The greener grass of Albion, a short story, part 4
I kept cruising along at a steady 40 Miles per hour, which moved me ahead quite quickly, while putting no unnecessary strain on the Mobylette. The bike was a thing of beauty and ran like a charm. Albion, here we come! Hopefully, I had saved enough money to last me the whole month. I had started saving for the occasion a year and a half before. The previous summer, I had worked on a farm in Brittany for a whole month, picking up green beans. Now, that is tedious work! And boring too. But on an average day I would pick up almost two hundred pouds, sometimes more just by myself. For Christmas, I had asked everybody for money instead of presents. I wanted most members of my family to invest in the future of my adventure, even though they wouldn't know anything about it until it happened. My grandparents, on Dad's side had been quite generous, and for once, I was grateful to have a large family. I had also sold some toys I no longer played with to friends of my little brother Harvey. My parents had paid for most of the parts needed to repair the Mobylette and that was a major contribution. Without their help, I may have had to pospone the trip for another whole year.. And I had spent sparingly. I had stopped buying records, despite my love for music, "your music of savages" as Dad would say with a smile to tease me. I had stopped to buy books too. Not that my previous shopping sprees would put much of a dent in my budget, as I used to buy one record every month on average and maybe two or three used paperback books. But now the trip to England was on my mind and that had superseded everything else. The bright side, as there is always one, was that there would be some wonderful book and record stores over there too. Even bigger and much better than ours, I had been told. The plan included indulging myself with a few books and records at the end of the trip, if there was any money left. To be on the safe side, I kept the fuel money for the return trip in a separate envelope, so I wouldn't spend it accidentally.
I had stopped seeing girls too. No matter what, girls always ended up costing you some kind of money. Not that I minded, some of them certainly were worth their weight in gold to my eyes, but I just didn't have enough and everything I could do was a choice over something else. I had to prioritize. After my painfully aborted first love, I had expressed some interest for another girl going by the nickname of "Bambi". Need I say she was cute? Being the shy, introverted child I was, I didn't dare to speak to her directly, even less so after I learned she was older than me. Instead, I told her girlfriend in whom I had no fear confiding, go figure, as she was not on the receiving end of my devotion.The response was another strong blow to my burgeoning male ego. Bambi, who certainly wasn't affected with shyness the way I was, talked to me directly one day in the schoolyard, only to let me know that she liked me enough, but she thought I was too young for her. Oh well, you can't win them all, can you? So, I chased girls...out of my mind for a while. Who knows? Maybe I would meet a nice, sensible, good looking English girl who would fall for my Gallic charm?
I reached Beauvais and its beautiful, yet never finished cathedral ahead of schedule, a fact that I attributed to the lack of North wind. I stopped for about fifteen minutes to exercise my legs and give my battered behind some reprieve. I had never used the bike on a long distance trip before so I just found out, the hard way really, that there was barely enough foam in the seat for it to be comfortable. Note to self : add more foam to the seat as soon as possible. But that wasn't going to stop me. I just folded in two a fleece sweat shirt and used it as an extra cushion. And back on the road I was...So far, the trip had been quite uneventful and the weather was fantastic, an alternation of light clouds and bright sunshine and absolutely no rain in the forecast.
I also started to take pictures everytime I stopped somewhere. There was no doubt in my mind that upon my return, I would create a masive scrapbook to remember my adventure. I was already on my way to become the biggest pack-rat the planet has ever seen, so I kept everything. No doubt that by the time I would be back, some still unused side pockets of my backpack would be filled would be overflowing with English mementoes.
Abbeville was the next large town on the map, and again, I got there in no time at all. I was lost in my thoughts when riding and didn't see the time go by. I filled my eyes with unknown landscapes of beautiful countryside and charming villages. The temperature was nice and comfortable and I had no more need for the warm mittens or the parka, so they were carefully folded and stored in the backpack. I had just resumed riding after a refuelling stop, when a mobile patrol of Gendarmes pulled me over to the side of the road. These people are trained, and paid to be suspicious of everything and everybody, so a fifteen years old boy riding by himself so far away from home, and on his way to a foreign country mind you, couldn't be more suspicious. He had to be a runaway from home teenager. I guess my story didn't sound convincing enough despite the fact that I showed them the authorisation to travel by myself both my parents had signed, a document that would be required at the border in order for me to leave the country. So, the Gendarmes insisted on establishing contact with my parents. They took me to the nearby station where the chief, an idiot looking, moustached fat pig called the neighbors across the street. When Madame Lenourry answered the line, I did politely ask for her to go get my mother, insisting heavily on the fact that I was absolutely all right. I knew Mom would have a near heart attack experience by the time she got to the phone. She was quite upset and I assured her that I was fine and everything was going according to plan. She asked me to put the chief back on the line and she just let him have it, the fat prick! They reluctantly let me go, and not without inspecting the bike with a magnifying glass for the third time, but tough luck, Fatso, everything worked.
The whole incident had taken over an hour , but I looked at the positive side : I didn't have to pay for the telephone call, and my parents now knew I had made it safely to Abbeville, despite the fact that the chief had slapped me when I had told him he'd be better off catching "real" criminals. I guess I hit a raw nerve. For my young age, I had already developed an attitude towards unfairness. With Abbeveille behind me, I sped up a little to make up for lost time so I needed to really concentrate on my driving. I got to a lovely spot in the countryside and decided to stop for lunch.The most important promise Mother had extracted out of me, out of about one hundered of them, was to eat well no matter what. Which I would do under any circumstances, she didn't have to worry about it, as when I get hungry, I have to eat. While the Mobylette was cooling down, I unpacked the lunch mom had prepared for me out of the (recycled) aluminium foil she had lovingly wrapped it into : two sandwiches, a ham, swiss chesse and pickles and my favorite, a camembert cheese and butter. She had also included a small bar of milk chocolate with hazelnuts for good measure. Dear Mother!
I ate everything while thinking about my parents. I started to realize that I was going to miss them, something I had not really anticipated. This was my first time leaving home by myself and it made me aware of how comfortable and cozy we had it there. Back on the Mobylette, the next destination was Montreuil sur Mer, a coastal small town. After Montreuil, Calais was only a further twenty something miles away. I was almost there and I felt pride and confidence in myself. I would have never admitted it before, but I had been a little nervous too. But with the end of the first leg of the trip, and the most difficult one too behind me, I knew everything was going to be all right...
To be continued...
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns
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One person alone can change a lot of things. But when two men who don't even know each other and live thousands of miles apart team up, they can pull a miracle.