France First, The World After! 1981
Well despite my Bold Decision the previous year , the “Oh Come On Eileen – The Great Hike!” didn’t materialise, my parents opted to go on holiday to Malta at the same time that l wanted to go, and so instead of going away that year by myself, l found that l had to babysit my sister to and l quote ‘to prove my responsibility as an adult’. However, this will be covered in another post to be written this week in Secret Journal Musings called The Lone Nutman.
Not one to disappoint however as both proving myself worthy and yet another case of inappropriate behaviour, this particular tale revolved around the month after my parents returned from Malta. I shan’t give away too many details, but let’s just say that apparently l was ‘very lucky’ to be awarded this ‘trip away’ considering my behaviour whilst they were away, however fact of the matter is they couldn’t prove with 100% accuracy that l had actually done anything wrong during their absence! [I had of course, but as said that is being told in another series quite possibly tomorrow!]
So, l was allowed to travel to Calais with three of my pals! It meant taking the train from Woking all the way down to Dover, getting the ferry and travelling across to Calais. Quite a simple trek really. Technically of course.
in 1981, l was 18 and therefore should be allowed to make this journey with my friends and be back in the course of the day! Personally, knowing what happened, l am not too sure if the following year was any less accidental than 81, however l am sure you will decide for yourselves.
My three friends were all nerds like me, worry not, we knew we were nerds, so no offense is being created. We were also, all venture scouts which meant we should ALL have been responsible ‘gentlemen?’ Or perhaps that was just the premise my father believed was adequate enough to suffice for our jolly out into the yonder.
So off we all set one fine Saturday morning in September, got up at the crack of dawn, all met at the train station and boarded! Now there is not an awful amount to discuss about our journey down, no high jinx, no pranks, just a lot of excitement and jokes and laughs. We had to travel from Woking to London, and then get a line down to Dover, which we did in good time. Caught the ferry across to Calais and then caught a bus into the town centre. Armed with our schoolboy French, well the others were better served with that, l was still carrying a strong Australian accent and my French sounded like something akin to sandpaper and Arabic and the only thing l really knew was ‘Je voudrais acheter un paquet de biscuits!” [I would like to buy a packet of biscuits!] Which as l am sure you can imagine wouldn’t have got me too far especially as we wanted to buy some wine.
However Stephan was our translator as he had the greatest command of the French and why not, his parents were French and to boot we were visiting his aunt and uncle, where were to have lunch.
We smiled like twits at many a French girl and tried to look somewhat cool, l think we did pretty well. We stopped in a small restaurant and ordered the delightful cafés in the twee cups and drank them outside soaking up the glorious sun and waving and saying bonjour at every available moment and then pranced about Calais enjoying the sights. Then we met with Stephan’s aunt and uncle and enjoyed a typical French albeit slightly later lunch and had some lovely wine, and some more lovely wine!
Stephan’s uncle came with us and explained the finer delicacies of purchasing wine and so we bought three bottles each, some cheese and some candy! Then he drove us down to the docks and we awaited the ferry. It was a good day out, it was brilliant!
All pretty good l would say, all very responsible!
However l can’t just leave it there, otherwise what is the point? Four friends go to France, eat, smile, drink wine and then travel back to Woking. What’s the funny about that?
Except it was on the trip home that things sort of went awry! John had bought a rather nice looking corkscrew, and we figured as we had so much wine, our parents wouldn’t miss one bottle from their present, would they? So we consumed one bottle of red on the ferry across to Dover. We sat outside and with four plastic cups consumed the whole bottle!
So now we had 11 bottles left, and on the train up to London, we rather sneakily consumed another bottle, well truth be known it was two and we were by this time feeling remarkably merry and somewhat absent minded, so much so that by the time we changed in London for our connection, we were rather clumsy on our feet and literally just made the train bound for Birmingham!!!
It was about an hour into the journey that Mark suddenly declared why had we not arrived in Woking yet considering it normally didn’t take an hour to get back from London? That was about the same time that the train conductor was more or less asking us the same question and informing us that our tickets were for Woking!
Making matters worse, we then had to pay the difference to actually travel to Birmingham as we were apparently on the fast!? This actually stripped us of our very last bit of money and in truth, we didn’t have that much left and so were short! Additionally, the guard was convinced we were drunks, because our breath smelled and when we stopped finally to get off, we had to be escorted into the guards office!
We were in a somewhat awkward situation to say the very least. We all had to ‘sober up’, according to the guards! So l then had to make the worse decision of my day, l had to call my father for help! Whch l did, for him to basically say “Well you are an adult, sort it out yourself!!” He shouted before slamming down the phone! It was Marks’ dad that drove all the way to Birmingham to collect us, it was he who paid the difference and it was he who drove us all back down to Woking and dropped us all off at our respective homesteads!
When l walked through the door at around 3am that Sunday morning, it was my mother who greeted me and asked if l was alright as my father after the phone call had gone back to bed. I got into bed, tired as hell and feeling somewhat sheepish, but was thankful to be home and in my own bed. The journey back was a really good laugh though. Mark’s dad was what l would class as a really good dad and found the whole thing really funny, and was telling us about what he used to get up to as a lad, so it was all in all a good day! i didn’t know then that that would be last good day l was going to have for sometime to come!
My father woke me at 6 that morning, and almost dragged me out of bed, yelling at me and bawling me out about how irresponsible l was and did l not think about how worried they were? Which l found kind of odd considering he was sound asleep and snoring when l got home, and if anyone was worried sick it was my mother who hadn’t gone to bed until l walked through the door.
I was grounded for the rest of the year, which l said bollocks to because l worked full time and he couldn’t do that! At one point it looked like it was going to explode into a full on frontal attack from him, his anger was remarkably volatile, all the good humour of the day before quickly vanished! I shook myself loose of him and basically told him to fucking grow up, as shit happens, and it was part of the cycle of learning by mistakes. that l accepted l screwed up, but at least l had a good time and he wasn’t going to take that away from me!
He stormed off out to some cricket match not long after that, and l went jogging for a couple of hours! Whilst he couldn’t ground me, he decided to not talk to me properly for the remainder of the year, which sort of suited me fine in truth. His threats of “You will never go anywhere again Sonny Jim, and as for any holidays, forget it!!“Fell on deaf ears as far as l was concerned. I knew that day, that whatever happened, from that point onwards – l would NEVER go on another family holiday again … and l never did!
And ha ha! He never got his bloody wine either l drank it, but mum got her cheese!
One big learning curve!