Chapter 4 Clacket Lane

Friday 7th July 2017

In the Shade of the Pines (study) (1905) Theo van Rysselberghe

In the Shade of the Pines (study) (1905) Theo van Rysselberghe

My friends are an awesome bunch in general. In particular they have been great in lending me cars or driving my stuff around and have made this whole boat thing possible. Of particular mention are Elize and Hannah, and Debbie, who have lent me their cars; Dot and Louis (my name), but I have also received help from Ersin, Kai and Liam.

The drive to and from my boat has involved the Blackwall Tunnel, M25, M23 and the A27, not the pleasantest of routes at the best of times. On the plus side between the M23 and A27 I get to drive on the A272, A283 and the B2139. The latter being a glorious road through the South Downs.

The journey is between two and half and three hours. As I have usually been rushing before I set off, I find I need to break the journey. The most obvious place to stop is not the most salubrious. Clacket Lane services on the M25 is just a convenience. I cannot recommend it, not least because of the ridiculous maze you have to negotiate once inside. I seem to have to walk three times the necessary distance for a toilet break and to buy my customary one pound McDonalds cheeseburger.

Today it is hot and sunny, so as I enter the car park I search for some shade. I pull up behind a couple on a motorbike. It is a pristine BMW 1200 GS. They are in full leathers and as I pass them I make a comment regarding their clothing in this heat. “That’s why we are in this shade” the grey haired, lithe man replies. I head off to seek the delights of the service station.

They are still there when I return, bladder relieved and with a half eaten cheeseburger in hand. As they eat their packed lunch, I admire the bike and I learn that although it looks new it is in fact 5 years old, bought when the man retired from his job as a truck driver. “She wants for nothing” he says. I mention that I have had a couple of BMWs, the smaller 600 GS and an 1150 RT. The latter uses the same boxer flat twin engine as his machine, one of which I have ridden on BMW’s off road course in the Welsh mountains. We get to talking and I learn that they are heading to meet up with some friends in France and then spend some time at their caravan in the Dordogne and that they live on a canal boat. I tell them my boat plans. I reflect on the joyous diversity of our lives, while also noting that his female pillion has remained remarkably quiet during our conversation.

As is common among bike folks we end up on the topic of roads, in particular how well the roads of the Dordogne are maintained in comparison to those in the South East of England. We are, of course, not comparing like with like. In my memory, the roads in and around Paris are just as bad, if not worse, than those in and surrounding London. Nevertheless he offers a reason for better French roads: “We are too overcrowded in this country”. Immediately my mental gag reflex is activated, in the same way as if the real thing had detected runny egg white. I don’t say anything in response. I talk for a little longer and make my excuses and leave.

I reflect, as I drive back to London for the penultimate time, that this is one of my major reasons for leaving. I would rather be an immigrant (note immigrant NOT ex-pat) in another county, or just live on the sea, than be a resident in my own country right now, even though, in my humble opinion, it has plenty of space, even if that space could be shared more equitably.