To become a snail, when human, is quite a thing. To make one’s home mobile, and transport it to a new place, is yet another. To convey one’s family in the same frail shell is yet another permutation. One which I undertook in August, along with my wife and Four Year Old son. We went camping in the West of France, in Southernmost Brittany. One misty morning,  with a (most gratefully) borrowed tent and motley crew of equipment we set forth for Dover. None of us three Muskateers were really prepared for what ensued, because it was a leap in to the unknown. Alien. Though it proved to be both a wonderful holiday and an education, at almost every turn.

The intrigue and innovation began almost immediately. At Dover Dock, a scant 100 miles from home, my eyes were drawn inexorably  to a convoy of thrumming, cigar-shaped vehicles. Messhersmidt cars. Three wheeled post- war mechanical marvels from Germany. Here were seven adventurers,carrying, as Ralph McTell wrote ‘Their home in two carrier bags”. There was room for little else in the vehicles. If in doubt, look at the article image. Eyeballing these cylindrical marvels made me feel that my Renault Clio was a wasteful, luxuriant cruiseship, replete with all manner of surplus. An Orient Express of opulence.  Ashamed, I drove aboard the ferry.

Once En France, the drive to our South Brittany campsite was a reaffirmation of how insular and narrow our Grande Bretagne is. The UK is tiny. It is a craggy penninsular, though a beautiful and mysterious one at that. Our car carved accross the continent to arrive at a civilisation of hedge-rimmed encampments. A piechart of nationalities made up  our makeshift destination. A wonderful spectrum of French, German, Belgian, Dutch and English adventurers.

At first glance (and first impressions are the most important), I found  a  disparity between Nations. The English staked their claim to pre-marked pitches with windbreak-strewn markers aplenty. The French families arranged their whole encampments around the dinner table, occupying any lateral pitch available to facilitate multi-generational dining. Though my favourite visitors were the Dutch. Equipped for every eventuality and scrupulously calm. Having spent a week in a French campsite, it is my absolute conviction that a Dutch family could orchestrate a satellite government from  one trailer-tent pitch. The Dutch families are, for want of a better term, ‘tooled up’. With our rickety tent and makeshift camp,  can only contemplate what a sight our British encampment must have looked, a mere month after the lacklustre BREXIT vote. I hope we were  and positive neighbours.

© Tom Tide 2016

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