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My old Vectra - better than you'd think

Part One: Vectravating

<< Back to the Introduction

Day One: Norfolk

Mission planning in Adrian's kitchen
Mission planning in Adrian's kitchen

Over to Martin’s house to pick up the jerry cans, luggage and Kaz’s survival kit. Kaz is Martin’s significant other, and this survival kit’s typical of her gloriously mad understanding of the world. She hands me a party bag in which I find: 

  • Two bars of Green & Black’s chocolate
  • A toilet roll
  • Some moist wipes
  • A ballpoint pen
  • A notepad
  • Four party poppers
  • A balloon
  • A puzzle book

If she’d been Scott’s quartermaster in 1911, Amundsen wouldn’t have stood a chance. Martin makes one of his epic curries and we lay plans for an early start tomorrow.

Eiffel Tower

Day Two: Norfolk to Paris

The squirrels in the loft go on duty at 5.30am. I was ready for an early start, but now I’m contemplating lingering over a fried rodent sandwich with my Shredded Wheat. We load the jerrycans, luggage and the 231 CDs required for the journey into my Vectra and I’m ready to go. For this first leg, Martin and Adrian are flying RyanAir to Bergerac so as to be fresh and rested for their own flight. So I set off for Dover.

No major dramas ensue and I’m sitting in the disabled lane at the Channel Tunnel. Disabled? Well, doesn’t an inability to understand road signs count? I limp convincingly to cover the error and am allowed onto the train.

As evening falls, hunger sets in. Time for one of those famous French gastronomic delights. Trying to explain vegetarianism in pidgin French requires a certain degree of indulgence from the restaurateur. But I’m an Englishman, I’m not far from Paris, and therefore deserving of punishment. I’m rewarded with a plate of dry tagliatelle. And I thought renaissance was a French word.

Hotel Formule 1
Formule 1 publicity shot. The reality is worse

Now to find a picturesque auberge. Or not. There was an appalling song in the 80s called “Tom Tom Turn Around” by, I think, some curly-haired porn stars called New World. Over the next hour I find myself humming it as the computerised lady in the dashboard constantly repeats “Turn around when possible”. TomTom obviously developed their European mapping as part of the 1944 invasion force. Update now a trifle overdue. At somewhere around midnight I give up and install myself in one of Hotel Formule 1’s hard plastic cupboards.


Day Three: Paris to Berdoues

A word about Vauxhall Vectras. Ignore Clarkson, they’re an underrated gem. This one is the 3.2 GSi and it’s long-legged, comfortable, quiet and just plain sorted. So yah boo to you, you self-opinionated, pube-haired, nicotine-marinated Munster (says one of your biggest fans). Even after an uneasy night on a Formule 1 shelf there’s a pleasant absence of NBS (numb bum syndrome) as I pull, scratching at suspicious bite-like lumps, into Bergerac International Airport, comfortably on time to meet the boys.

Bergerac is an international airport in the same way that a Shepherds Bush flat is surprisingly spacious. If it were a garden, the estate agents would describe it as easily maintained. Signs outside proudly announce that a new arrivals hall is to be built, presumably in a larger tent.

Watching a RyanAir 737 braking on a runway shorter than my front drive is a spectacle to be viewed from outside the aeroplane. There’s a slight delay when it gets caught at the traffic lights in a nearby village.

Apart from minor whiplash injuries, Mart and Adrian have had a comfortable flight. Their last for some time I suspect. A couple of hours’ gentle cruising along French by-roads and we meet Jean - who owns the Cub’s home hangar - opposite the church in Berdoues. He leads us to his superb house on a private air park. Here we meet up with Ully Schuhmacher, the Cub’s current owner, and Jean’s wife Mary.Mary has diction from Brief Encounter and vocabulary from The Commitments. She doesn’t completely approve of Martin’s and my choice of diet, “Oh my God, you f****ng vegetarians, what the f*** do you eat?” Adrian’s pleas of dietary conformity don’t do the job, and he’s condemned to joining us.

The first course is an exceptional home-made minestrone. This is accompanied by a mélange of basil and garlic. Magnificent. What was she worrying about? Can’t wait for the main course…

You just ate it. Several bottles of wine later I go to bed and eat the duvet.

Day Four >>

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