I learnt many years ago that cars’ boots need to be in one of two states, completely full or completely empty. Any intermediate load state has whatever you are carrying sliding and banging about in a most annoying fashion. Slam the brakes on in an attempt to prove that you can still perform an emergency stop and your load slides forward into the seat backs. Thump! Accelerate hard, if you have the luxury of a sufficiently powerful engine, and your load slides backwards into the tailgate. Bang! Corner at anything more than a dawdle and your load slips sideways and crashes into the rear wheel arch, in whichever direction you’ve turned the steering wheel. Crash! If you’re like us, your partial load will contain a 6-bottle wine carrier which not only slips but inevitable topples over sending your latest taste bud ticklers rolling independently all over the boot. Hopefully, the bottles don’t break.
On Tuesday we’re trying something new; we’re off to Spain again, this time on the ferry to Bilbao with our car and a whole bunch of stuff to equip Casa Libélule. Fortunately, from our days of skiing, we are the proud owners of a streamlined roof box intended for skis and the like. In this case, it is very useful for transporting bedding, pillow protectors, towels, bed throws (in case things get cold at night) and some very natty dragonfly-embroidered seat cushions. There’s also three bottles of rapeseed oil [don’t ask!] Honestly, you’d think certain basics were unavailable in Spain. I crammed the roof box – there was no need to use the thoughtfully provided securing straps that stop the load sliding about [take note, car designers] and just about managed to get the lid of the roof box shut.
All the heavier items were destined for the boot of the car. We had saucepans, fish kettle, kitchen knives, cutlery set, measuring jugs, mugs, two sets of crockery, two suitcases full of clothes (to leave out there), toolbox, cordless drill, hefty camp chairs (for use until our proper chairs get delivered), coat hangers, nature books, cookery books, two laptops, two camera rucksacks, inkjet printer, a full-sized tripod bag, together with assorted smaller items, most important of which might be a teapot and teabags for Francine’s morning cuppa – oh, and two cartons of Tena for Men (level 1, since you asked). Glaringly obviously, this little lot wasn’t going to fit just the boot of our car, so the back seats got flattened for an increased loading area. After a fair amount of juggling and reorganizing, not only did I get it all in but I got it all in such that none of the potential problems mentioned in paragraph one [q.v.] were in any danger of causing the driver any bumping and thumping irritations whatsoever. And just to prove it, here’s the beast ready to go, apart from the black cover to “hide” everything. Check out the Union Flag carrier bag.
We hit the road as planned at midday, almost precisely. We aimed Sally Satnav II- new model with new maps purchased specifically for this voyage – at the Travelodge at Portsmouth, Hilsea, and quickly switched her into French to stop the annoying use of road names we had no clue about. Off we set. French Sally Satnav II is very quiet – we had to wind the volume up but she was still quiet. Maybe I’ll get used to a quiet female voice? Nah, not a chance! Just as we set off, it started spitting with rain. We were not sorry to be leaving.
Sally got us to our Travelodge soon after 2:15 and, not yet being able to check in, we wasted a good portion of the dull afternoon in the neighbouring Toby Carvery pub/restaurant [term used loosely]. A couple of pints of Brakespeare went down well – down me, that is, two glasses of vino went down Francine.
The weather being as it was, dull, grey and decidedly uninspiring, we took the lazy way out for dinner and indulged in the best that a Toby Carvery has to offer. What it has to offer is essentially, roast meat, roast meat, roast meat or roast meat, the four roast meats in question being pork, gammon, turkey and beef. It matched the weather’s level of inspiration. However, with a plateful of food costing a mere £6.29, at least you couldn’t complain that you’d been ripped off. It was perfectly edible if unscintillating.
Francine’s face was a picture during our meal. I should explain: for your £6.29 investment, you get a portion-controlled but reasonably sized portion of whatever roast meats you choose, including one or two (your choice again) sizable Yorkshire puddings, followed by as many of their self-serve vegetables [carrots, pees – i.e. baby food – plus roast potatoes] as you can pile onto your plate. The amount of vegetables that all our fellow diners could pile on top of their slices of roast meat beggared belief – mountains of baby food, Yorkshire puds and roast potatoes were being gleefully carried back to the tables surrounding us. After the first demolition job, if you still had un petit coin remaining unfilled, you could return for another plateful of vegetables. My three roasties, one of which I did not eat, looked pathetically modest in such company.
It was a strangely different world but quite clearly a popular different world because business was brisk – and this, a Monday night.
I dread to think how much more such adept plate-loading diners could have crammed into my car’s boot. I should think I’d be regarded as an amateur by comparison.