It is 52 days since I last wrote a blog post. That is one day for every week of the year. Or one day for every card in a standard deck. Or one day for every white key on a piano. Or one day for every year in the Mayan Calendar Round. Clearly 52 is a very significant number and, clearly, I only see patterns in everything because they are really there.
So… after 52 days of Not Writing blog posts, and 52 days of thinking I may very well Never Write Another blog post ever again, what unusual occurrence has brought about this 53rd-day change of heart?
The answer to that intriguing question, Dear Readers, is Colin.
Colin and his mate Kev were the first instalment of the 2011 series of The Blanchetière Summer Visitors. They arrived in an unfurious flurry of motorbikes and damp weariness on Friday evening, a little later than predicted, but not at all later than expected, courtesy of an extended, rainy motorway detour, resulting from an inevitable error in the Colin/Satnav interface. Being utterly certain that such a misrouting would occur, I had left all the pre-visitor preparations to the last minute – knowing that it wouldn’t really be the last minute at all. So, I was in the caravan bemoaning our lack of grown-up bed linen, and fighting with the table that I needed to extract from its stubborn groove on the caravan wall, so it could be magically transformed into a bed, when my mobile phone clamoured for attention. It was Colin, asking (as always) for directions.
When we were younger, so much younger than today, we never needed anybody’s help in any way. Unlike Colin, who always did, when it came to getting anywhere. One time, when groups of us from various UK locations were on our way to a Champagne Motorbike Rally in Epernay, we agreed to meet at Dover and get the same ferry crossing, so we could travel down through France en-glorious-masse. (After all, what’s the point in riding a motorbike if you can’t spend all your time on it trying to keep up with guy in front, whilst watching out for laughable blunders to provide piss-taking opportunities at the next coffee and disgusting-fast-food stop?) We arrived at Dover in dribs and drabs, and as the time for the ferry departure approached, Colin had still not appeared. Where the hell was he? His brother, brimming with familial love and concern, informed us that ‘Dipstick’ had rung him a bit ago in a panic, asking if he was supposed to go left or right round the M25.
So, it was no surprise to me that Colin would, at some point on this journey, ring us to ask for directions. Colin thought he must have gone wrong somewhere. The road signs were saying one thing and his satnav was saying something else. I asked him where he was (Exit 17 on the A10), told him to stay where he was while I went back to the house to look at a map, and that I would ring him back. Just then Simon returned from his rubbish-dumping trip to the tip, and I informed him of the current state of affairs.
“Where is he?”
“He’s at Exit 17 on the A10”
“Um.. on the A10, at Exit 17” Clearly I was failing to make myself understood but I simply couldn’t think of another way of saying it.
“He can’t be. That makes no sense.”
I snorted derisively. It made perfect sense. This was Colin we were talking about. “Well, that’s what he said. A10. Exit 17”
“No no. That can’t be right.” Simon’s certainty of the impossibility of the specified location began to make me doubt my verbatim recall abilities.
“I’m pretty sure that’s what he said.” I repeated, with a hint of back-track paving the way for a vaguely-possible admission of wrongness. “He’s waiting for me to ring him back with directions. But since you’re here now, you’d better do it.”
Simon took up his customary position in front of the computer, and searched for the last email he had sent Colin, with the detailed instructions of the route to our house from Le Havre. I imagined Colin and Kev huddled under the dubious shelter of the dripping branches of a solitary tree overhanging a dismal lay-by in the middle of a flat and cabbage-smelling nowhereness, waiting for our call.
“I think you should ring him now” I suggested, as Simon’s slow thoughtfulness pushed my sense of urgency to an even higher level.
“I’m just trying to understand where he went wrong. I can’t see how he can have got lost”
“It doesn’t matter where or how he went wrong. What matters is how he gets here from where he is now. Can’t you just ring him and tell him the way from Exit 17?”
“Look! I don’t even know where Exit 17 is” Simon was beginning to be irritated by my haranguing tone. I wasn’t helping.
I peered over his shoulder at the map of a million roads on the big screen. Simon was tracking the A10 south, way past the point where Colin should have joined the A71, which would have delivered him effortlessly to our neck of the woods.
“Ah ha! There it is. Blois.”
It wasn’t so bad. He had only gone 30 or so miles on the wrong motorway. Simon rang him back and told him what towns to enter into his satnav. And he told him to do what the satnav says, even if signs and intuition suggest otherwise, because that’s what satnavs are for.
Well, obviously, they got here in the end. And after a brief resting period drinking beer and wine, and discussing the oh-too-frequently unacquired taste of olives, Colin mentioned that he couldn’t wait to meet the llamas. So off we all trotted, bouncy dogs in tow, to do the rounds and make the introductions. And Colin asked Duc and Valentine if they knew they were famous, and told them that he had seen their pictures on the blog. And Duc and Valentine said “Stop rambling man, and give us some more food” And Ana gave Colin a kiss, because Ana is easy and Anna is anybody’s. And Lenny COULD NOT BELIEVE there were EVEN MORE people taunting him over the gate and trifling with his women, and – WHAT’S THIS? Residing – yes ACTUALLY RESIDING NEXT TO HIM – in that weird caravan thing just the other side of his fence.
And later, after more wine and dinner, and more wine and Rennies, Colin and Kev retired to the caravan, to sleep the knackered-and-heartburny sleep of the righteous, beneath the manly winnie-the-pooh duvets – Colin vowing that he would be up bright and early in the morning, “because he is always up by seven”.
The next morning – some time very considerably after seven, or eight, or nine – found us discussing What To Do with the remainder of the weekend visit. I reminded Colin that I had clearly warned him, before he booked his trip, that we live in the Middle of Nowhere, where Nothing Happens, and there is Nothing To Do. Kev suggested we might google ‘Things To Do in the Allier’, like he often googles ‘Things To Do in Warwickshire’ (only to be disappointed to discover that he has Done Them All already). But the sun came out, and the minutes turned to hours, and somehow it seemed that we had decided to do what everyone decides to do when they visit us here in the Middle of Nowhere where there is Nothing To Do. Because actually, after not very long, it becomes evident that Doing Nothing is a Very Nice Thing To Do Indeed.
So it transpired that, apart from one trip to the Boulangerie to buy bread and cakes, and one evening trip to the nearest restaurant to sample the cooked local cow meat, our visitors did not venture beyond the enchanted realms of Blanchetière, or the shared avenues off Memory Lane, where we all met for the first time and laughed, and rode, and drank and laughed some more, and somehow got older, so much older than yesterday. And Simon began to wonder if maybe, one day, he might, after all, like to have a motorbike again. And I began to wonder if maybe, one day, we might all go to an MCN Spring Spectacular at Skeggy, again. And we all wondered if Jamie Whitham was still playing drums with The Po Boys. And with a slight shake of the head and a barely perceptible sigh, we all recognised the unspoken truth of the fact that All Things Must Pass.
But back in the present, we took lots of photos of bikers-with-llamas, and bikers-with-dogs, and bikers-with-bikes, and Colin and Kev left early enough on Sunday afternoon to ride up through France in the gaps between the rain clouds. And when Colin sent a text on Monday evening to inform us gleefully that they had made it home safe and sound, and NOT GOT LOST ONCE, he ended his text with “PS looking forward to the blog!!!”, thus forcing a sentimental rethink to my 52-day policy of non-blog-writing.
And, because I know Colin dearly wants to be every bit as famous as Duc and Valentine, and would be disappointed not to see pictures of himself Being Colin, here are some of the photos…