The great John Lennon wrote ‘life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans’, and never has this been more true than in the last few months. Let me explain.
The last time you heard from me, we were pooltling up through France with a limping RV and a sense of desperation. We were hurrying to get back to the UK to find out what was wrong with our vehicle, but because of various attempts to get it fixed en route, we did pause briefly at some lovely places.
Beaune has a fantastic old hospital that was built in 1443 by Nicholas Rolin, the Chancellor of Burgundy. This was a man determined to get himself and his family into Heaven, and the way he saw to do that was through charity to the poor. But not for him a few token donations, oh no – he went the full monty and built this extraordinary and thoughtful building.
He deliberatly chose a wealthy town with lots of benefactors he could sting for money, and provided private rooms that they could pay for when they themselves were sick. He located the courtyard of the hospital over a river so that there was always clean water available, and oversaw the design of every single detail, down to the silver cups the patients drank from.
He used a gifted vineyard to produce wine that is still auctioned every year to cover the running costs, and established a religious order so that the nuns could care for the sick (they were also tasked with baking 80 loaves of bread at five every morning to distribute to the poor).
He established a state-of-the-art pharmacy, and had it written into the charter that only his family, or people nominated by his family (commoners included) could run the hospital, denying any chancer from the opportunity of using it to turn themselves a profit. But the main principle was that no-one, however poor, was to be denied treatment.
The hospital ran until the 1970’s, but it’s now a museum (the patients transferred to a more modern hospice), and I hope Rolin and his family are where they wished to be.
Slightly further north, Pierrefonds Castle is so perfect it doubled as Camelot in the TV series of Merlin, as well as featuring in Highlander and The Man in the Iron Mask.
Originally built in the twelfth century it did it’s job and got besieged, falling so elegantly into ruin that, in 1832, Leopold de Saxe-Coburg Gotha, the first King of the Belgians, got married there. And when Napoleon III visited in 1850 he quickly ordered it to be ‘restored’ as his summer residence, although ‘reimagined’ would be a better term.
The castle overlooks a cute little town built around a boating lake, so it is definitely worth a quick visit.
Anyway, we had no luck solving our motor problems, so we struck off to the excellent Baie de Somme Aire for our last night, and took the Eurotunnel home.
BACK IN THE UK
One of our new campsite mates had told us about Doctor Dave, an RV fixing legend from up near Wolverhampton, so we booked Georgie in with him for a full medical. Knowing this would take some time, we’d arranged to visit relatives while Dave fiddled about in Georgie’s oily bits.
This was all planned by me with military precision. I’d booked Airbnb’s, and contacted everyone we wanted to visit, found out when they were available, and then worked out a logical sequence of travel. Steve hates all this, so I spent days sorting it for us.
But that Lennon-y thing about life? Well, this is where PLANS and LIFE really started to fall out.
I should have been warned when I spent some time with Sky, my little toddler granddaughter. She’d become fascinated with my glasses and asked me what they were for. I said that Nana’s eyes didn’t work very well and they needed some help. She considered this carefully for some minutes, then came to the obvious conclusion – ‘You’re broken’, she said. And I stupidly thought she just meant my eyes.
To start with, we’d dropped Nibbles, my smart car, into our usual place for MOT with ‘Uncle’ Chris, but then she failed on emissions. Several times. We had to a ask the question, was the car actually worth getting a new catalytic converter? And we decided that ok, yes, better the devil you know. So a new one was ordered and would arrive in time to be fitted just before we left the UK again.
We hired a car, and checked on Georgie – Doctor Dave reckoned she was probably ok now, but he’d never found what the problem was. He’d found lots of other potentially bad problems and fixed them tho, so it was all good.
Time was now running short and the car finally got through it’s MOT. We picked it up and my first thought was, ‘what the fuck have you done to my car?‘ She drove like a mule whilst making a noise like a steamroller. Then she started conking out and losing power, just like Georgie. Oh no, no, no. Back she went to Uncle Chris at the garage. He ‘fixed’ it twice more, but still the problem kept recurring.
Steve collected Georgie and put her in storage nearby to us, where he met Nerdy Chris, another car nut. He said he’d take a look at Nibbles for us and give us a second opinion.
Well he was horrified at the work that had been done. He could see what the problem was and could fix it, but in his view, we probably hadn’t needed a new Cat Converter anyway, as a sensor was disconnected and giving false readings. It was a total botch-job, and there was stuff all over the place.
We had now paid more than the car was worth to have it fixed by Crappy (no more Uncle) Chris, and then we shelled out some more so that Nerdy Chris could sort it. Finances were becoming a major concern.
But we have always been lucky, and it didn’t desert us now. Steve got offered the chance of 3-6 months contract work back at his old workplace in Bristol. Yippee – that would sort us out and take up the deficit. Plus, our old neighbours, near Bath, very, very kindly offered us somewhere to stay while he worked (we couldn’t stay in Georgie because most campsites move you on after a month, and our home address in Southend was too far away). We were able to repay their hospitality a bit by dog-sitting for them when they went on holiday to Oz.
So now we were temporarily benched. I got this feeling though, a very strong intuitive sense, that there was a reason why we were supposed to be in Britain at this time, and I waited for it to manifest itself.
A check-up at the doc’s revealed that my blood pressure had shot up: was this the reason? So that I had time to get down to my Healing Centre at Queen Camel and get some work done on myself? I’d certainly felt pretty rough since that drive up from Greece through the snow, and my CFS was in overdrive, so maybe.
Then my eldest son, Joe, came and asked for help to sort out some issues in his own life. Was this it, perhaps? So that I could be nearby to give him the support he needed?
I found out the reason on the morning of 31st July, when Steve got a couple of texts from Sam, our youngest son. They read:-
‘Broke my back last night’
I mean WTAF!!!!
He’d had too much to drink (yes, I know – we’ve all been there) and thinks he was trying to find a shortcut home. Anyway, he remembers hanging off some railings, when he lost his grip and dropped 30 feet. He fell long enough to consider, ‘this is further than I expected, I should have landed by now’! Thankfully, because of his rag-doll drunkenness, he bounced at the bottom and, although he burst a Thoracic Vertebrae, his spinal cord was uninjured.
He will fully recover – but he’ll be in pain, fairly incapacitated, and in a back brace for some time. Almost exactly the amount of time that we’ll be in Britain for, in fact, because he currently needs someone to put his socks on for him, etc. Mystery solved.
He’s making good progress, but it is slow. This is him now, in the steampunk corset. And quite possibly high on painkillers.
Of course, being young, tech-savvy, bed-bound and bored witless, the first thing he said to me was, ‘your blog looks awful’ (and I am para-phrasing). I accept that I am not exactly cutting-edge in my thinking, and I definitely struggled when he gave me a questionnaire asking how I defined my brand and saw it’s location in the market place. Then he said a lot of things that involved acronyms and initials (in capital letters, obviously) and I pretended to understand.
The upshot of this is that my next blog posting will have a new look, and maybe a new address to boot. I will let you all know if the details change, but until then, thanks for reading, and happy autumn to you all. Ciao xx