The Road To Normandy


The first part of this summer story starts in 1981

Normandy Miscellany

Welcome to Normandy 1

We’re supposed to be going our summer holidays in Normandy

Going a motoring holiday in France with mum. (We called them motoring holidays back then, nowadays you might call it a road trip, and the way the world is going it’s gonna be the end of the road for the road trip.)

I’ve nipped round to see Paul (Our neighbour four doors down) . We’re sitting in his kitchen drowning in tea and suffocating in clouds of smoke. I’m smoking Gauloises, ‘cos nobody else at school smokes them, and I’ll do anything to be different, ‘cos that’s the way it is when you’re young, you wanna exist. 

“You driven round France then?”  I ask Paul

“Yeah drove all round, west to east, side-to-side. from, never done top to bottom though. Never been south 

“You must have seen loads though.”

Paul rolled himself a cigarette. He rolled them thin and mean like he’d been in prison or something 

“Didn’t see much” he said presently. “Don’t see much when you’re driving a tank. Eyes on the road, staring through a small slit, and always some bastard trying to kill ya.”

Paul started his road trip in Normandy and finally ended up in Germany

“Normandy’s nice. You’ll like Normandy” says Paul

Sherman Turret

So, we got off in Le Havre. Mum didn’t like le Havre though. We drove to a hotel in Dieppe Mum didn’t like the Hotel – shared toilet on the landing, dirty bedding and chipped crockery at breakfast. She told the owner. “I want a refund” she screamed in her shrill indignant tones. The manager groaned and grumbled and shrugged his shoulders and (from what I could understand with my schoolboy French), he told us to F***, which we did. Mum drove our rickety old Renault 6 as far as she could until it broke down near Macon, in the Burgundy region.

A well-worn mechanic, (with a smoking Gauloises seemingly glued to his lower lip), walked around the car several times. He stared in the motor, he kicked the tyres, he opened and closed all the doors, he sat in the driver’s seat and tried to start the car. He called over an identical, well-worn fuming grease monkey, for a second opinion. They grumbled and groaned and grunted in their gruff guttural phlegmy Gauloises French, then told mum that her car didn’t work (I had enough school French to understand that) 

After more lengthy gesticulating  conversations, I ascertained that the car was very broken and it would need a new part  and it would take a week to fix. (and I was dying for a cigarette, but mum doesn’t know I smoke, that’s why I go round Paul’s house)

Ok. Guess the holiday is gonna be here in Macon.  Welcome to Normandy

Iconic cliff at Etretat