High-Fiving Palm Trees

Running, and other aspect of my life.

24 hours? You’ve got to be kidding!

I have to say at the beginning of this, that I love my husband more than anything else, but no-one who knows him would ever describe him as “easy”.  He’s a No.1 Silver-back alpha-male with a streak of stroppy toddler painted up his front. However he has read this first as I’d never post anything about him without him reading it beforehand. He thinks it’s a load of blatant exaggeration and untruths, but hey, he would! xxx

Well, I’m back in the UK, arrived Thursday evening, and it is only today that I feel composed enough to tell the tale.

As you know, Mike came down to Spain on a whim and so instead of my being there for a week, we stayed on for a while.

It was lovely, but the weather was very hot.  I really didn’t mind although I had to completely trash Juneathon.  Mike found it uncomfortable and spent a lot of time going “It’s SOO hot” whilst simultaneously checking the UK weather on his iPhone and following up with “Well we’re not going back to THAT!”

It was quite relaxing as we didn’t have the TV set-up.  We normally do when we’re down there for a few months but this time we didn’t bother with it.  I had my laptop and a TV cable and so we were able to watch BBC iPlayer, ITVPlayer etc. on the TV screen which was all we really needed.

Then Mike rediscovered his boxed set of Sharpe! I don’t really like Sharpe but he LOVES it and so he watched the entire Sharpe saga back to back for a few days before we came home. He already practically knows each episode by heart, but enjoyed another rerun especially as a lot of the Sharpe series is set in Spain.  (This came back to torment me later)

Anyhoo.  We did have a deadline as I’m taking my Mum to the theatre in London on Wednesday to see Matilda the Musical, for her birthday.  So we gave ourselves a departure date of last Wednesday.

Mike was still very pleased with his 24hour drive down and “encouraged” me to give it a go on the way home.  “It’ll be so much easier with two of us driving, and once we’ve done it, we’ll be able to drive down and back every few weeks if we want to as it’s going to be so much cheaper than staying in the hotels for 3 nights.”  I admit that it is an expensive trip when we do it normally as we stay in beautiful Chateaux and have lovely meals and treat it as a little holiday

I wasn’t convinced about the 24 hour trip but I did agree to do it this one time and see how I felt about it.

He was trying to persuade me to leave at 06.00, but I said that if we were going to do a 24 hour run it didn’t matter which 24 hours they were and I wanted to feel rested at the start not getting up at 4 a.m.

Our leaving is always fraught, he’s ready about 2 hours before me, and jiggles about trying  (after many years of lesson-learning) not to hurry me along as it will end in a row.  This builds a great deal of tension which usually explodes around the moment we get in the car.

We were ready to leave at 10.00 then we suddenly got a phone call which delayed us for another 15 mins. (Not my fault).

I went to the car to put my laptop in it, and in doing so I had to remove one of the bags that he’d already loaded so the laptop could go under it


“What the (f-word) are you doing?? I’ve (f-word) packed the (f-word) car and you have to (f-word) do it (f-word) better”. He was at the top of the drive at the time and I was at the bottom, so the shouting could be heard all around the neighbourhood.

This did not get our journey off on an amiable footing.

Dropped round to our neighbour to leave her my car keys and she had to stand there while we both gave her our own version of events, talking to eachother via the conduit of Sharon. I feel that as she waved us off Sharon was not certain that she would ever see us again.

We set off, Mike driving, the grim silence only broken by “Lolita” the name we’ve given to the satnav in the Landcruiser.  Each of our Landcruisers has been a girl with a name beginning with “L”, Laura, Lydia, Lucy, Lily, and now Lolita.

Nothing much happened until nearly 2 hours later when we reached Valencia.  We’ve driven through the centre of Valencia many many times doing this journey, but the last time we did it, and on Mike’s journey down, Lolita routed via a new bypass which completely avoids the city itself. For some perverse reason, this time she didn’t, so we were back on the old route through the busy part of Valencia.

Normally when we’re doing city centres, I drive.  I like driving in the cities, don’t ask me why, but I like the challenge, and Mike really doesn’t like driving in the cities.  When we realized that we weren’t on the bypass, I asked “Shall I take over the driving?”    “Grrrrrr ,snarl, I can perfectly well drive” was the blunt reply.

