“Take a solitary holiday to a place that has always fascinated you. Being able to plan your own itinerary will be lots of fun. You’ll be able to shop, eat and tour where you like.” – Yahoo! Horoscope
That’s just what I’m afraid of… missing my onward connection in Paris thanks to foreseen delays on the Eurostar service. (Outside the rain is lashing down and, having drunk this evening’s wine yesterday, I have nothing to do but sit and worry about this.)
I may very well end up solitary, lost and wandering; shopping, eating and touring, hither and yon, where I have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing and the authorities will pick me up and commit me to some French hospital for the terminally bewildered and confusingly Anglophone (I’ve forgotten all my hard-learned French. I’m hoping it will come back when I arrive on French soil, but the signs aren’t promising: I spent a long part of my walk with Hunzi this morning trying to remember the English word ‘ragwort’…).
Happily I’ve taken out travel insurance, for the first time in my life. It’s because the last time I made the same journey, I mislaid my return ticket and was obliged by the SNCF railway lady to purchase a new one, at full price for a single outward journey (the return part is always cheaper) with the last dribble of cash I had in my account. Then Eurostar refused to refund my money, all the more galling as when I unpacked, I found my original ticket was where I had put it for safekeeping, in the front pocket of my travel bag.
I think you’re beginning to get the picture. No, I don’t travel well nowadays, it’s why I haven’t dared go anywhere for three years.
Be that as it may, I can assure the renowned prognosticator, Mr Russell Grant, that planning an itinerary is absolutely not fun. Where does he get these ideas? Have you ever tried it?
I spent the best part of three weeks last April online every evening to Mr Google and many others, trying to figure out the best, the cheapest, the simplest way to get to a certain place at a certain time, involving some jazz, obviously, arriving where and precisely when I am expected next weekend.
I looked at possibly driving there, taking Hunzi for company – he has his own passport. But after I added the cost of fuel both ways, an overnight stop somewhere near Le Havre, to the ridiculous cost of taking the car on a Brittany ferry at this time of year, complete with compulsory extra seat-booking fee, given that I have a 600-mile round-trip from here to the south coast ferry port and back to throw into the equation; and there are two huge hell-hounds at the destination, lazing around in the sun, who would eat li’l Hunzi for breakfast, it was out of the question.
Besides, I am a rotten self-navigator, I tend to miss the turnings and waste hours driving miles in the wrong direction, trying to find a place to turn round. SatNav? Surely, you jest.
I looked at flying, but discovered that the only flights to the tiny regional airport go from cities a hundred miles away at ungodly hours of the morning. It wasn’t thus the last time I flew to this place, pleasantly arriving mid-morning: someone has changed the horaire.
The air fares were affordable, although I find it somewhat bizarre that if you fly with a bucket-airline you whizz straight to your destination, or at least within 50 miles of it, in under an hour and a quarter, for about £250 return; whereas if you fly Lufthansa it’s a 24-hour marathon with three stops en route, three more opportunities to burst a tyre on landing, that costs over twelve hundred pounds. Those Germans, eh?.
Then, several reasons not to fly occurred to me.
One, I hate flying, much as I also avoid bungee jumping and road-bike racing on the Isle of Man.
Two, my most recent GF (who is no longer my GF but is a lecturer on global warming) was most exercised about my carbon footprint.
Three, I wanted to take a guitar with me and those lovely people at Ryanair want £50 extra each way to have it smashed-up in the hold; or a second £250 return fare to book a spare seat for the instrument, which seemed a) expensive, and b) rather antisocial at this time of year, as I expect they have little trouble packing the planes twice over with ordinary humans and their sprogs, who need to get to the same holiday destination.
Four, the nearest airport where I could find a flight with an unbooked seat and where the check-in time was not five a.m. is four hours away; plus, of course, the cost of parking my car there for a week, and the possibility of losing the carpark check and not being able to find the car again, loomed large.
So I blew out the flying idea, and that’s been my undoing, because I don’t now have a guitar I can take with me anyway!
