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October 11, 2009

le%20havre%20ferry.jpgI roll off the overnight ferry to a moody morning in Le Havre. The sky is as many shades of grey as the Dior boutique in Paris but a pale, buttermilk sun is slowly floating up the horizon.

This weekend, I was invited, avec copain, on a press trip to the Cote d'Azur to drive a Maybach Zeppelin (I've no idea what this is but it sounds impressive) and could be motoring along under a pool blue sky right now. Unfortunately I had to decline in favour of driving an ancient - perhaps I should say 'vintage'? - Golf back to the UK for an MOT and tax disc. (I know, I know I should get round to registering it in France but it requires a new set of headlights and seven different documents, only two of which I have.)

As I fly south along the grey autoroute, the sun bleaches out the surrounding countryside, making it look like an overexposed photograph and I am at times momentarily blinded as a mass of diffused lemon light fills the windscreen. But I've come to the conclusion that I'm happiest in transit, travelling to or from somewhere.

In a new book, 'Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlives' the author David Eagleman imagines that in the afterlife, you relive all your experiences but with all the events shuffled into a new order, so that similar moments are grouped together. This means that 'you sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes... spend eighteen months waiting in line.... fifteen months looking for lost items' and 'you take all your pain at once, all twenty-seven intense hours of it.'

If so, I'm destined to spend several years sailing up and down the A13 and A28 between Poitiers and the ferry port in Le Havre. This doesn't bother me. I love doing this journey. For large stetches north of Tours, you have the motorway entirely to yourself. No suicidal drivers appearing out of nowhere in your rear windscreen with a hand-held mobile clamped to their ear, tailgating you at 120 km/per hour. It's (almost) worth the €80 in tolls that it costs round trip just for that.

Only one thing could improve the experience. If Cofiroute, which runs the autoroutes, would plant a few trees in its aires de repos or rest areas, so that you can stop to sleep for half an hour without being fried alive by that powerful sun - there is rarely any shade in the service areas - then I'd feel I was really getting value for money.

comments (4)

1. Posted by Anna on October 11, 2009 3:30 PM

Yes, I agree about the spaces in between. I love leaving, finishing, ending, completing - and then moving on... and the thrill is at its highest before I arrive at the next thing. Is there a name for this condition - shall we start a club?

2. Posted by mimi pompom on October 11, 2009 3:48 PM

Dear Anna

I think we should! We just need to think of a name for it. I agree that the thrill is at it's highest on the threshold of a new experience, place, person or thing. Another trait would be borderline euphoria at packing up your possessions ready to leave (or maybe that's just me). It must be a condition. I wonder if fear of staying in one place has a recognised name?

Mimi x

3. Posted by Ann De Bretange on October 12, 2009 11:49 PM

I know what you mean about being happiest on the move or in transit, If I don't have any forthcoming trips arranged I get quite alarmed and have to get something planned and booked up so that I have something to look forward to. My work involves a fair amount of driving to different locations, I make some of my most 'life changing decisions' on those drives ( judging by the number of scrapes and dents in my car perhaps I should concentrate on the driving more!!!) They say moving house is one of the most stressful things we do in life, I have to say I find it exciting, I get a thrill from packing up and moving to a new house, it's a good opportunity to de-clutter!! The thought of living in the same place for ever is quite terrifiyng. Also the thought of all our life events being carried out in order in after live is a bit scary!! imagine as you say all those years of travelling 'very exhausting!!' years of looking for keys and specs!! and imagine years of rows with ex's!!!

4. Posted by Alex (in Bretagne) on October 13, 2009 8:07 AM

Mon Dieu how could you forego swanning around in a large piece of German automotive engineering in favour of a schlep to the UK to get a tax disc and MOT? Go to the Prefecture and re-register your Golf this minute as aside from preventing know-all ex-pats telling you all about how you're not integrating, breaking the law, ad nauseum, you'll also be saving yourself all that annoyance, and money, and be open to further opportunities for swooshing about in other people's cars.

And of course, it will mean your collected experience of waiting in MOT centres will be greatly reduced.

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