06 Jan Bon Voyage?
Back in Spain taking up the pen – or its blogging equivalent, whatever that may be. In my case, it’s still the pen. My writing mind works through nib on paper; that’s how the thoughts start to form into words. Then via keyboard onto screen, a new version takes shape where words are nudged or shifted, sorted, reordered, reconsidered, and all the crossings out disappear, all the doubts and uncertainties are erased. I like it this way, seeing the thoughts on the page, seeing the decisions, seeing how words change my thoughts as thoughts seek words. A word/thought journey.
Speaking of journeys or, comme on dit en français, voyages…..
We left Portsmouth for Caen on a wild night when sailings of smaller ships to other nearby destinations were cancelled owing to “poor weather conditions and the sea state”. I could feel the worry somewhere deep down. Much as I found the thought of spending the night on the tarmac of Portsmouth dock unwelcome, the prospect of sailing the channel was alarming. The Mont St Michel is appropriately named. It’s a mountain of a ship; it seems absurd that it can float let alone sail. We waited in Brittany Ferries Lane 6 alongside the lorries, their colourful liveries sparkling in the floodlights, as they set off up the ramp, battered by wind and rain, heaving their massive bulk aboard, all the while becoming a little more anxious. Cavernous lower decks fill with these monsters and with countless cars, vans, motorhomes. It’s astonishing how many people are travelling this time of year. Where on earth are they going? For a moment, this thought edges out the anxiety about load and buoyancy that I can’t help but feel as a nautical innocent about to set out on a stormy sea.
By 11 pm we’re on board and trying to work out where on earth the two beds are in the wee cabin I’d booked. A question to the information desk yields the answer – in the ceiling. Naturally, where else would you expect to find a bed? We try to sleep, rocked by the movement of the ship as it powers its way across a sea made wild by Force 9 gusts. In bed in an internal cabin you feel less of the surge. Somehow the bed takes the strain, moves with the swell and, lying down, you have no sense of having to struggle to keep your balance. So, we slept, a little, until a riff of plucked harp strings sounded from the speaker to stir us around 5.30 am (6.30 in France), leaving an hour to get ready for arrival. Nice touch those harp strings – much less alarming than a klaxon but just as effective.
The mountain that is Mont St Michel eased itself slowly into Caen’s port, Ouistreham – several miles from the town itself. The Flemish lilt to the name intrigues me but I discover that ‘ouistre’ is the old word for oyster before the French found huître and the ‘ham’ is, of course, village. Oyster Village. Forget the Flemish – it’s the Saxons again. Still dark, off we set south across France.