Being deployed anywhere in the world can be a daunting yet exciting experience, all in the same moment. That gut-wrenching, butterfly-flapping, unsettling grip in the pit of your stomach, fear of the unknown that gets the heart racing, questioning what the future will hold feeling. The desire to stop sitting around waiting and instead, wanting to get started on the next phase, is palpable. Itching to quit delaying and start doing. Let’s get this done!
Needing a suitable vehicle to cope with the tracks we would be traversing was high on our priority list for this year. Finding a suitable Land Rover was like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack, but find one we did. Following an earlier sortie to France, on return, our 10 year old Discovery 4 was checked in to Kent Auto Care Ltd., Cliftonville, Kent, (+44 18 43 22 36 66) where Brad and his crew performed the miracle of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Anyone who knows the Land Rover Marque will understand this is no mean feat. Brad & Co. come highly recommended for all your vehicle servicing and repair needs…
Back to the story… From the comfort of the heated leather upholstery of the packed-to-the-gunwales Discovery (thank goodness for air suspension), I can report that the world outside is dark and cold. It is 0400 hours, mid December, 2020. A week or so before Christmas and I find myself at the beginning of a long and arduous journey through the night and coming day, that will hopefully conclude with my safe arrival somewhere south of Tours, France.
Leaving behind Charlotte and the children in the UK, our five year plan has been hastened on its way by the Brexit shenanigans and imminent ending of the transition period. 2015 saw our plan for the future begin with scouring France for suitable accommodation. Purchasing a property in 2018 moved the plan forward with the following two years being spent in weeks of house restoration, gardening, re gardening and then gardening some more, as the gaps between visits resulted in dense regrowth that needed taming.
With 2021 always being the predetermined date for moving, no one back in 2015 could have foreseen the European political events that would speed up our departure date to retain EU residential status and it made logistical and financial sense for me to be the one to leave working in the UK first and head to foreign climes.
Growth, through or in spite of adversity, tests our mettle and makes us who we are today.
I tear myself away from Charlotte’s loving embrace, hauling myself up into the Disco.
The road stretches out in front of me. A black ribbon of tarmac and time that winds south. I set the temperature at a balmy 23 degrees and fire up the beast. It roars into life, shaking Alfie’s bedroom windows. If he wasn’t already awake, he certainly is now!
Dashing the manly tear at our final fond farewell and waving goodbye, I move off the driveway to begin our next chapter…
First stop is the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone, Kent. Passing the barrier of retention, I drive onboard the train to France and try to sleep for the next 30 minutes as I am whisked sous La Manche, isolated in my vehicle. Remembering to put my watch forward an hour, I am greeted on the other side of the Channel at Sangatte by the breaking of a new dawn.
To many people, leaving the country of one’s birth behind might seem a drastic change of circumstance, turning your back on history and heritage, but for me, France has always felt like home. As I’ve noted before, part of my family originated from France anyway, so this is simply a delayed homecoming. Following the Norman invasion and subsequent conquering of Britain in the 11th century, French was the official language of England for the next 300 years anyway. What can be so hard in improving ‘O’ Level French? Knowing enough to buy a small farm, croissants et framboise confiture, it surely won’t be too much of a linguistic stretch.
So here begins the next step of the adventure. With Charlotte’s backing and long-distance support, the road will take me first to Rouens, then Le Mans, Tours, Richelieu and then home. With it being almost the winter solstice, I don’t hold out much hope on there being any daylight left on my arrival.
As roses are best produced when grown in manure, so we too can recover from the mire of 2020, to be stronger and better than before and it is with this in mind as the year draws inexorably to a close that (in the words of Angus Deyton) “we blow the nose of time and examine the handkerchief of history” or en française, “nous souffrons le nez du temps et examinons le mouchoir de l’histoire”.
It is in retrospect that we see the whole picture. 2020 vision is only granted in hindsight. We are the product of our experience.
Overseas Deployment for the next six months stretches before me like an unbroken dream of exploration. The saving grace, as I’ve told Charlotte, is that it’s not as dangerous as deployment to a war zone, although I will be attempting to wire electricity to the shed and fix the roof, both having the potential to incur interesting side effects of a dangerously fatal nature…
Carry on regardless!