He swore his way through Valencia, repeating many times “I don’t know WHY we’re not on the bypass”  This was growled in a tone with an edge to it that slightly implied it was my fault.  I was, after all, the one who had put the route into the satnav and so I had clearly done this deliberately to make his life even more unbearable, even though the only thing I’d put in was our home address and Lolita had planned the route.

Anyway, luckily no pedestrian was harmed in the “storming of Valencia” and we got out the other side and sallied onwards.

A little further on, we stopped at a service station to change driver.  I went in for a loo break and to get a coffee, Mike walked Bus and that set the basic rules for our swapovers.  Get in there and get out as quickly as possible.

I had packed a picnic as we were not going to be eating in 5star luxury and I had expected that we’d be stopping at one of the pretty picnic sites along the motorway  to sit and eat it, but that would have taken valuable time, so eating was only allowed in the car in our passenger stints.

For some unfathomable reason most of the things Mike said to me were spoken in a thick Yorkshire accent which was REALLY annoying me.

Suddenly the mists cleared.  We were in a fairly barren part of the country when he said, “Aye, ah bet Shaaarp and ‘is men wurrr ere faihting Booney.”

He was in full on Sharpe mode and I was a bloody prisoner of war!

Driving on.  We reached the border and into France.  Normally at this stage we would go to a hotel we know in Ceret about 10 mins into France and stay for the night but we ignored the signs and carried on up the motorway.

Mike was again driving at this point and I was trying to sleep, but I just can’t sleep in the car. I had my eyes shut, but every time the car slowed, or changed lanes, I was checking that we weren’t about to crash or go off the road.

About 7.00 p.m. I began to feel a little sad.  It was a stunningly beautiful evening in France and I longed to be basking in the evening sun on the terrace of a lovely hotel with a chilled bottle of crisp white wine and looking forward to a beautifully cooked meal.

About 8.00 p.m. Mike phoned Alison his daughter to giver her a progress report. He said to her that we were still doing well but he thought that I’d probably end up making him stop somewhere for the night.

Well I took that as a challenge, I had said that I’d do the 24 hour journey and so I was going to do it.  I couldn’t say I’d never do it again if I hadn’t done it once.

About 9.00 p.m. Feeling very sad, I realized that even if we did stop it was too late to get a lovely meal. (they eat early in France, completely the opposite to Spain where you can go out at 10.00p.m. and still be the first ones in the restaurant.)

About 10.00 p.m. Feeling extremely sad and sorry for myself. Starting to get dark, having been on the road for 12 hours, nearly twice our normal daily quota, I began to question, in my head, why we were doing this ridiculous trip.  I think that Mike realized that I hadn’t spoken for an hour and asked if I wanted to get a hotel.  I said that yes I thought that would be a good idea, but where would we get a hotel at this time of night?   I didn’t want to stop in the Motorway service stations because of the security problem, anyone could break into the car in the night, steal all our stuff and be off up the road in a flash.

We carried on driving.

Around this time another factor conspired to make this journey even more bloody miserable than it already was.

For some reason, Toyota, when they “Upgraded” the Landcruiser to this latest model, removed the ability to adjust the headlights.  Previously at night on the continent, we’ve just been able to lower the beam and it causes no problems to oncoming traffic, but with Lolita, our headlights blind the traffic on the other side of the road as they’re pointed straight at them.  Last time I put  sticky shields on the lights (purchased at Halfords) which more or less helped, but in Mike’s hurry to come to Spain he hadn’t even thought about it because it’s not something we’ve had to do in the past.

The majority of the traffic on the motorway at night in France is Lorries, and nearly every single one of them thoughtfully flashed their full array of lights at us as they approached to let us know that we were in the wrong

Headache began to forment.

About 11.00 p.m. I was SO bored.  Couldn’t use the iPhone because I had the Spanish sim in it and we were in France, I just wanted to stop the car and get out and scream.

I began to feel that even a motorway service station hotel would be fine, but checking the satnav, not one of the upcoming stations offered beds for the next hundred miles or so.

