So, for the three days prior to setting off en route to Belgium whenever I drove my car anywhere I practiced not using my rearview mirror. It was a real shame I couldn’t practice driving on the right hand side of the road but my health and safety trainng told me that this was potentially hazardous. To my horror I found it almost impossible not to smeak a quick look in the rearview mirror whenever reversing which caused my fear levels to rise a fair bit!
I very carefully planned what to pack because I am notoriously bad at packing. I always have to go out shopping to buy all the essentials I had deemed unnecessary at the suitcase loading stage. I also never fail to amaze myself at what I decide are a necessity at this same point.
The sat nav app I downloaded – Here– I think it’s called got us to the van hire in Southend. I downloaded the maps for France and Belgium (only remembering France after a horror story from my friend Ruth who forgot to download one of the countries she was going to be driving through, but not stopping in on a road trip through Europe, only for the app to take her all the way round the forgotten country!). The app works on GPS so doesn’t use your data- at least that’s what I think happens!
Getting the car out of the teeny car park at the hire place was extremely stressful. My ‘no rearview mirror’ training proved ineffectual because people kept driving behind me and stopping- I swear they were doing it on purpose! My palms were sweating and I was actually shaking. I had to perform a very tight left hand turn to get passed a Ka and when waiting to turn right onto Suthcuhurch road I paused to manually wind down the window and a waiting pedestrian actually said to me ‘your first time in a van?!’.
Once on the open road however my palms dried out, my temperature returned to normal and I quickly assumed the persona of a white van man, stopping just short of peeing in a bottle and lobbing it out of the window!
The drive to Dover was uneventful. But it never occurred to me that the man at passport control would think I was trying to abduct two small girls because I hadn’t changed my passport into my married name and our surnames didn’t match. He wanted evidence such as their birth certificates which clearly I hadn’t bought with me. One look at Scarlett should have told him she was mine at least! I was about to get into a real flap until he told me a photo of the girls and myself on facebook was sufficient to prove I was not a child abductor!
Thankfully I didn’t need to reverse the van into a tiny spot on the ferry- not sure why I thought that would be required! After a cup of tea (what I really wanted was a vino), one nose bleed (I didn’t pack the nose bleed towel), an entire pack of salt and vinegar snack a jacks and some geeking off on the outside deck we docked at Dunkirk.
Scarlett was really shocked to find that everyone wasn’t stuffing their faces with snails. I had been concerned how she might react on French soil after I stupidly told her that burglers only existed in France one night a couple of years back when she wouldn’t sleep becuase she was worried about burglers. Luckily the snail thing averted her attentions!
Driving on the other side of the road came easier than I thought and the journey to Belgium passed fairly quickly while we covered topics such as ‘what would happen if the world stopped turning’ (Hazel), ‘which sweets do you prefer out of the bag of teeth and lips- the lips or the teeth?’ (Scarlett). I parked the van at the hotel smoothly with a little help from a passing Belgian.
I always worry when things go this smoothly and then it came back to bite me! We were heading to the bar so I could enjoy a well deserved vin and I forced Scarlett into the lift. She is really scared of most things including lifts. I told her it would be fine. It wasn’t! For the first time in my life we got stuck in a lift! I thought at first the doors were a little slow in opening. We waited. They didn’t open. I thought I heard voices so thought we must have been on the ground floor. I forced open the doors only to expose the inside mechanics of the lift. By this point Scarlett was hysterical, Hazel was beginning to panic and I wasn’t particularly comfortable with the situation. After hammering on the alarm and the lift door someone outside prised them open. We were between floors and had to jump down to safety! I proceeded to more or less down a large glass of vin!