This is a recent pic of our campsite (La Sirene) - where are the tents?
To say I remember every detail would be a lie. I can’t remember the exact timing or the order of what Carol (I shall call her Carol because she said I should) and I had to do to make the trip happen.
We were lucky. The three month stay in France was a course requirement. I doubt whether I would have even thought of it had it not been. University itself was a joy. I could happily have stayed there forever. I had worked in London as a secretary and knew the taste of defeat and deadly routine.
University was about opportunity. A chance to add layers to my worth as a thinking human being. To learn and to excel. And to waste copious amounts of time.
France was just the jewel in the crown. And with my best friend – who could ask for more?
At the time, I had a room in Horwood hall at Keele University – a beautiful place with its own lakes and swans and gothic building (where I studied English Literature).
What was it like?
What was I like?
It’s difficult to really pin any of this down. But I shall try.
I have pictures from around that time. I wore floral summer dresses and strappy sandals. My hair was, as you can see from the first post, long and blond. Not naturally blond, but not yet ruined. I favoured a fringe, little makeup, and went to yoga classes at the gym.
I adored the sun and there was precious little of it at Keele or in Shropshire. So, a trip to France would sort out the summer months. I wouldn’t have to spend it on top of a mountain in Wales, where my father ran the accommodation and catering for The Midland Gliding Club. Hooray.
Carol and I ate rice pudding and jam and talked about where we should head for. What I remember most was the never-ending gush of possibilties. And the fact that we and only we would be deciding which ones to choose.
It was easy in the end. The South of France was irresistible as a destination. I had already been to St. Tropez on a fortnight’s camping trip with my boyfriend.
Is that the way it works?
You think you are being original and daring, but you are simply opting for a bit more of what you have already experienced?
Neither of us had any knowledge of the glamorous venues all along the Mediterranean coast. They were just names on a map. St. Tropez had yachts and street artists. Bars and music. It was a place where film stars and pop singers spent their hols. Sting might even be there.
We bought our InterRail tickets and set off one day in late June with a vague idea of where we might end up.
And, this is the point. Excitement and adventure, at least for me, had to have a huge random element.
I was beginning, reluctantly, to understand my son’s dream of a gap year in Australia. Only beginning. I still thought it would probably not happen. There were, there are, so many ways it could fall through, or at least be postponed...
He would have to save an enormous amount of money, which meant, means, he would, will, have to find a job here in France. And he’s only seventeen. Surely he’ll have to wait until he’s eighteen to earn money? After all, this is France – the land of rules and regulations.
I was still convincing myself that he would decide not to go. Or that something would stop him.
I felt mean. But worry and fear still had me gripped.
I would have to rejoin the Bev that didn’t care about danger or insect bites or flooded tents or insurance, or anything much at all except being truly alive and kicking.
The Bev that arrived at a campsite in Argeles-sur-mer with a rucksack on her back and no idea of having to book a pitch in high season.