Me and my mate mate Richard popped over to France yesterday. I know, I know. How lucky are we? The original plan was to buy some booze (for non-Europeans, the UK taxes its alcohol as if it were luxury goods – why would our government want us to relax and have some fun?) for Jen and James’ post-wedding bash down south. But that party has been cancelled for complex reasons, we had a weekend planned with Richard and Caroline, and I had a ferry ticket burning a hole in my pocket.
C decided that she would stay in Dover (where R&C live) as another friend of ours, Rosemary, was also down for the weekend. The three girls could spend the day tearing up herbs and pulling the legs off small animals and then throwing everything into a boiling cauldron. Rich and I, on the other hand, could drive to France, buy some booze and have a day talking rubbish at each other. We managed a day of nonsense, but there was no sign of a pot of stewing magic juice when we returned. They’d obviously destroyed the evidence.
Rich and I did have a great day. The two of us are like a couple of old women (have I insulted you lot enough already?) and talk and talk. We covered everything and it was fab to have some bromance time with a very old pal. Interestingly as both of us approach 60, one of the topics was ‘what are we going to do with our remaining heartbeats?’ It’s a good question, and whilst it doesn’t occupy every waking second of my day, it looms large now more than it ever did.
What do you do? It’s funny, but a cliched ambition of ours was always to buy a place in France – somewhere where the weather is consistent (unlike here) and you don’t lose three and a half hours of your quickly evaporating time in a carpark driving south of London to get to Dover. And about now we could absolutely realise that ambition. If we wanted we could smell the onions, feel Mrs Sun burning at our knees and hear the waiters’ disdaining retorts when ordering an espresso. If I close my eyes I can smell the chlorine in the pool – and not hear the sound of the M4/M5 junction, which is a constant soundtrack to our current life in north Bristol.
So why aren’t we doing this? Why haven’t we put stuff on the market, packed up all of our gear in an old transit van and buggered off into the sunset, leaving a trail of unburnt diesel for others to miss us by?
I’m not sure. Maybe because we’ve just finished three and a half years on complete freedom living in Doris – and have had the benefit of waking up in several warm countries where the waiters aren’t rude and Mrs Sun just as prevalent. Maybe we secretly like it here? Close to friends and family. Within easy reach of B&Q and never far from ordinariness? Maybe we’ve been Bohemian and now want to be Bristolian?
Maybe. Maybe not. It might be my current state of mind – which is flat and lacks peaks and troughs. It may be that the teaching thing is so overwhelming that there isn’t room for original and maverick thought? Or, maybe, just maybe, we’ve found a niche with our little house, big motorhome and ridiculous scooter?