27 Feb The things you forget
There are things you forget about the old country when you’re away from it for a few weeks.
We disembarked at 9.30 pm, rumbling down the metal gangway from the vast, almost empty Normandie after a reasonably calm crossing. The M275 meets you at Portsmouth Docks and takes you a mile or two to pick up the M27 and eventually the A3, our route home. An overhead gantry warns us that the A3 is closed after Petersfield but offers no other information. We discounted the idea of changing our route entirely, trusting in the British road system to give is clear diversion instructions. Darn thing, no indication whatsoever of an alternative route to London. No helpful yellow ‘Diverted Traffic’ signs. We felt our way through the back roads of Hampshire relying on approximate notions of the geographical relationships between places, all the while pitying the French cars and Spanish lorries that shared our crossing. Grrrr.
The chill factor
Does every country have a chill factor? We didn’t hear about it in Spain or while travelling through France – perhaps it’s a specifically British phenomenon. We had braced ourselves for the late February temperatures, but this? Down south in the sierras you forget about the chill factor and the nonsense it makes of temperature values. Such poor timing to return just as the jet stream decides on a whim to swivel through a full 180º and bring us a blast of Siberia. Brrr.
The first thing you notice when you get to SE Spain is how dark it is at night and how silent. The darkness is complete so that the canopy of stars on a clear night is like a cloak of distant light reminding you how vast the universe is. In SE Blighty you’re hemmed in by the night sky. It seems as if it’s never fully dark, nor completely quiet. I know this is more about city living – the glow of street lights and the hum of city life are never quite extinguished. A glimmer of light creeps around the edge of the blackout blinds; a car door closes, its remote key beeps; something rustles around the dustbins; the sound of rubber on tarmac is always there just at the edge of one’s hearing.
But oh, the glories of Blighty on a crisp winter’s day. After the A3 odyssey and a street-lit night, we woke to a one of those Sundays where bare trees hold themselves aloft against a rich blue sky. Braving the chill factor we walked out for a while to bask in the loveliness of winter light in the north. You forget just how beautiful it can be and how good it is to be home.