Unfortunately the rain has fallen on St Jean de Luz.
I prefer to use cloudy or rainy days to catch up on my laundry. After almost 10 days on Aires, I had a large bag of towels, t-shirts and undies ready to be hand-washed. Though the enthusiasm was there, the lack of hot water at the service block made it impossible to complete. Despite the protests, I part with 9 Euro’s for a washing machine and a dryer.
An hour or two later whilst collecting the dry laundry, I notice an ironing board in the corner of the room. How exciting! Really, an ironing board is such a rarity. I am delighted.
My usual routine for ironing involves laying a towel on the table and using a miniature travel iron, plugged into an extension cord – that steams one t-shirt at a time. I have to refill the water compartment between each garment. Ironing can take hours! So an ironing board certainly eases this little chore somewhat.
I stand happily ironing, listening to some French/Spanish music being piped through the music system, when I hear the roar of a passing jet. Five minutes later and I hear another jet pass overhead. I assume we must be situated near a military base. Another T-Shirt ironed and another jet passes overhead….and so it continues.
‘Wow, they must be practising or something’ I presume. The sound of the jets become so loud that I can no longer hear the music. I finish off the last couple of garments and pack away my laundry, intrigued…
As I exit the service block, I notice a cloud of red, white and blue smoke trailing just above me. And there, on the hill is Lola stood in her swimming costume, hat and goggles jumping up and down excitedly shouting “Mum, did you see them?” Jonah and Chris are stood nearby looking up at the sky and within seconds about eight jets whizz by with two of them completing a ‘loop-de-loop’ before souring off into the distance.
I cannot believe it. I have always wanted to watch an air display. I cannot remember ever seeing one. I stood on the hill willing them to come back…but nothing. I kept repeating “Were those the jets I could hear? How long was the display? Have they been doing these tricks the whole time? Were they like our Red Arrows?”…
Lola cannot contain herself. She animatedly tells me that they were releasing smoke, doing fly pasts in formation, twisting and looping…
I stood with my laundry bag and I was absolutely gutted.
I asked like a dejected child “Why didn’t anyone come to get me?” and I spot Chris slip silently behind me, slinking back into Colin like a guilty puppy.
I followed him…”Chris, I can’t believe you didn’t come and get me” I announce incredulously.
“Ahh, it wasn’t that good babe” he smoothly replies – avoiding all eye contact.
I stood outside for a further ten minutes in astonishment. I could not believe that I missed an air display right above my head – because I was ironing. It seems the whole campsite was entertained whilst I steamed undies!
Smarting somewhat, I sulked for over an hour, repeating in whispers “I can’t believe you didn’t call me” every time I looked at my guilty trio. Their wry smiles were a sure sign that I had missed something quite spectacular.
After Dinner we decided to take a walk to the nearby beach for a spot of crab hunting in the many rock pools. Now, I don’t wish to boast about such things…but it seems I have an unrivalled talent for crab hunting…Oh, and fishing, apple kicking, catching (on one leg, with one hand), skimming and lizard spotting. Frumpy Mum kicks butt when it comes to competition!
So as we all glare into rock pools looking for any sudden movement, it is no surprise (tongue firmly in cheek) that I am the first to spot the claws of a very large crab, hiding precariously under a rock.
“Crab! Crab!” I shout and the gang come running. Always the hunter, Chris is the first to whip off his (new) flip flop and start jabbing under the rock to encourage the little fella out. The crab is obviously annoyed by the interruption and hooks on to Chris’s flip flop. He pulls the crab up to try and release his flip flop (realising that we really cannot afford another new pair of shoes from this week’s budget) – but the crab has a good hold. Desperately Chris tries to manoeuvre himself on one leg to obtain a better grip of the crab, safe from his pincers. The crab is now purple and very angry! We all watch in astonishment as Chris hops about, literally fighting with a furious crab. It is apparent that Chris is losing.
Just as he lifts the crab in triumph, the little fella takes a swipe and catches Chris’s forefinger in his pincer. With an almighty yelp, the crab is flung 12ft through the air and lands back in the pool he came from. We are all outraged! Chris receives five minutes of abuse for throwing such a wonderful creature into the air before anyone asks about his finger (which is now the same colour as the angry purple crab).
It was only when we were walking home that Chris and I lock eye contact, and we both have a wry smile. I’m sure we are both thinking the same thing….’Karma’.
In the early hours of the morning, I was dreaming about the jets. I was trapped in a laundry with no doors. I could not get out to see the air show that was happening outside. The tearing of the sky above me was growing louder as the jets flew directly overhead. I call out Chris’s name.
A reply comes back…it seems real – “Love, calm down, it’s just thunder!”
I’m awoken from my slumber. Above me the sky is rumbling and a flash lights the sky. The thunder sounds slightly distant – but heading our way. I must have confused the sound of the thunder with the jets in my dream. We both go back to sleep.
A few minutes later I hear an almighty thwack. I have never heard anything so loud. And right then, I know I have to tell the King that the sky is falling down! I pass Turkey-Lurkey, Goose-Loose and Gander-Lander on my travels and I shout to them, as the sky booms, that they must follow me – the sky is falling down!
“JEEZ!! Love did you hear that? Bloody heck, I’ve never heard thunder like it!” – Chris wakes me again. I had obviously fallen back into a deep sleep.
I start to giggle…and I can’t stop…
I try to explain to Chris that I must have included the sound of the thunder in my dream. I whisper that I thought I was ‘Chicken – Licken’ but he just stares blankly at me in the dark. It becomes apparent that not everyone has read the book!
I may have missed the jets, but I was present for the best thunder and lightning show of my life!
The following evening, we take our bikes on an 8 mile round trip to the Port of St-Jean-de-Luz. Chris tells us that it is relatively flat with a ‘few little hills’.
After a 3 mile up-hill climb, we are not impressed. As Chris waits for us at the top of each hill with a smug grin, I curb the desire not to murder him.
As we enter the centre of St-Jean-de-Luz, we are turned away from every cycle path due to ‘security’. All diversions require more hill climbing. The kids are groaning. Chris is nervous. I’m cursing.
Eventually we reach a downhill descent that leads us directly onto the pier. The refreshing breeze is a delight after such an arduous journey. The moment we turn the last corner, we encounter thousands of people lining the pier, promenade, roads, pathways and beach.
We look at each other in bewilderment. What is going on?
Realising we are not going to be able to go any further on our bicycles, we lock them to the nearest lamp post and walk tentatively to the promenade.
Within seconds, I hear the familiar roar of a jet, and to our total amazement, an old bomber heads out from the low cloud and starts climbing skyward to the sound of cheering and clapping. It is the start of the annual St Jean de Luz Air Show.
Yesterday was a practice run. Today is the real deal. Chris takes a moment to thank the Universe. His relief is visible!
Over the next 45 minutes we were treated to the most spectacular flying acrobatics. The gasps from the crowds and the sheer nervous delight on our kids’ faces as the pilot’s diced with death for our entertainment was enough to make me cry.
I am not exaggerating – I literally cried. I was overwhelmed by the moment.
I was watching an incredible Air Show. Not just any Air Show – a French one. In St Jean-de Luz. In glorious sunshine. With my precious family. On the best adventure of our lives.
It was an amalgamation of everything that kept the tears flowing. I felt so openly grateful and happy for the opportunity. The whole story of how I thought I’d missed the chance – the nightmares – the karma-crab moment – the bloody hills we had to cycle to get there… it all came together to form a perfect moment.
…And I know how rare and precious they are!