I’ve had to decide not to take one, because having bought quite an expensive one from a shop in Germany I’ve had to send it back with an electrical fault. So I could have flown, but instead ended up with the third option, that of travelling – with minimal consequences for the future of the planet – by several trains: a journey lasting, provided I can make my dash across Paris and connection with the onward service on time, two days.
You see, you have to make all those decisions three months in advance, because otherwise the bookings for this time of year, Peak Broil, rapidly fill-up and you can’t go anyway; which is another attractive option I have been considering, for two reasons.
One, I can’t find a reliable-sounding person to stay in my house and look after li’l Hunzi while I’m gone. It’s a 24/7 position with no wages, although you get to sleep for a lot of that time and the contents of the fridge are at your disposal. I’ve been offered an agency sitter, but she’s an extra £350 on top of all the rest of the enormous costs involved in spending a week away, learning to do something I am never seriously going to do.
Otherwise, I’ve gathered an assorted rabble of lovely friends who can do a bit here and there, and I’ve offered to pay expenses. But it’s not ideal; I know I shall worry, my mind will not be concentrating on the music.
Two, there’s been a bit of bother at the French end of the Channel tunnel.
Industrial inaction, of the kind only the bolshy French labour unions know how to unleash on the public in the most disruptive ways imaginable. Something about Eurotunnel deciding they don’t want, or being told by the EU competition commission not, to operate ferry services as well as their unreliable tunnel, selling the ships and sacking all the crew members. I’d probably come out on strike myself, to be honest, it’s a mite hypocritical to say so, but they are bastards, fucking with hardworking people’s fun itineraries.
Then, there are five thousand desperate migrants from Eritrea, Somalia and points south, milling around Calais, occasionally rushing the tunnel entrance, causing delays to the trains – hoping to walk, swim or hitch a ride to the land of milk and coco-pops: Britain, where they’ve been hearing all their lives that there are jobs galore and free apartments and gold bullion lining the gutters, and opportunities to go in the Big Brother house, being dished out in ecstatic welcome to all who come.
(And where they obviously haven’t heard already exists a blue-bottomed tribe of rancorous, immigrant-hating denizens of Sofaville, led by the Home Secretary, a lady who more closely resembles the Wicked Witch of the North than Mother Theresa; and by the uncompromisingly awful editor of the Daily Mail, Mr Darth ‘Dark-side’ Dacre. Ils ne passeront pas, as someone French once said.)
These two factors are conspiring to make planning my itinerary a lot less fun. The TGV trains leaving Paris will be packed with holidaymakers, it’s August, dammit, when they all flock to the coast. So the chances of getting another seat on a later train if I miss the booked connection are pretty well zero.
I shall end up walking to Calais, milling around with the Eritreans and the Somalis, trying to find a way back to sanity across the Channel. A solitary holiday seems a long way off. Why, oh why, did I make those bookings, at great expense, that I can’t now cancel?
Had I not done so, I would have the funds in my account that would make it a mere click to order the fabulous Gibson LP Premier Semi-hollow in Heritage Cherry Sunburst Perimeter which Messrs Guitar and Guitar have been pitching at me online ever since yesterday, at a one-off saving of £1,300…
As it is, I could, just about, do it – but leaving little margin for errors and sudden demands. It would require cancelling my home improvements schedule, selling everything – and, as Followers, Likers and Spammers of this, muh bogl, kno, that doesn’t always work either. (Yes, I’m still in the house. It had its third sale viewing in 22 months last week. They have become small triumphs in themselves. I spent a day on hands and knees scrubbing, but the viewer with the PhD in Geography – I had to ask why she calls herself ‘Doctor’, wouldn’t you have? – wasn’t impressed, at least she wasn’t showing it.)
Nothing I decide to do nowadays ever seems to work the way it’s supposed to, however carefully researched for fun my life’s itinerary. I seem to remember a time when I was fairly competent at the basics. Now…
By the way, it’s rəsearch, with the Schwa, not re-search. The stress falls on the second syllable.
I may have mentioned it before.
Monday a.m., Russell writes to Librans to say:
“The sooner you accept you have a limited amount of control over your life, the happier you will be. “
The Devil, they say, is in the detail. How does one define ‘a limited amount’? Limited, how, in scope – or duration?
I think we should be told!