We’re home after three weeks away in England and France. The Gearhead and I planned this vacation over several years: a week in England visiting family and the London sites, then a train to Southern France to retrace the Gearhead’s boyhood summers for the benefit of our children [wife edits: and me too. I think.] Then, drive up to Paris for a day or two to catch a flight home.
Here’s the thing though, I failed to consider some essential – quel est le mot? – warnings – oui c’est vrai – into my romantic notions of our epic journey. Here they are in no particular order [wife edits: except the first one, yes, the first one is particularly poignant. I’m still in recovery. You can tell I’m stuttering. I will be for some time.]
1) The Gearhead, our two children, and I would be together every day, all day, and all night, for three weeks in increasingly tighter [wife edits: and more expensive] spaces, including a car [see number 2 below].
During the last 5 days of the trip the Gearhead told anyone and everyone who would listen [wife edits: mostly strangers] that he was suffering ill effects from too much time with his family. It was at the Paris airport where I finally rose? Risen? Became enlightened? You know, like the virgin Mary and her halo of gold? through my rage haze to quip to the official as we moved like cattle through the security check, that in actual fact it was the three of us who had to travel with Him. I said that in standard bastardized French. I’ve never seen a security official laugh. Or laugh so hard.
I even stopped worrying about the Bay leaves I was smuggling in my pocket.
Of course I waited to say it after the Gearhead passed through the metal detector gate and I was still on the “civilian” side. Space is defined differently when you travel. You could just shorten that to “civil”.
2) I was “The Navigator” for the trip [wife edits: yes, the capitalization is necessary]. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m actually a very good reader of maps with a good sense of direction. I won the orienteering award in grade eight for F$*k sake. But nothing spells distrust quite like navigation between husband and wife. Navigator = yell, argue, pray, scream, AND laugh maniacally at every roundabout we swing through. Oh, and yell at the children to BE QUIET! Mustn’t forget that memorable and charming detail of parenting prowess.
3) Pay attention when the Gearhead uses a map to locate the most curvaceous road possible to travel on. For fun. It would help if you have an elevation map for this type of “let’s plan a fun day” activity selection. I didn’t. This found us on the barrier free switchbacks of Mont Ventoux competing for space with a thousand cyclists from across the globe, most of them in their early seventies. Nothing feels more like sloth than sitting in the front seat of a car, watching an octogenarian talking on his cell phone as he pumps his pedals and steers elegantly round a sheep herd to continue up the 10+% grade.
It was worse coming down. I shrieked at the Gearhead not to drive so fast, we weren’t in the racecar! “But he’s catching up to me!” I managed to turn against the G-forces, expecting a second vehicle at our bumper, but no, it was another octogenarian on a bicycle ready to overtake us. We were travelling at 90 km hour.
It appears my list of warnings cannot be confined to a single blog post. Don’t worry, there will be others. I’ll leave you with the antidote though, should you find yourself on switchbacks, with your family, wearing The Navigator badge. I like to call it, The Ativan Stand-In, but most people just call it Pastis.
The best thing about this drink is that you’re the one in control of the strength and impact of this licorice flavoured deliverance. If you want a refreshing, gentle, pick me up, take a tall slim glass, throw in some ice cubes, add a finger of Pastis and top with chilled water. For a more immediate effect, take a tall slim glass, throw in some ice cubes, fill the glass half way – even two thirds of the way – with Pastis, consider adding water, then decide that the ice melting will be water enough. Revel in the symbolism and highly unlikely event that the ice will melt anytime soon. Make some passing pretentious reference to the subtle licorice notes clearing your nasal passages and enjoy the cool drink in the heat of Southern France. More to follow.