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The greener grass of Albion, a short story, Part 5

Updated on January 22, 2013
Folkestone Harbour
Folkestone Harbour | Source

With the proximity to my destination, I got over confident and came into Montreuil a little too fast. What I hadn't accounted for was that the main street was paved with bumpy cobblestones. So, I hit the brakes a little too hard, a little too late and the rear wheel locked up, causing the bike to slide sideways, I before I knew it, I was laying on the ground while the Mobylette slid on the pavers for another ten yards or so. Half shocked, I picked myself up and ran towards the Mobylette. Some fuel had sipped from the tank as it was laying on its left side. I put the bike back on its wheels to inspect it for damages. The handlebar was turned to one side but that was easy to fix on the spot. Apart from that, the only other injury was some deep scratches into the paint of the fuel tank, something I would have to live with. So, I was relieved. I had my helmet and goggles on, so I was all right. And then, I noticed my left arm and my hand : all bloody and scratched. In my haste to check out the bike, I did not realize I had been hurt. By that time, people had come out of their townhouses, to see what the excitement was all about. I prayed that no one had called the cops. A heavy set woman came out her front door, wearing a kitchen apron and waving a wooden spoon in her hand. She invited me to come inside her house to disinfect the wound, she said.

By the time she was done cleaning me up, a very large bandage ran from my elbow down to my thumb. I offered to pay for the medical supplies, but she wouldn't have it. She told me she had raised six rowdy boys so she knew the drill. I thanked her profusely and she gave a smothering hug. I guess all good mothers share that unconditional love for children. I put my helmet and goggles back on and left somewhat worried at how the bike would behave after the incident. So, I started slowly, visually checking for fuel leaks, unwanted vibrations or strange handling. But except for a few scatches, both on the bike and myself, everything was fine.

Dover Town Centre. Photo taken from Cannon Street.
Dover Town Centre. Photo taken from Cannon Street. | Source
View to St Margaret's at Cliffe, Kent.  View up the coast towards St Margaret's at Cliffe from on top of South Foreland Lighthouse. A windmill can be seen in the middle distance.
View to St Margaret's at Cliffe, Kent. View up the coast towards St Margaret's at Cliffe from on top of South Foreland Lighthouse. A windmill can be seen in the middle distance. | Source

And suddenly, I saw the sign : Calais! Indicating that I had made it to the harbor town, and it was only shortly after five in the afternoon, in spite of the unplanned stops. Joy and pride filled my heart as my left arm started too hurt a little. I stopped in a small cafe near the harbor and telephoned the neighbours the good news that I had made it safely to Calais. I didn't mention the fall, which would have added to the already high level of my mother's stress. I sipped my lemonade sitting at the outside terrace, whith silent admiration for the Mobylette parked on the sidewalk. A great sense of relief overcame me. I had successfully completed the first leg of my trip, the longest and most difficult one by a long shot. As I relaxed, I started to realize how tired I was and I promised myself to take a cat nap on the boat during the short hour and a half crossing to Dover.

My break over, I headed to the ferry terminal to purchase my ticket. I had never been on a car ferry before, so that too was a new experience for me. The vessel was much bigger than I had anticipated. Before boarding it, I got to watch the cars being swallowed by the gigantic belly of the ship. A lot of British registered cars, I noticed, and quite a few nice ones too : MG. Triumph, Jaguar, and some oddities as well, a Bristol, a Morgan with the top down, a Wolseley and a couple of Bentleys. It was like watching my own private car show and I had the time of my life. Once all the cars were loaded, motorbikes were allowed to board the ferry, . Besides yours truly, there were only a handful of them. A BSA, two Triumphs and a Harley- Davidson Electra Glide, in blue of course. I thought I had reached biker's heaven! My modest Mobylette properly tied up to the inner side of the ship, I climbed the steep stairway to the lounge area and settled myself on a long and comfortable sofa, hoping no one would join me so I could lay down for a while during the crossing..

