After much daydreaming about fish and chips, bagels, ubiquitous 3G internet and speaking English again, the time has arrived to jump back on the autoroutes of France and drive back to the UK.
This wasn’t part of our original plans, but bureaucracy had its way with us, as it always does: It turns out, unlike the advice we were given years back, the only way to update a UK vehicle’s MOT certificate (basically an obligatory annual roadworthiness test) is to take it to a garage in the UK.
Our route takes us up into the scenic lower Alps of Haute-Provence. We stop for lunch by a chalky cyan-coloured stream, which I take a quick and extremely satisfying dip in. Katherine’s Nettle-bound as her bee-stung foot has gone alarmingly non-functional.
We stop for the night beside a lake, and meander the following morning amongst bright yellow fields of sunflowers.
The next night, now in Burgundy, we’re in a town surrounded by vineyards, stretching to the horizon.
After that, well, nothing but monotony. Kilometre after kilometre of motorway passes beneath our wheels. On the fifth day, we arrive in Calais and spend our last couple of days in France at a little caravan park overlooking the white cliffs of the UK, almost within reach. With some dread about the actual border crossing — which is never fun — we discuss maybe just taking a good run up and jumping the channel in Nettle. How hard could it be?
As it turns out, that may have been the more enjoyable option, wet feet or not.
We arrive at the entrance to the ferry port boarding area, and inch forward with the other cars going through the border control gates. We’re a couple cars from the booth, moving to inch forward again, when there’s a clunk and — oh, fuck! — the gear stick is wobbling around impotently. Nettle’s busted.
It’s the same thing as last time, eleven months ago: The bolt holding the gear stick onto the gearbox has sheared off.