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night ferry

August 21, 2008

'I am starting to feel a little persecuted by you,' I say to the man in uniform who pulls me over in Portsmouth - the third time in two months.

Is there, I wonder, something about me, my ancient Golf or the shaggy black dog sitting in the passenger seat beside me that is sending red flags to HM Customs?

'I can assure you madam, we have millions of people who pass through here every day,' he replies stony-faced. 'We certainly don't have the time to single you out for special attention.'

I desist from pointing out that if millions of people are passing through the port everyday, it only makes it more extraordinary that I get stopped 75 per cent of the time.

Instead, I assume a serious expression while he asks me the usual questions: am I carrying an incendiary device? Explosives? An offensive weapon? Or large amounts of currency (I wish!) I answer meekly in the negative, feeling mildly irritated.

But there is a bright spot on the horizon as I join the queue to board the overnight ferry back to France. Walking Biff down the columns of cars in the darkness, I encounter an elegantly-dressed fellow traveller with a small terrier. We start chatting about the best place on the boat for pets (top tip: so far, the most tranquil spot I've found is the front of deck 5 on the Brittany Ferries vessel 'Normandy'.)

My new acquaintance seems particularly anxious about where she is going to eat breakfast on arrival and asks me if I know anywhere. I tell her that sadly, I don't. While the little port of Ouistreham is very big on moules frites, breakfast is less well catered for. She seems very disappointed by this news. Later, it all falls into place when I discover that she is a famous food writer.

She suggests that we meet up for dinner in the on-board restaurant. Even though it's nearly midnight by the time we board, I haven't eaten and so readily agree.

The food writer is excellent company and we sit in the restaurant for as long as possible - until 2.00am, when we are finally forced to leave.

Having both booked too late to get a cabin, we take our seats in the lounge surrounded by people trying to out-snore each other. The food writer is very organised with a little pillow, blanket and a selection of pashminas - one of which she kindly lends me, as I am not so well-prepared. (I've brought my ipod to block out the communal snore-in but not much else.)

The following morning - after agreeing that we must meet up for cocktails in London - the food writer heads off with her charming terrier and a cheery wave and I think how much nicer the journey was for having met her.

comments (1)

1. Posted by Rockfrog on September 3, 2008 7:59 PM

How often are you travelling through? It's probably the frequency that's making them suspicious.

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