Mike maintains that I had gone into an epic sulk at this stage and was doing a good impression of a hard-done-by 14 year-old.

About midnight Lolita suddenly informed us that she wanted to reroute as there was a road closure ahead, so we followed her advice and let her take us off the motorway.  I was driving at this point and we found ourselves driving through pitch-black French countryside.

I snapped.

I said that I had reached tolerance point and that we had to find a hotel because if I had to spend any more time in the car I would just crash it on purpose and kill us all.

Our only stroke of luck was that Lolita’s new route suddenly took us through a small town (Estampes) and there was a hotel.  No, not the usual beautiful Chateau, but…… an Ibis!

I didn’t care. I pulled up outside while Mike went in to see if they could take us, they could, and they had an underground car-park for security!

The door to the carpark went up and I started to manouevre the large car into the small opening via the very tight angle it was at. A helpful person stood in front of me windmilling his arms to no real effect as I was ignoring him.

Suddenly the windmilling did have an effect.  It caused the sensor on the door to believe that the car had passed through and suddenly I noticed the heavy metal door coming down….. towards the bonnet of the car.

I flung the car into reverse and shot back out hoping that there was nothing coming up the road behind me.

The helpful person also shot out of the garage.  If he hadn’t I might have just driven off without him.

Got the car into the garage and yes I did bump it gently on the wall but no harm done.

We went to the room and then Mike had to take Buster out for a walk.  That little fellow had been SO good all day he is the best dog in the world.

By this time it was about 01.15.  I got undressed and into bed.  To be fair the room was absolutely fine, it was clean, modern and a reasonable size.

A little later I head Mike knocking at the door and opened it to find him balancing a tray with a bottle of Chablis and two glasses while trying to control the mad poochon on his lead.

Awwwww. I started to thaw.  What a lovely gesture, he knew how p’d off I was and he was trying to make up for it.

We lay in bed drinking Chablis and reading our books and relaxed a little bit.  Lights out at 02.15


Me: Please turn the lights off.

Him: I’m getting ready, we need to be off again

Me: What’s the time??

Him: 05.45

Me: NO WAY We’ve been asleep for 3 and a half hours. There is NO WAY THAT I’M GETTING UP YET you have gone stark raving MAD.

Him: Buster needs to go for a walk.

Me: He doesn’t he had one 4 hours ago, he can manage fine all night without a walk.

Off they went.  I turned the lights off, pulled the blind down and went back to sleep.

They returned.

Him: What time are you getting up then?     He demanded.

Me: Go back to bed, stop being so silly, I’m not getting up until I feel like I’ve had a night’s sleep. If we get ready and leave now we’ll hit Paris right in the morning rush-hour and I AM NOT GETTING UP YET.

He stomped about a bit then came back to bed. At about 07.00 I found myself balanced on one foot of the 7ft bed with him spread over the other 6 ft of it.  I foolishly asked him to move over.

“Bloody hell, bloody hell, I’m getting up, for F’s sake “.

So he got up and had a shower etc. then he loomed over the bed and yelled “What time are you bloody getting up then or are you going to spend all flaming day in bed??”

“Right, that’s it.” I said. “I’m not spending another day in the car with you in this sort of mood. Go, leave my passport at reception and just go.  I’ll make my own way home.”

I gave Buster a cuddle, told him to be a good dog, locked myself in the bathroom and burst into tears.

It takes A LOT to make me cry, but he’d managed it.

I had a shower and felt a lot better, opened the bedroom door and all Mike and Buster’s stuff was gone along with Mike and Buster themselves.

Right, that’s fine.  I finished getting ready and formulated my plan.  I was going to find out how to get to Paris by train or bus, then get a plane to Luton and be home before him!

I couldn’t get the wifi to work in the room but there was a free computer in reception so I thought I’d get it all arranged online before I left, but first – breakfast.

Thoroughly cheered up by my evil plan, and looking forward to seeing his face when he got home and I’d changed the locks, I sauntered casually down to the breakfast room and there, lurking in the corner was MJ Ivory.

“You’re still here then.” I said somewhat facetiously.  No reply, just a sullen glare.

I got some breakfast from the buffet and we ate and drank in silence

I then casually read a French magazine, in an annoying fashion.