Folkestone As seen from Dover Hill (adjacent to Crete Road East).
Folkestone As seen from Dover Hill (adjacent to Crete Road East). | Source

Over the loudspeakers, an announcement was made informing passengers that the self service restaurant had just opened its doors, so I rushed there as I was hungry again. The time for free food was over for a while, so I looked at the menu for the least expensive dish, which happened to be fish and chips. The plate also came with a side serving of green peas. I had never seen peas that green before. And a few minutes later, I understood why. They were artificially colored and the dye was running in my plate. I started to understand why English cuisine never conquered the world. My meal over, I quickly visited the duty-free shop and fell for a a small bar of Cadbury chocolate, the fruit and nut variety. Maybe the English can't cook, but boy, do they know how to make a good chocolate! Returning to the lounge, I managed to sleep for almost an hour.

When I woke up, there was still about twenty minutes of travel time, so I grabbed my beat-up Brownie camera and walked outside. The wind had picked up some,and it felt good. The views were beautiful. A low reddish sunlight came from the west and illuminated the Dover cliffs and the harbor. I will never forget that sight never seen before, and to remember it better, I took half a dozen photographs. A large group of British schoolgirls wearing uniforms consisting of short plaid skirts and dark blue blazers passed in front of me, laughing hard and making lewd remarks. I couldn't understant all of it, but I somehow knew I was at the center of their hilarity. Silly girls !

It took some time for the ferry to turn around before docking to the firm ground. Passengers were asked to rejoin their vehicles, and I followed an impatient crowd down the stairs to the lower decks were the cars were parked. It may not have been visible to others, but I was the most impatient of all. A funny thought crossed my mind :If I died now, I would die in England, even though I had not yet set foot inside the country. The things that go through our minds, sometimes! I got reunited with my loyal and reliable Mobylette, and waited, as instructed for all the cars to leave the ship before us, the bikers were allowed to do so. I wanted to hang on to that feeling of living my wildest dream for a few more minutes. How many first times does one get ?.

Source

I foillowed the last car out of the ship, a grey Rover with a little blue and yellow decal on the rear window stating that I was following "yet, another happy motorist by Watson-Jones of Reading, Berkshire's Official Rover Distributor". As I rode up the ramp of the ferry, I could see part of the cliffs and the harbor, impressively located right at the bottom of them. The wait to go through customs and immigration services was quite long, and reminded me that I was now on an proud island where you had to show your credentials before being let in. I didn't mind the wait at all, but as the sun was going down quickly, I made the decision to spend the night in the Dover vicinity, if i could find a place to set up camp for the night. An ageless, unattractive, grey-skinned woman checked my passport and proof of insurance without the hint of a smile. I got a bit nervous when she got out of her booth, but she just wanted to check the license plate at the rear of the bike. I declared to the customs officer that I had nothing to declare, which wasn't completely a truthful statement. I wanted to declare for the whole world to know how happy I was to be there. I wanted to declare how grateful I was to have parents who trusted me so much. I wanted to declare that I would make this whole month of July 1963 count in my life, and that I would treasure the memories of it forever. Needless to say, shyness made me keep it all inside, but damn, that was a good feeling. It took me years to realize that I had just experienced the first natural high in my life !

To be continued...


Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns.

The Pines Garden, St Margaret's at Cliffe The attractive Pines Garden looking across the main pond to the chalk cliffs at the Dover Patrol Memorial beyond St Margaret's at Cliffe village.
The Pines Garden, St Margaret's at Cliffe The attractive Pines Garden looking across the main pond to the chalk cliffs at the Dover Patrol Memorial beyond St Margaret's at Cliffe village. | Source

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    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      A great fun adventure.

    • austinhealy profile image
      Author

      Bernard J. Toulgoat 4 years ago from Treasure Coast, Florida

      Hello GetitScene. Thank you for reading and commenting on this Hub. It is a lovely place to visit and I'm having a great time going through hundreds of pictures before selecting a few for the story.

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 4 years ago from The High Seas

      Looks like a wonderful place to visit.