Authie et Mi

It’s mince pies time again

8th December 2012

Apart from a very light dusting of snow in October (global warming gone barmy) the weather coming into December was just about hanging in on the bright side of positive. Then the forecast started muttering about white stuff — but there again, they kept talking about sun throughout the summer so why should they start getting it right now.

Thursday evening my mate Florian gave me a shout asking when I was going to do my shopping run and could he come along. “You’re in luck, but it is a very early start on Saturday so it would be better to come down from Lille on the Friday night”. That evening an Orange Alert was put out for the north of France. Snow would fall throughout the night and the roads would be horrible by morning. I even received a text message from my assurance company advising that I should drive with great caution.

Woke up the following morning to green fields. Before, however, I sent my stinging letter off to the French Met Office I had to head into town and get my ears lowered. Off I pootled over the hill. It was obvious the gritters had been out during the night, and about two kilometres from the house I began to see why.

It started as a thin coating of snow and became progressively deeper as I continued. By the time I reached Hesdin it was a combination of thick slush and a good coating on the pavements. No chance then, I thought, that my hairdresser who has to come forty kilometres from the Arras direction would be on time. Wrong ! The main road was completely clear and there had been no snow his way at all. Another of those micro-climate conditions we have been experiencing all year.

By afternoon the snow was all gone as the day warmed up. Photos of granny’s grave were produced by the Met Men and we were assured (Honest, guv!) that it would be warm-ish for the weekend.

Florian has spent years travelling all over the place and indeed, this year, drove to Montenegro to spend his holiday with his Russian girlfriend (who flies in — sensible girl). Yet, he has never been to England to sample the wonders of perfidious Albion. The first wonder is the beeping alarm at 0500 hours announcing the start of a new adventure.

Reaching Anton’s the first big decision had to be made. My father was ill and couldn’t make the journey down to Kent. Did we want to go up and see the folks in Slough. Anton was going to drive and it was a sunny morning, but the mere mention of the M25 makes me reach for the anti-depressants. But, the roads were clear and Florian got to see one of the true rarities of southern England — a motorway on which you could drive faster than 40 kph in the 130.

My dad was a lot better than he had been and was back on his feet after a bout of vertigo. Our presents were exchanged and I took possession of this year’s Christmas cake (which reminds me that I need to finish 2011’s). The visit also gave me the chance to see the new front room door and carpet that they have put in. Mother was happy and that is the important thing.

Returning to Kent, Debs had to prepare herself for the work’s dinner and we men went shopping. Replace the haggis, swede, parsnips, custard, chutney and all the other wee things that we cannot get in France. Beer was once again disappointing with no seasonal brews on sale. Some good deals on spirits though, so I shall be a merry bunny on the odd night.

On the way home we saw something that you just will not see in France.
A fox waiting to cross the road at the lights.

For once I had excelled myself and arrived with a shopping list. For Florian life was looking harder. How do you go shopping when you are not really sure what you want and for whom. It wasn’t until Sunday morning in Maidstone that he finally made a few purchases. Haven’t been there in years and it was looking pretty good. The old Fremlin’s Brewery has been turned into yet another shopping precinct but it is well done and there was a good selection of things to spend your money on.

You would wonder how the likes of High Street chains such as Waterstone’s or HMV make a profit in the face of on-line competition. Oh but hang on. Amazon don’t manage to make much of a profit either according to their tax returns ! We didn’t stop for a Starbuck’s coffee either.

Hannah and Alex joined us for Sunday lunch, trebling the amount of mashed potato required and the only concession to the season was that mince pies and pudding were offered after the beef stew. Florian very graciously asked for mince pies despite the fact he neither likes them or Christmas pudding. He was much more smiley face when he discovered that there was cinnamon cake as well.

Time to pack the car and head for the train. An easy drive for me but Florian still had a couple of hours ahead of him on the way back to Lille. ‘Tis but a trifle for someone who drives to the Balkans.

Posted : 15 December 2012

Travel, England