Pathetic Fallacy

Pathetic fallacy is a literary or filmic device where the weather reacts to the plot, ie in some Goethe story where the river breaks its banks when Sorrowful Werther tops himself, or something.

So, storms as I drive home seems a bit dramatic.

Baking hot in Boulogne today, but tipping down with rain in Dover. For the entire journey north from the M25 I was about 30 miles behind an enormous storm with thunder strikes and lightening ahead of me all the way. As I got to the Nottingham motorway junctions, I caught up with the storm and the lightening was all around me from the motorway to my front door. The rain whipped up to a high-speed-wiper deluge and ran in rivers down the A453. We had to slow almost to a stop in several places as the road practically became a ford.

Unpacking the car was fun. Camping gear and the results of my booze shopping spree are now spread around the house waiting to be put away. And drying off.

Looks like one of my computers has blown up whilst I was away. Bah. Will open ‘er up tomorrow and boot up a spare for now. That’s why I never throw anything away. Redundancy.

My knees are peeling

After all this time in France, including in the south of France, I managed to avoid sunburn. My arms are nicely brown.

Until a day spent in a chair in the shade in Brittany when I burnt my legs to a crisp. Bah. I’d forgotten how uncomfortable sun burn is.

Legs much better now. Shorts always were a stupid idea.

A fire for St John on the Kervillen beach near CarnarcI’m weeks behind on explaining where I’ve been: haven’t told you about the Drome or Nice, or alpine driving. I also stopped off in Carnac in Brittany, and saw an impressive ‘Feu-St-Jean’ ritual where a fire was lit on a beach as the tide came in underneath it.

After that, a glorious week in Normandy and two nights in Paris.

Ferry home from Boulogne later today.

The buffet car is now open

Midland Mainline have e-mailed me to ask what I think of their buffet car service.

I do like a chance to have my say.

I do feel that the prices are far too high. A rip off. I only ever eat on the train when I’m running too late to get food elsewhere and am starving, or when your sandwiches are discounted late in the day. Your sandwiches are good, but too expensive. Your cakes — danish-in-a-box tend to be soggy and not very nice. And also too expensive.

Your questions imply that you feel it’s all right to charge too much if it will be companies not individuals paying.

I preferred the complimentary teas when they were still Typhoo rather than Twinings, who do good specialty teas, but bad ‘english breakfast’ style teas.

The point about paying for larger cups is somewhat stupid. If your passengers don’t feel they are getting enough tea in the smaller cups, they will presumably do what I do every time and either make more trips to the buffet car, or ask for two cups on each journey. The buffet staff don’t know whether I’m fetching two cups of tea for myself or one for me and one for another passenger.

I don’t drink instant coffee so have never tried the complimentary coffee. I would much rather you provide a good, fresh, filter coffee than install espresso machines that provide average espresso and poor Italian-style coffees. I don’t imagine for a minute you intend training your staff to use a proper coffee machine and you will use some variety of one-button bean-to-cup machine. Not a good plan, because they don’t provide a very good cup of coffee.

If you are intending to include Italian-style coffees, please speak to the people who do the Amt bars on the platform because their product is very good.

If you are intending to provide filter coffee please bear in mind that once filtered it goes stale quite quickly. Anyone who drinks coffee black will be able to tell you when the coffee is past its best.

I would rather the buffet car didn’t serve alcoholic drinks, because they are only ever bought by people who’ve had too much already and they tend to make travelling less pleasant.

Bordeaux? Bordel!

I had to drive for 12 hours straight to get to a position to be able to write these words.

I never meant to go to Bordeaux but I got horribly lost on the motorways between Perpignan and Perigeux. Four motorways go into Toulouse, and I managed to get on the wrong one out, getting past the toll booth before I realised. Rather than getting back on the motorway in the other direction for another attempt, I took small roads all around Toulouse to get back the motorway I actually wanted. When I finally got back to a toll booth on the right motorway, I took a moment to try and look at my map before heading off.

Unfortunately, a hitch-hiker took that as a signal I was prepared to give her a lift, and lept into my car. (A welcome sign, at least, that there will be room in the car for P when I pick him up from the airport next week…) I was basically too embarrassed to tell her to bugger off. Hitch-hiker was headed for Bordeaux, I was headed for Perigeux, so I challenged her to look on the map for me and decide where she would like to be dropped off.

There wasn’t really anywhere that suited. The motorways split between where I wanted to go and where she wanted to go pretty much immediately after the toll booth and went in different directions. Since all that really mattered to me was that I head generally northwards, I told her I didn’t mind heading to Bordeaux instead and we set off in that direction.

I’m generally in favour of hitch-hiking. From a green, environmental perspective, it uses up an otherwise empty space in a wasteful journey. I also like to do random good turns from a zen / good karma perspective: what goes around, comes around. Maybe one day, I’ll be stuck for a lift and someone will help me out. It’s also vaguely Christian along Good Samaritan lines. Where it breaks down is when the person you help is not seeing it from such rose-tinted specs lines and tries to rob you along the way. I’ve certainly been taken for a sucker that way several times before.

This specific hitch-hiker didn’t seem very bright. I’ve a niggly feeling I know more tenses in the French language than she did (1), but in fact, since she sat in almost total silence for the entire journey, except to point out at one stage when I’d taken a wrong turning that I was perhaps headed in totally the wrong direction. (She was right.) Still, I think I brightened her day. I bought her a sandwich when I stopped to fill the car up with petrol. I didn’t get the impression she was eating very regularly so offered to get her something. She didn’t twig that the main reason was to get her to come with me to the cash desk “to choose a sandwich” rather than leave her sitting in my car, stuffed with all my nickable kit, on her own, whilst I was out paying.

I eventually dropped her off near the St Jean railway station in Bordeaux, and went on to try and find a hotel for myself. It was time I got an internet connection for a night, apart from anything else.

I tried maybe 8 hotels around the station. All were full. There’s a “Vinexpo” going on in Bordeaux at the moment, and everywhere is fully booked. Eventually, I went back to my car, dug out my Hotel Ibis handbook and phoned round the branches in the near vicinity. Eventually found somewhere 100km away that could accomodate me, so signed up.

And hear I am at Hotel Ibis Saintes. Multimap says I’ve done 361 miles today. Factor in the circles when I got lost at several stages and round up to 400. It’s gone midnight, and I’m sitting here eating the remains of an olive loaf I bought a couple of days ago and a tin of evil strong beer that should hopefully knock me out for the night.

And all I saw of Bordeaux was a railway station and a vague glimpse of a cathedral spire. No time to go back!

(1) I know, or at least I was once taught, some really obscure ones that don’t get used apart from in 18th century literature.


I’ve taken the Petit Train Jaune for most of its length to Font Romeu, a ski resort high in the Pyrenees. Problem: I’m here for one hour only until the only return train. And it’s tipping it down!

I’ll spend a wee while re-acquainting ,yself with the french keybopqrd lqyout in qn internet cqfe, then see if I can get some coffee somewhere warm.

Since last posting, I’ve spent two nights in Provence, driven through the Alps to Nice, driven right around the Med to Montpellier, and then driven inland to Vernet les Bains.

I’ve now driven over 2,000 miles in France.

More info and pics at a later date.