A ferry trip at each end of the week with a funeral in between has been the story of my week in which I have been back in Britain for my father in law’s funeral which has also given me a chance to catch up with old friends. What I thought would be a quiet and sombre week has proved to be exciting and interesting.

It all started on Monday morning at 5am when my sleep was interrupted by the shrill alarm from the clock radio. Fortunately I had set the alarm as I was deeply asleep and was shocked awake. (Better than missing the ferry) I had to drive to catch the early morning ferry from Ouistreham which is a two hour drive from home. It was pitch black and chucking it down with rain all the way. But the beauty of French roads is that there is no traffic, at least until I reached Caen and entered the racetrack that is the Caen periferique (ring road). This is busy at whatever time you go round, but I am used to it now and safely arrived at the ferry port. There I joined the queue and checked in and was directed to a lane to wait for boarding. I found myself the first car in the lane and was immediately waved forward through the customs area. 

A very bored looking French customs woman looked at me and just told me to carry on. As she was walking away she muttered to go to the right “a droite” (or so I thought). I drove to the right and could not see clearly which way to continue. Usually at ferry ports you just follow the car in front. This time I was the car in front, although there did not seem to be any cars behind me either. In fact on looking round there seemed to be cars on the other side of a fence! It was at this point that I realised that the woman had probably said “tout droit” meaning go straight ahead!! Mild panic began to set in as I considered whether I could turn around but this did not seem wise. It then dawned on me that I was in the lorry park, which did not appear to be a good place to be. I spotted that there was an opening which joined up with the cars boarding the ferry and just headed towards this gap and barged into the queue of traffic. I was also racking my brains as to whether there were any other ferries that went from Ouistreham to judge if I was actually on the right ferry. How would I explain to Mrs. Parish if I ended up in Spain and missed the funeral?

Fortunately the ferry to Portsmouth was the only one there and I was on board. A very relieved man I went and had a large full English breakfast to cool my shattered nerves.

The remainder of my journey to Exeter was largely uneventful although I was struck by the sheer volume of traffic all the way to my mother in law’s house. I put the blame for my misdirection at the port on my father in law (Grandad) who had a wicked sense of humour. I got to granny’s and found that the house phone was not working and that the BT man would not be there till after the funeral. So all communications had to come via Granny’s mobile. When you consider that she is a generation older than me, dealing with the mobile phone was something of a challenge for her and amusement for us.

The funeral was on Tuesday at 11am and I was tasked to drive down to Teignmouth to pick up Pete and Liz (my brother in law and his wife). You will recall from last week that I was filling the car boot with bottles of wine for them. I got to the car and discovered that the tyre was completely flat. Now either this was a result of the sheer weight of their wine or another joke from Grandad. I had no wish to mend a tyre with my funeral suit on so we got out the AA (who discovered a huge great nail stuck in the tyre). As grandad’s whole approach to DIY was to use 6 inch nails, this proved conclusively to me the source of my flat tyre. Meanwhile my daughter Jo went to Teignmouth.

At this point in proceedings Mrs. Parish decided that my shoes were not suitable or clean enough and were letting down my otherwise suitable funereal appearance. No time to buy some shoes so Mrs. Parish, practical as ever decides that I could wear a pair of grandad’s shoes which were the right size for me and more importantly spotlessly clean and suitably black. So I spent the day walking, literally, in dead men’s shoes!

The rest of the day went really well and the funeral itself was a suitably positive experience, telling the story of a good man who was a loving husband, father and a great grandad. There were over 100 people in the church and 60 came back to the hotel afterwards. In the evening the family gathered at Granny’s house for a meal and in his memory we let off a load of fireworks. Grandad loved fireworks, although was not very safe with them. So it was a fitting end, even to the point that in true grandad fashion the last rocket shot across the garden wall at head height and narrowly missed the window of a neighbour’s house! 

Grandad also managed to cause some considerable confusion by putting the deeds to his house in a safe place but omitting to tell anyone about exactly where he had put them. With his executor and family all searching for them amongst the many contacts he had and the piles of paper he kept we were all kept busy. At the end of the week granny went into her bank to change the names on her account and the manager told her they were holding a large envelope and that he would arrange for it to be brought to the bank. May be this is where the deeds were safely put!! 

Going back to England did also give me an opportunity to meet up with old friends. A few of my oldest friends from Exeter who knew grandad were at the funeral and it was good to catch up with them. I also had the chance to meet up with my old work mates and we had a great evening out in Bournemouth with a fine meal and lots to drink. It was also a chance to have a proper curry. As the French had no Indian colonies there is very little in the way of authentic curry restaurants. It was nice to have a real curry made by an Indian family restaurant in Bournemouth. 

With work colleagues doing what we did best!!

Yesterday, Mrs. Parish said goodbye to the dreadful traffic of Britain after driving in a queue all the way from Exeter to Portsmouth. This time I managed, under supervision to be in the right queue and to follow the car in front onto the ferry. We almost had the ferry to ourselves as there were no more that 50 cars on the ferry deck and just a few lorries. The afternoon/evening crossing started out in choppy waters but by the time we went for a meal it was quite calm. The great thing about Brittany Ferries is that they are French owned so it is like being in France right away and of course the food is really good, so we had a good meal, a glass of wine and to finish, naturally with a lovely dessert. When we went in the restaurant was virtually empty but gradually a few more came in. It’s weird but with all that space people still came over and sat next to us. Must my stylish dress, although I no longer have on grandad’s shoes!

We drove home with no traffic, even the Caen periferique was quiet at 10pm and we got home at around midnight. The cats were very pleased to see us back and all three had to have cuddles after their breakfast and then proceeded to sleep all morning on the car. They are now back to normal, harassing me for their tea and walking all over the keyboard. It was quite nice to be at granny’s where all her cats are very docile and well behaved.

The cats at least are pleased to see me!

And so back to the peace and quiet of rural France. Mrs. Parish is happily back out in her garden and now making up the fire in the wood burner. I am about to pour a little aperitif and then we have fish pie for dinner. One that I made last week and put in the freezer. The white wine is chilling in the fridge and our neighbour Peter is coming to join us for a meal before he heads back to Britain tomorrow.

Bon weekend