It is 7.30 a.m. and Julia and I are in Portsmouth, in a queue of cars all waiting to board the Brittany Ferry to Cherbourg. We are off to France again for our summer holiday … only three weeks this time … rather than our usual two to three months. It is all Julia’s fault really … well Julia’s and God’s … because last autumn Julia accepted a call to become the Pastor of Knaphill Baptist Church, Woking, and returned full time to the Baptist Ministry!
Another change is that for the first time in several years we will not be taking our nice big tent and doing ‘proper camping’. True we will be going to a campsite for the main part of our holiday but this year we have ‘upgraded’ to a ‘Lodge’. This time it is my fault … at getting on for 73 I think my days of putting up a big tent (even with Julia’s help) are over. Besides, I am not sure that our car can ‘take the strain’ of being ‘loaded to the hilt’ with camping stuff any longer. And since Julia is now ‘earning’ once again we can actually afford to ‘upgrade’ to a ‘Lodge’. We are heading for ‘Campin Das Pinhiers’at a place called Villemoustaussou (or ‘fairly-long-name’ for short) near Carcassonne, where we will be staying for two weeks but with ‘stop-overs’ in the Dordogne (one the way down) and Cahors (on the way back). Despite the escalating problems between the Government and the Trade Unions in France (a national sport), the alleged shortage of petrol, the inclement weather, and the threat of ‘terrorist activity’ (linked to the European Soccer Championship), we have decide to go to France anyway. You can tell we are ‘Francophiles’!
Anyway, there we are in a queue of cars waiting for the Customs point to open so that we can hopefully ‘pass through’ without any problems and board our ferry. Immediately in front of us is a rather posh car displaying a very large and prominent sticker on the back with the words ‘Say NO to staying in the EU – Keep Britain Great!’ or words to that effect! We wonder why, if he really believes that, he is bothering to visit the Continent in the first place? Although he is British we immediately nickname him, ‘Monsieur Brexit’ because for some reason we get the impression that he is (as Del Boy would describe him) a ‘plonker’?
We ask one of the Port Attendants if we have time to grab a coffee before the barrier will be opened and the cars start to move. ‘You have got plenty of time’ he tells us ‘boarding will commence at 8.00 a.m.’ We buy our coffees from the Costa counter in the Terminal, and we eat the egg and marmalade sandwiches Julia has made for our ‘breakfast’ while sitting in the car. About ten minutes to eight Monsieur Brexit decides he would like a coffee too … and saunters off to the Terminal leaving his wife in their car. I am severely tempted, in his absence, to creep up surreptitiously and stick something over Monsieur Brexit’s car sticker to the effect ‘Vote to stay in the EU … or the Tory Party will rescind all the workers’ rights and humanitarian reforms the EU have enabled us to enjoy in the UK!’ I eventually decide against such a radical measure reliant on the common sense of the majority of us ‘Brits’ to ‘do the right thing’ on Referendum Day.
It is now 8.00 a.m. and the gates are opened and the Port Attendants start to move the now several queues of cars, in an orderly fashion, through the customs point and on to the boarding lanes. There is no sign of Monsieur Brexit? His car is blocking the way for the rest of us. His wife is now out of the car … jumping up and down in the vain hope that he will see her panicking and come rushing back! She is now on her mobile phone trying to phone him … in the vain hope that he has got his mobile phone switched on? He has got it switched one … we can hear it ringing from where we are … he has left it in the mobile phone holder on his dashboard. ‘There is always one?’ says the nice Port Attendant beckoning us round Monsieur Brexit’s car and on towards the Customs point and the ferry.
We get through Customs without any trouble (although they are more vigilant than usual this year) and drive on to the ferry. We park our car in the appropriate place and find our way up to the large lounge area. Monsieur and Madam Brexit wander into our section of the lounge area about two hours into the crossing. They are still arguing … but we are too far away to hear what they are arguing about. The weather is kind, the sea is flat, the wind is behind us, and we make good time arriving half an hour ahead of schedule at Cherbourg. We return to our car and wait for the signal to disembark. We spot Monsieur Brexit’s car … he is on his own. ‘Perhaps Madam Brexit has gone for coffee this time?’ I suggest to Julia. The signal to disembark is given and we all start to move forward towards the exit ramp in turn. Monsieur Brexit is also driving off the ferry … on his own … there is no sign of Madam Brexit at all? Perhaps she has decided to stay on board and return to the UK after all … as long as her husband stays in Europe that is!