We woke up just before the alarm, car was packed except for the contents of the fridge, when Mike’s phone rang. It was Catherine, the course leader in Paris. ‘Have you left yet?’ she asked. ‘No,’ said Mike cautiously. ‘Oh good,’ she was quite breathless, like she’d run a half marathon before picking up the phone. ‘Coronavirus is getting worse here in Paris, universities are closing today. Don’t come, especially as you are in the vulnerable group.’ My husband bristled at the last comment and through gritted teeth, said he understood. Catherine confirmed that he would be invited again when all this madness was over.
We had half expected that there would be some problems, and in fact wondered if being amongst students would be the healthiest place to be under the circumstances. We had a quick debate as to whether we should cross the channel at all but concluded that if needed, we could self-isolate in the French countryside, just as easily as here in Jersey. And anyway, I’d made sandwiches so we had to go.
With the threat of Coronavirus worrying us as to whether we will be turned away at the boat, we arrive for the Condor ferry to St Malo. Fewer cars than usual waiting in the queue and once on board we notice immediately the absence of school parties. We choose seats as far away from others as possible, get a cup of tea and talk over our revised plans. We texted Dave, the plumber, electrician and kitchen fitter to tell him we would be at the house at about 7pm. We hoped he was fairly well on with the new sockets, new floor and fitting the kitchen. We got a panic-stricken text back – he will make sure the old cooker is fitted in the downstairs kitchen for us. I should say at this point that the downstairs kitchen had originally been the garage, and it had a motley collection of cupboards, an old sink, no heating, and was full of garden furniture. Not what we had hoped to hear. Turns out that when the flatpacks were delayed, Dave ‘dropped onto another job’ and he hasn’t finished it yet. He wasn’t expecting us for another 2 weeks!#%*$%^&! Expletives deleted.
We got to the garage at St Malo, we had a car full of ‘stuff’ collected over the last few months for a house 4 times larger than the last one. We bought the furniture from the previous owners but needed new bedding, towels, toys, games, etc. for potential renters. We offloaded some things, mainly new duvets, into the motorhome, so that the car rearview mirror was clear for the journey. Mike elected to drive the van first and he wanted us to stay in convoy which was fine as we would have lunch and swap vehicles at some point.
We got through Rennes although it was a pain to stay in convoy, constantly looking out to see where the van was and not getting too far ahead. After about an hour and a half I needed a comfort stop, so indicated and pulled into a service station with the van following. When it didn’t follow me into the parking area so I went to look for it. Apparently the tyre pressure indicator was on and Mike wanted to check the tyres, worried about carrying a heavy load. I read the gauge while he did the messy bit with the hissy tube. Nothing was happening on the gauge, not working, so we went on to the next service station. A very sullen assistant growled ‘ne marche pas’, so we parked up and ate some sandwiches, thinking about things. ‘Time’s getting on,’ I said. ‘There’s no point in us both faffing about with tyre pressures, so I think I should just go on ahead and open up the house, get the heating on and start unpacking the car, what do you think?’ Not much by the look on his face. ‘Or,’ I said, in a generous moment, ‘ I’m happy to drive the van and you can go on ahead’. He said he would rather drive the van, so I left and turned the music up.
I was a few miles down the road when the guilt set in, what if he couldn’t see the gauge? What if there really was a problem with a tyre and he couldn’t get it fixed? I sat in the slow lane until I could see him in my rear view mirror and at the next service station, indicated early on, and left the road. As I came to a halt, I saw him shoot past me – what? I joined the carriageway and followed him, trying to work it out. When we got to the next service station, he sailed past that too, so at that point I thought – sod him – shot past the van, and didn’t see him again until we got to the house. Turned out he had decided to ignore the light …
I made good time until I got to Angouleme and then couldn’t find my way out of it. The sat nav wanted to send me down country roads, but then took the road to Bordeaux, eventually going on the very country roads I didn’t want to go on and I got to the house just after 7pm. Got the heating on, house was very cold. Looked in at the new kitchen, old kitchen stripped out but nothing else done, no new sockets, no new floor, disappointing but it’s a small kitchen so it won’t take him long to do it. The flatpacks and the new appliances are lining the hall, and spilling into both upstairs bedrooms, no chance of sleeping in either of them then.
I went to the so-called kitchen downstairs. The big fridge and dishwasher from upstairs were there taking up lots of space, and the cooker had been fixed into an alcove. This cooker works on bottled gaz and I don’t know how to turn it on. By the time Mike got here, having also got lost in Angouleme, I was pouring a second gin and tonic, and making a feast of leftover sandwiches, crisps, Kitkats and red wine. Who wouldn’t love that after a 6 hour drive?
We chose a bedroom downstairs and got our lovely double artic weight sleeping bag out from under the lengths of kickboards and hobs, left the heating on and dashed in and out of cold bathroom to even colder bedroom where the radiator needed bleeding. A priority for tomorrow was getting a hot water bottle.