Saturday, 14 August 2010

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 1. Leaving Blighty

There is something unsettling when you roll up at the ticket kiosk before getting on the Calais ferry when even before you have handed over the internet reference number the official says: "Good morning Mr Accidental Bus Driver. I expect you have Mrs Accidental Bus Driver and the two Miss Accidental Bus Drivers with you in the car."

We had passed a succession of cameras on the way into Dover port and one of them, or all of them must have had numberplate recognition technology which was linked up to the police, customs, border agency, the ferry companies and quite possibly mrs smith at No.32 Acacia Avenue for all I knew. The ferry official had no need for our tickets or reference numbers. He knew we were coming.

The ferry was packed with holidaymakers. Rotund holidaymakers. it was not worth even attempting to join the queue for the full English breakfast as it stretched the length of the ship. The smell of deep fat frying was enough to send you up on deck to freeze in the cool English early morning wind and watch the threatening black clouds descend over the white cliffs of Dover.

The pain was short. Calais appeared in bright sunshine a little over an hour later. The procession of English holidaymakers crept nervously off the boat and onto the autoroute. Most were doing 60 Kph, gradually feeling their way towards driving on the opposite side of the road they were used to.

But they soon disappeared and the nearer to Paris, the fewer English numberplates were visible. The roads were empty. August in France. C'et la vie exceptionnel.

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