Sunday week ago I drove the merc to the UK. About 800 miles. Alone.
Tod worried about my going, the age of the car and three of the tyres losing pressure during the journey. So I had the pump that you run off the cigarette lighter in the back. Just in case.
Driving up through France on motorways is easy (unless it's a bank holiday). Most of the time it's clear road in front and maybe one or two cars coming up behind in the rear mirror. I worry sometimes that I don't concentrate enough. With so little traffic and the car on cruise control, my eyes drift off the road searching for distant chateaux or river views or flocks of birds.
I came up through Normandy. With its black-beamed, steep-roofed white houses it felt like another country. I stayed in a small hotel that claimed to be in an orchard, but omitted to mention the road in front. The lorries going up to the ports started at five in the morning and I reminded myself that half the excitement of travelling is the sleeping arrangements.
I worried about remembering which side of the road to drive on in the UK, as I'm used to being on the kerb side with our right-hand drive merc here in France. I need not have worried. From the moment I drove off the Eurotunnel train I was hemmed in by vehicles. There was nothing to do but get in line with the cars in front and behind. And over the week, as I drove round the South East so it continued, from Folkestone, to Henley, to Wimbledon, to Sussex, to Folkestone.
I think the English countryside was glorious, with sunlight filtering through rich autumn colours, but I barely saw it as most of the time I had my eyes glued on the brake lights of the cars in front.
On my return journey, as I left the train I panicked that I had missed the turning for Paris. The road was empty, I was in total darkness and I could not believe that there would be so little traffic going my way. But I was fine.
I loved my week in the UK. It was good to catch up with friends. But it was even better to be driving, alone in the dark, through the French countryside. Driving home.