Rock The Boat
Picture a ferry boat slowly pulling away from the south-east coast of Ireland. A day in July that is shedding light drizzle, not cold, just a little windy. Picture a woman sitting on a red tub chair in the ferry lounge, staring out over the sea at the receding sand-dunes, port and the Irish shoreline. A woman more than herself- seven months pregnant to be exact. A swollen ankle relieved by placing her foot atop the chair in front of her. The foot at the end of the non-swollen ankle planted firmly on the heavily patterned carpet. This was me and this was the exact moment between my old life and a new one about to unfold.
When I look back over the last few years of life here in France, it feels as if I’ve been running around and getting to grips with things. But that moment sitting in that lounge, really stands out in my memory as a moment of deep respiration and a moment spent completely in the present. In that moment I literally had nothing else to do except sit still in that tub chair. Everything that we were bringing with us to France had been packed up for transportation (more about that later!). Everything we had decided to sell had been sold (in hindsight we could have rid ourselves of more). Outstanding bills were paid, papers were stamped and au revoirs were said. Our car was parked in the belly of the ferry beast. Our crazy dog was settled in the kennels in a lower hold (after he had managed to unlock his crate and make a dash for it back down the gangway. We think he was making a last minute attempt to run back to Ireland and the stunning wolfhound he had become besotted with and had to leave behind. A final demonstration of love!)
In the lounge cocooned by that tub chair, waiting for my partner and daughter to come back from their deck excursion, my mind closed a little. I paralysed all fears, excitement, anticipation and longing for adventure. In that instant what would be, would be. There was no turning back and there was no approaching faster the shores of France. I felt suspended- hovering between what had ceased to be and what had not yet begun.
On the whole the crossing itself wasn’t too difficult except for one hairy patch before dark mid-way. Just as we were trying to navigate our way to our cabin to bed down for the night, the sea became a little rough. I reminded myself of one of those children’s wobbling toys. The ones with the ball-shaped bases that bob from side to side. I was grasping at any stable object for balance, looking oh-so-top-heavy with my big baby bump! As soon as we reached the cabin, exhaustion took over and we slept like babies.
We had set our alarm to awaken an hour before we were due to arrive in Cherbourg. The plan was to have everything organised, drive calmly off the boat and stop for a relaxed breakfast on the other side. Ha Ha bloody Ha! True to form, we slept through the alarm and awoke to the captain’s voice on the tannoy, announcing our imminent arrival and calling on everyone to make their way back to their vehicles for embarkment. For us, a mad scramble ensued. Not funny, seeing a heavily pregnant woman scramble about with only half of her waking wits about her (well maybe it could have been a little bit funny). We managed to leg it down to the hold, grab the dog, check that our bikes were securely fastened to the car and off we went. Our daughter was literally packed into the back seat of the car, with all of the pillows we ever owned, stacked around her like a fortress (crazy, pregnant, hormonal decision had been taken to bring them all with us in the car!)
We lurched off to the mainland, a little dazed, a lot emotional. Looking back I’m very happy we arrived in the morning. I love French mornings- people are at their busiest, setting themselves about the tasks of the day, of which lunch preparation is generally the most important. We had left a soft Irish day (that means gentle rain) and arrived into the warm Brittany sunshine. We drove slowly and meandered through tiny villages until we found ourselves a spot with a pretty village square. We parked the car, shared a smile, stretched our legs and settled on the terrace of a typical village bar/cafe for the first French breakfast of many. Thus the French adventure began………..