Nice fine weather still thank heaven, main dampness was the dew, but by the time we were ready to put the tent away, that had all dried up. Had eggs and anchovies for breakfast, which was nice and filling, then did all the packing up while the children had a game of table tennis. Left at 10.40am and drove to Auchan to stock up with wines. Bought about 10 bottles at about 4-5 francs each, then set off for Calais. No sooner had we turned off to the coast road than there was an ominous clanking in the back wheel of the car. Got out, but couldn’t see much except that the wheel seemed to be at a funny angle. Crawled to a garage – the mechanic was there fortunately, he got underneath and then announced that something or other was ‘cassé’. We all looked blank, had no idea what was broken, but he said we should be all right for getting to Calais provided we drove ‘doucement’.
We did indeed drive gently, wincing as we went over every bump, and managed to get to Continent where we bought some chocolate ice cream for the freezer, and some seafood pancakes. We bought the children some chips outside as we didn’t know when we’d be having lunch, and then drove down to the docks on a rather peculiar round about route. Passed someone who appeared to have had a collision with a French car more or less as he drove off the boat! New system for entry to the docks at Calais which is probably more efficient but nearly drove us mad going round in circles with our poor car!
For once, we were one of the first on board. Managed to get a good table to sit at, and promptly ate our lunch of tinned salmon, tomatoes, French loaf, hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise, peaches and mirabelles. It went down very well, but it was already 2pm so we were extra glad we’d had that scrambled egg breakfast. Large queues at the duty free shop, possibly because there were so many coach parties on board, mainly from the North and Midlands. So we queued up too and bought gin, Black Label Scotch and cigarettes.
Crept off the boat at Dover, and drove to the ‘Goods to Declare’ hall where they charge us £2.85 duty on our wine, a peculiar sum and heaven knows how they worked it out, but it still made the wine very cheap. Proceeded to the AA where 3 pessimists told us that it was the shock absorber which had broken and that we ought to wait in Dover to have it mended on Monday. Great consternation at this, how on earth would we manage? Told them we would think about it, and in fact decided to risk it, as we’d be mainly on motorways and the risk seemed worth taking.
Drove home very slowly, children huddled in the other corner of the back seat. David and I very tense. Stopped in Canterbury for bacon, couldn’t get bread, and were given £16 of Green Shield Stamps by a Belgian lady in front of us! (She was buying butter, Nescafé, cornflakes and shampoo mainly.) Man at the car park had been very kind letting us in incidentally – trailers are not really allowed in city car parks. Continued on our way home, the Dartford tunnel was traversed without incident, and the awful roads from the tunnel home.
Quite weak with relief when we finally made it home. Tottered out of the car on wobbly legs, and had powerful drinks all round, then a bacon and egg tea after which we felt much better. Gareth was very glad his prayers had worked…