Last Wednesday, it was Britain’s hottest day since the heatwave of 1976. At 06:30, as we departed for the ferry, it rained. A lot. On the ferry it rained. A lot. And en route, a lot. We seemed to have exported British rain to Brittany, but at least it’s rain with roulade rather than rosbiff!
Kai had been unsettled by the journey and agreed to eat only when spoon fed. When we arrived, I took the pups for a long-awaited walk on the beach and through the forest. The scent of pine took me straight back – not just to our previous time here in Penthièvre (see our Postcard from Quiberon – Part 1 and Part 2.) It was as heady as the patchouli oil with which we used to douse ourselves when we all dressed as hippies in that heatwave of 1976!
We were in Quiberon once again with the Seavets; the Senior and Veteran Windsurfers – as I have said before, one of the most inspiring groups of people I have ever met!
Then summer suddenly arrived and we all got quite excited about the wind forecast. I got as far as putting my sail, board and mast on the grass. “I’ll just walk down to the shore and see what the wind is like” said Mark. He came back with the verdict “There’s NOTHING!” he said. “You’re joking!” “There is more wind here by the caravan than down on the shore!”
I sought to verify by standing and rubbing my chin amid a scatter of boards and sails on the beach with a group of Seavets, in true windsurfing fashion. “It was forecast to be 14kts!!!” I admonished Reality. “I always said that the collective noun for a group of windsurfers should be ‘An Optimism.’” The Seavets chortled resigned recognition.
Mark and I opted for Pups on SUPs and an attempt to visit Jope and Margaret, our Dutch friends from last year, who were pitched at the far end of the campsite. They looked surprised at the oceanic assault by two paddleboards, carrying 4 dogs in colourful life jackets and powered by two pasty English people. Ever the perfect hostess, Margaret didn’t bat an eyelid when four wet dogs disembarked their paddleboards and ran straight across her beach blanket, immediately smothering it with sand. Unruffled, she rapidly produced four frothy coffees and plates of delicious madeira cake, soaked with juicy, bittersweet, maraschino cherries.
We chatted and caught up with family news – new arrivals and sad departures, which makes us ever more sure that life is for living. Their gorgeous grand-daughter, whom we had met last year, had been spotted as a model. They showed us her picture in a magazine and told us that she was visiting Paris and Tokyo, although in between, she was busy finishing school and being a champion at hockey. Not bad at 17!
As we paddled back, we spotted The Optimism strung right across the bay to Carnac. Everyone was pumping their sails. It looked like hard work – it was nearly 30ºC and the sea was like a mirror. I went for a cooling swim and it felt like being in a massive infinity pool; the bay, like a huge bolt of sky-blue silk, rolled out its full length and shimmering into the distance.
“Can I borrow your stand up paddleboard? They’re stuck out there. Some of them are swimming.” We hastily assembled some washing line as a tow rope and I dispatched Mark on a SUP with a kayak paddle to effect an heroic rescue. The tide had started to ebb, which was carrying everyone further out to sea.
Mary hurried over “Can I ask a favour? Keith is stuck at Carnac. Could you go and get him with your van?” He had called from a borrowed phone, but when we rang back, the person on the other end just hung up! “I’m afraid he might leave the beach if the wind gets up.” We hastily exchanged phone numbers “Just call me if he comes back.” I called to Mary as I sped off to St Colomban, not feeling at all confident of finding “Un Anglais avec voile et planche” somewhere on the beach.
“You look like a man who could do with a lift!” I found Keith straight away near the windsurfing centre, sitting patiently on the wall with all his kit de-rigged! “I brought you some water!” He was parched. We got the kit on the roof and meandered back. It seemed that everyone had now returned home successfully. It always seems to happen on the night that they go out for a meal! (One previous year, a rescue of an 82-year old had been effected by a 78-year old on meal night!)
They all looked shattered (some of the guys and gals are in their 80s – I told you they are inspiring!) but their main concern was making sure they could have a shower and still get to the restaurant on time!
Eating out is not on our budget, so we didn’t join them. Mary kindly gave us a bottle of red, which we coiffed as we chatted, watching the sky turn softly pink as sun went down; a nearly full moon hanging bright in the sky above the bay.
I reflected on our friend Andrew’s charm offensive earlier (and yes, that is intended to be an oxymoron!)
“Are those highlights in your hair or are you just grey?”
He claimed not to understand what I meant when I told him that next time a lady asks him “Does this dress make me look fat?” the acceptable reply is “No!” – and he should under no circumstances follow up with “It’s not the dress that makes you look fat. It’s your backside, stomach and thighs.”
Andrew had taken me out on his quad bike earlier and admitted that with my reputation for bungee jumping, parachuting and embroidery, he HAD tried to scare me. “You coped quite well.” He conceded. “For your age!”
Next time, join us to see how a pedestrian pedal with pensioners might lead to a punch up in “Auray or Bust” – An Exercise in Combative Cycling for 80-Year Olds!!
To read a review of our wonderful campsite, right by the sea at Penthièvre, Brittany, click here.
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