the top floor – or prison landing – and looks out over the extensive grounds which appear distinctly sodden this morning.
The Gym was completely empty so I didn’t need to wear a mask which made it much more bearable. Had to listen to French ‘Rap’ music in the Gym which drove me close to suicidal and definitely urged me on to work harder and faster in order to escape the utter madness! Cycled 25 kms today and I’m beginning to feel it now. In between rain/hail storms, we’ve driven out to source Christmas food and presents. Bonkers really as it’s all for one day but it has to be done.
Thursday, 9th December, 2021
A wet and wild day and night gave way to a cool and dark morning at 6.00 am (CET) / 5.00 am (GMT). Out on a 2 hr walk, the ever-present lights of the Eurotunnel Freight Depot polluted the sky but lit the path.
Walking at that time in the morning and in that location is quite magical. In the course of the two hours, the sun comes up and totally transforms the stage.
We nipped down to Auchan for some late fresh produce and then drove off to the almost deserted tunnel. The sun was out. The queue was short and we were on a train around 2 hrs earlier than planned.
The drive back was wonderfully quiet and quick. As soon as we were back, I unpacked the car and then carried out the necessary Day-2 PCR Tests, uploaded all the data online and then drove out to post them off via a Priority Post Box.
My little sister, Catherine (Cathy), lives about 5 miles away from me. In the 6 years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen her 5 times. Two of those occasions have been when I invited her to my house and 3 have been by pure coincidence. We have met in Tesco carpark, in the Garden Centre and today, we met in Sainsburys.
We were supposed to be in quarantine but had to post our tests off so we stocked up in Sainsburys and met this shadowy figure not wearing a mask. It was lovely to see her and her husband, Laurie.
Now I am dreaming of home and cool, white, Egyptian cotton sheets and ….
Good to hear tonight that our work to appeal the Parkingeye charges P&C received and expected to receive have been repaid and rescinded in full. I knew they would be and I wouldn’t have let it go until they were. Just love those fights with petty Bureaucracy. They are so easy to defeat and yet so brazen in their contempt for little people! P&C had two fines cancelled and one that they had paid repaid.
Friday, 10th December, 2021
Yesterday, we performed a DAy-2 PCR test and drove down to the Priority Post Box in the village to send them off to Zava for analysis. We are supposed to quarantine until we receive a negative result. It’s bonkers really because we had to go out to the post and to Sainsburys last night and so we are going out for a walk this morning on what is a wonderful, sunny day with sharp, clear blue sky.
Leaving the French landscape behind, we are back to walking through the park. Looks like it rained heavily in the night although I didn’t hear it. I was quite tired.
Our walk takes us through the park and round the Community Centre that has almost entirely been taken over by Covid vaccinations. Most days, the carpark is packed and Hi-Vis jacketed volunteers are organising entry/exit. The council have recently even spent money erecting this tribute to the NHS. Of course, the complaints about roll out of the vaccination program were expressed, the Tories called it the NHS Vaccination program. As soon as they felt able to claim a success, it suddenly became a hugely successful government program. This sort of duplicity was always likely to fail eventually and so it is:
Johnson’s own dishonesty was always likely to be the fatal flaw. Those who support him have tended to say, Well he’s not perfect but he’s doing his best. as if he’s some Primary School kid who needs encouragement. He’s not and it has all caught up with him. Today, the YouGove Poll for The Times shows Labour with a 4% lead over the Tories.
This afternoon, the Covid Testing company emailed us to confirm we were still negative and were released from self-isolation. We were confident of that even though there was an announcement of a new, French Covid variant found in Marseille this morning.
Saturday, 11th December, 2021
A mild, grey day which felt a little empty. The resurgence of pandemic has prompted us to order more masks and more Lateral Flow tests. The first will be FFP2 masks and will be delivered by Amazon. The tests are free from the Surgery Pharmacy. We order those via the NHS app and collect them immediately. The peak of this latest wave is predicted to be at the end of January and we expect considerable new restrictions long before then so now is the time to act.
A couple of hours of walking was followed by Christmas preparations. About 70 cards to be written. Books of stamps to be purchased and stuck on envelopes. Database -Spreadsheet layout of sheets of addresses to labels printed and stuck on envelopes. Before that an editing job – Whose died? Whose moved? Etc.. I am in the process of producing the annual newsletter. It’s been an eventful year full of surprises to recall.
Cards to go abroad must be posted by Monday. Presents to be sent will need posting boxes so they have been sourced. and shredded Christmas paper to cushion the contents prepared.
It was agreed recently that the meal we will prepare for the family will not involve TURKEY for the first time I can remember. My sister, Cathy, told me they were going out for a Curry on Christmas Day. Maybe the trend is away from Turkey! Instead, we will eat roast Glazed Salmon. Pauline is a technician and always trials her meals. I usually have to eat it at least twice before she settles on a formula. This picture features the first trial which will be rejected. It is layered salmon with pesto filling and citron topping. Nice but not good enough. The next attempt will involve honey & orange I’m told.
I don’t know why I do the newsletter these days. I print it in colour and send it with cards. Why do we send cards? I would happily send email attachments but one or two people don’t have any and most send cards anyway. I feel it is only polite to reciprocate. Everything will be done by tomorrow and then we can get back on with our lives – whatever that is.