Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that. Bill Shankly
We had no internet and no TV reception. Last night, we had driven thirty fruitless miles in two directions to try to find a bar showing the France / Belgium World Cup Semi Final. We didn’t try watching the game via the free WiFi at reception. Someone had been ridiculed for even making that suggestion.
Although when Mark had gone up to use the free WiFi to check the result, he found our new Dutch friends and the French family next door all watching the game live on their iPads!
However, on Match Day; England vs Croatia in the World Cup Semi Final, Mark was taking no chances. He had his eye firmly on the ball and been up to reception several times to test the WiFi signal. He affirmed that he had made connection with the BBC.
We were off grid, so he had drained the caravan leisure battery completely by using the power inverter to ensure that his laptop battery was fully charged. At 19:45, with 15 minutes to kick off, we successfully watched Johnnie Wilkinson, Anthony Joshua and Prince Andrew assuring the England team that “It’s coming home.”
Mark nipped back to the caravan to get his lucky England shirt. The match started and the computer screen froze. I won’t go into the reaction that this provoked, but I will leave the follow up to your imagination when the screen unfroze to show Trippier’s goal celebration!
Then it froze again, just in time for the replay.
We were in the Puy de Dôme, an area renowned for lentils and volcanoes. Mark was about to add a third potential source of fulmination. My suggestion that “The signal might be better inside reception” received the sort of reaction that one might expect had I ignited the blue touch paper on a Big Bahooma Mine using napalm.
Inside reception, the screen froze. I took a photo. “We’ll laugh about this one day!” I trilled. “It will NEVER be funny.” Mark growled.
We tried both of our laptops. We tried re-loading the catchup TV. I went and sat outside in the evening sunshine, sensing that my mere presence, never mind my suggestions, were about as welcome as a 5mm wheel clearance on a Bailey caravan*. “We could try and get it on Radio 5 Live…” were my final words on the matter.
“I’m going to ask the Dutch couple if they are coming to watch it on their iPad.” Bless them, they were enjoying a post prandial coffee but they walked all the way up to reception, furnished us with their iPad and set it going. They left it there for us, complete with commentary in Dutch.
Then the French family came and we were treated to the addition of a complementary commentary in French that was 20 seconds behind the Dutch!
“He’s not bothered who wins!” said the French grandpa, indicating one of his grandsons. “He has dual nationality – English and French!”
So that is how we watched England’s World Cup dreams shattered, cracking open a second bottle of wine as we bit our nails into extra time.
Then Mark pronounced that he wanted to adopt a dog. It’s the sort of thing that can happen after two bottles. Like accidentally buying a caravan and then deciding to live in it.
The French family had an 11 month old rescue puppy, Norman, who had been mistreated. He looked very much like our doodles (poodle cross.) Isabelle told me that she was fostering Norman to help him along before finding him his forever home. We had met this afternoon when poor Norman had come to visit – and The Fab Four had chased him away.
Isabelle was cool about it when I apologised profusely. She told me that she was just worried that he might run a long way. However, Rosie and Lani soon bonded with him. He was the sweetest little thing, although he was quite afraid of men. Mark sat with him for ages, petting him – even ignoring the hard-won football viewing! Isabelle was delighted. “It’s just what he needs!” she told Mark.
By the end of the second bottle, we were definitely adopting him. “I want him to have a nice home!” Mark said. So do I, but 5 dogs? And one that we’re not sure about with people and other dogs? And Kai and Ruby are quite wary of other dogs.
So in the morning, with a coffee and a hangover, we dismissed the idea. We were sure that Isabelle would make sure that he found a good home. She told us later that Norman also got terribly car sick! Lovely as he was, he was not the ideal candidate for life on the road.
Aside from disappointing football matches, there was plenty to do and see in the area. We visited the Roman Bridge at Pont du Menat and walked up to Chateau Rocher. We took the SUPs (Stand Up Paddleboards) on the River Sioule and ran a few rapids. As ever, the Pups on SUPs in their brightly-coloured buoyancy aids attracted lots of attention!
Mark forbade me from taking the camera with us on the water. We put the van keys in a dry bag. I was given strict instructions “That DOES NOT get opened on the river!”
When we got back, the dry bag was full of water. I was quite glad that for once, I had followed Mark’s advice about the camera!
However, there was rain in the forecast, so we decided to move on. I was a little disappointed, as I had wanted to see the volcanoes in the Puy de Dôme, but once again, it was a good excuse to come back! We had our last walk, taking a different route around the Hansel and Gretel woodland. Remarkably, I survived two log bridges without getting wet!
Bastille Day, the most important French Bank Holiday was coming up – not the best time to be on the road. We decided that we would get that out of the way and then make our way towards Italy!
Join us next time when, due to a slight route miscalculation, we Boldly Go Where No Van Has Gone Before!
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*A 5mm wheel clearance on a Bailey caravan signifies the onset of the dreaded axle collapse!