It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these sun lounger posts. The simple reason is that just lately I’ve not been anywhere near a sun lounger to have any sun lounger thoughts. However, the sun has finally appeared over North West England, the temperature has gone up and finally it has been time to drag the sun lounger out from its winter hiding place. As the lockdown is still ongoing despite a recent thaw it has not been possible to drive over to France or fly to Lanzarote and take in some sun so the only sun lounging I’ve been doing lately has been in our own back garden, thinking idly back to those halcyon days before Covid 19 when Liz and I were free to roam the continent in search of wine, bread, French restaurants, Spanish Tapas, the sea and the quiet of the French countryside.
The French countryside really is huge and I do love the quiet. Silence is pretty hard to find these days, especially in a big city like Manchester but in rural France, the absence of sound is something pretty profound. Close your eyes while lying on a sunlounger and it takes a while for a city boy like me to take in the silence. No traffic, no shouting, no electronic noises, just silence. After a while new sounds begin to emerge, the sound of birds perhaps, the sound of a gentle breeze, a tractor out in the fields or the faint rumble of one of my favourite sounds, the drone of a small aircraft.
I conjectured in an old post that perhaps in a previous life I was a pilot. A barnstormer in the American west perhaps or a pilot from the Royal Flying Corps. I read a book once called Soul Survivor, a story of reincarnation; a small boy troubled by incessant nightmares of being trapped in a burning aircraft. As time went on the boy remembered more of his nightmares, details of his aircraft, the aircraft carrier he flew from and the pilots he flew and died with. It was quite a story and when the parents of the boy traced the actual pilot who the boy claimed to be, the similarities between the boy and the World War II fighter pilot were amazing. I do love the sound of small aircraft though and just lately, lying in my sun bed, the sound of small aircraft flying from nearby Blackpool airport awakens a distant memory inside me. Perhaps it is the memory of being a young plane spotter at Manchester Airport many years ago, or is it the distant memory of another life?
One time in France we were relaxing with our barbeque just by a plan d’eau after an afternoon swimming and we heard the familiar drone. This time it was a paraglider drifting serenely across the blue sky.
Another simple quality in rural France is the lack of light pollution. In the city, things such as street lighting, neon lights and illuminated advertising hoardings all contribute an abundance of light but here in the country, darkness is something different; a deep, sensuous blackness that almost overwhelms the senses.
Lying back on your chair or lounger in the soft, warm evening and looking up at the sky is a wonderful sensation. Without the interference of ambient light, the sky at night is a whole new world. An enigmatic velvet vista opens up to the naked eye with myriads of stars, some the merest pinpricks, others great beacons in the sky.
Peering into the night sky on one memorable evening, I noticed a particular star, much brighter than the others. It was then I remembered that on my iPad I have an app that can tell you which stars are in the sky. The star in question was not the pole star as I had surmised but Vega. Vega is the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra, the fifth brightest star in the night sky, and the second brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, after Arcturus. It is relatively close at only 25 light years away from us, here on Earth.
One of the great things about the summer has to be the barbeque. Liz makes the most amazing salads to go with our food; homemade slaws and various mixes of crunchy green leaves and sliced tomatoes and onions to go with our burgers, sausages and steaks. I love it when the coals are hot and ready and the meat sizzles when it hits the barbeque. I do miss our French meals though. We had a brief visit to France in 2020 between lockdowns and I remember one lovely meal sat outside a hotel restaurant we have visited a few times. I had a cool French rose served with a starter of crudités and pâtés and fresh bread. Afterwards with a bottle of red came the main course, a nice steak. I have to say I worry about ordering a steak in France. The French tend to undercook a steak so I always ask for it to be cooked well done rather than my usual medium. The thing is, will the chef think that those stupid English want their food cremated as usual and actually give me a really well-done steak instead of a medium? Perhaps I should just ask for the omelette with fromage?
One of our favourite restaurants is in the north of France, not far from Calais. We found the restaurant just by chance, miles from anywhere. Liz and I stopped for an early evening meal one day and we have returned many times since. For starters I chose celery soup and Liz ordered the pâté.
I was a little disappointed with the rather small empty dish that was presented to me but then a huge tureen of soup arrived which was wonderful and produced about four small servings, one of which went to Liz while I sampled her pâté which was full of rustic flavours and was perfect served with fresh French bread.
The main course was a simple omelette, light and fluffy with a fresh salad and Liz’s fish was lovely with a creamy curry like sauce, unusual for French country cooking.
Anyway, as the weather had improved it was time to take a run out in our motorhome. Looking on the internet motorhomes don’t seem to be too popular lately, especially here in St Annes which is a seaside destination in its own right. Not as brash as nearby Blackpool with its Pleasure Beach and kiss me quick hats but also not as posh as Lytham thinks it is. On the internet I have read a lot of resistance to the holidaymakers arriving here parking up by the sea front. Why don’t they go elsewhere ask bloggers on one of Facebook’s St Annes pages, taking up all the parking spaces? Well, why should they? Motorhomers pay their road tax too and are entitled to park anywhere that is legal, just like a car. One comment said that if we can afford a motorhome then we can afford to stop at a caravan park? Again, why pay to park on a caravan site when the beauty of a motorhome is that we can stop anywhere and spend the night in the back of the van?
This last week we motored off to Yorkshire and stopped for the night in Skipton, a lovely town with some nice old pubs and many attractive barges moored by the side of the canal. We parked for the night on the nearby car park in the company of quite a few other motor homes. The charge for a night’s stopover was the princely sum of five pounds, although after nine am the parking meter wanted more money for a further daytime stay. We stayed a few hours for breakfast and to visit the nearby market which was pretty quiet early on but later when we left about noon everywhere, including the car park, was packed.
The next night we found a great pub in the village of Egton, the Horseshoe Inn. They told us the pub was fully booked for diners that night but we could stay free of charge and drink in the outside bar. When we arrived there had been a cancellation so we were able to drink and dine before wandering a few yards back to our motorhome.
In France, many towns and even villages sport their own motorhome stopping places with facilities to empty toilets and top up our water tanks. Many places like this are free, although some charge a few euros to top up with drinking water.
Yes, we’ll be sorely missing our visit to France this year. Of course, if we were still part of Europe that wouldn’t be a problem. It’s the fault of all those Brits who chose to leave the EC in the referendum. Let me see, who do I know that voted to leave, fed up with Brussels and its stifling bureaucracy?
Ah yes, that would be me . .