Tomorrow we prepare to enter Spain for the winter. A last minute decision means we will be heading south to Barcelona after a whistle stop visit to San Sebastian to purchase two new Tribord snorkelling masks.
This past 10 days we have made ourselves at home on a fantastic all-year campsite at St Jean de Luz. For the entire week we have had the campsite and pools to ourselves. Even the beach is deserted. Each weekend, the Spanish descend in their hundreds.
It is fascinating watching the Spanish arrive. At about midday they all start running down the hill, campsite map in hand, waving frantically at one pitch, and then another. The women run behind the men, panting and shouting at the top of their lungs. One member of the group generally assumes the position of foreman barking orders and gesticulating wildly to ensure that they all park together. It is unbelievable to see how many 1980’s caravans they can squeeze on to one 12m x 12m pitch!
Once the perfect pitches are sought, the wives stand on them, still shouting at one another. Hundreds of kids weave in and out of them. The husbands then race to the top of the hill to reserve their choice and collect the said 1980’s caravans.
They reappear like something from the Dukes of Hazard! The caravans are airborne as they hit the hills, all racing to secure their allocated spot. We watch in amazement as they reverse their mini homes at break-neck speed, and then with the slickest of moves, the wives are out, the awning is up and lunch is served!
We were warned by a fellow Brit that the Spanish are noisy. They weren’t wrong. They have only one volume level – loud. That said, they are a friendly bunch and very family orientated.
At 11am each morning, they congregate on mass at the pool. The men blow up arm bands whilst the women gossip. It is impossible to determine whose child is whose.
On one such morning I was watching the little Spanish kids speeding down the waterslides and recoiled in horror when I realised that all of the little girls and boys were wearing thongs! Their little white bums were everywhere!
At siesta time they all disappeared as quickly as they had arrived and we took the opportunity to enjoy the pools in relative peace. As the sun reached its peak I took a dip in the pool to cool off. The kids were delighted that I had joined them and very quickly challenged me to a race on the waterslides.
Never one to back down from a challenge, I sped up the spiral staircase two steps at a time. Once at the top, Jonah grabbed his trunks and pulled them up his bum before shouting ‘wedgie!’ and zooming off down the slide. Lola waited for him and then revealed her own white bum. Puzzled, I ask what on earth she was doing. Lola replied that the Spanish kids had taught them that a ‘wedgie’ makes you go much faster down the slide. They were not wearing thongs after all.
“Do it Mum!” she shouted as she sped round the first bend…
Unsure, I looked around behind me and noticed the coast was clear. Trying not to attract too much attention to myself I slowly pulled my cozzie up between my butt cheeks, revealing a significantly larger backside! I stepped tentatively onto the slide not knowing what to expect…
Oh…man alive I was not prepared! My big arse acted like a dingy on a slalom – I shot down the slide like a bat out of hell; screaming all the way. I entered the pool, legs akimbo to the look of surprise on Chris’s face! He was stood at the bottom with a camera. An elderly German lady was stood beside him – both raised an eyebrow as I came gracelessly to the surface, spluttering and choking.
Much to our utter surprise, the old ‘heavily set’ German dear, raised a smile and stomped off towards the slide. Her husband, probably in his late 70’s joined Chris and I as we all looked up in astonishment. At the top, she gave us one last stony look before hulking up her costume into a wedgie and throwing herself down the slide…backwards!!
Her swim hat was all we could see as she whizzed by every bend. Her entry to the pool was the most undignified I have ever seen. She, nor her husband even cracked a smile as she regained her costume and her composure.
A waterslide war had commenced! I was determined not to be beaten by someone double my age. Off I stomped with a ‘let’s do this stare’ to the Old German Frau. I stood at the top of the slide, and with less embarrassment and more pride, revealed by great British butt. With one last glare, I reversed into place and launched myself down the slide backwards.
Before I reached the first bend I was screaming. By the second bend I was trying frantically to stop myself. By the third bend I was upside down. By the fourth bend I was pleading for help. By the last bend my heels reached my ears for the first time in 39 years! As I emerged all I could muster was “I didn’t like it!”
The old German dear finally broke into a broad smile, nodded in victory and calmly walked back to her sun lounger. Her smug husband waited with a towel.
Ashamed and humiliated by my defeat I returned to Chris (who was still laughing). It was time to leave the pool.
After some food, we took a bike ride to the nearest beach for an hour of snorkelling. Unfortunately, on our arrival the tide was in and the snorkelling conditions were jeopardised by humongous waves. Even our crabbing efforts were hindered by the sea conditions.
As the last surfer exited the water shaking his head, a crowd had started to gather on the beach to admire the strength of Mother Nature. Lola and I had taken shelter on a large group of rocks towards the back of the beach and Jonah and Chris were stood challenging the swell at the shore line.
Knowing that we were sat behind them, Chris took the opportunity to expose his extremely white buttocks to us. By the way his shoulders were jiggling up and down, I could tell that he thought his little ‘flash’ was funny. I assumed it was a cheap dig at my previous ‘wedgie war’ with the German OAP.
What he had failed to see was the enthusiastic photographer to our left who stood up sharply, looking at him in disgust. Without even a backwards glance Chris was completely unaware that he had photo-bombed (or bummed) a perfectly good landscape photograph.
Lola was impressed by her dad’s timing….but not so with the image of his bottom!
Later that evening, after a full tummy and a glass of cheap Sauvignon, we were preparing to take our dinner dishes to the service area to wash them. I handed Chris the bowl full of dishes and turned to collect the dish cloth and liquid when I heard an almighty cry – or shout – it was hard to tell what it was.
I twisted immediately to see Chris flying backwards through the air with the outside footstool attached to his big toe. Knowing he was going to hit the ground incredibly hard, I watched as my husband half swivelled in the air, still trying to keep the dish bowl upright. He landed on his back at the same time as the dishes…a micro second later the heavy metal footstool followed. In an incredible acrobatic move, Chris managed to kick the footstool in mid-air with his right foot – only for it to gain some height and momentum before heading straight for him….so with a rather harsh profanity and a red face, he gave one last almighty left kick, propelling the footstool into the shrubbery.
Lola and I stood in the doorway not knowing what to say or do. Chris heaved himself up and kicked the remaining dishes around before searching out the footstool and throwing that around some more shouting a tirade of abuse about its cheap, ridiculous manufacturing concept.
I asked if he was okay. He looked at us; red, dishevelled and covered in pine cone remnants and abruptly replied “Yes, I’m okay! It’s a bloody good job I was able to recover with a degree of style!’
That was it. I had to hide. I concealed myself in the bathroom of Colin and held my nose whilst I collapsed into a fit of restrained silent giggles. With tears running down my eyes I couldn’t stifle the sounds of laughter any longer.
I was taken back to 8 years previously when Chris had fallen out of our trailer tent in much the same fashion – only that time his leg had gone straight through the footstool and he completely flattened our camping wardrobe in a similar acrobatic manoeuvre…
I tried to compose myself. I knew my husband was hurting outside the door (not just physically, but his pride too). I took a deep breath, exited the bathroom, looked right at him and said “I don’t think you and footstools go together love”. It was all I could muster before the laughter erupted like a badly stifled yawn.
God, how I wish I had my camera rolling at the time. I’m sure it would have been a certain £250 in the bank from ‘You’ve been framed’.
Still…I’m sure it’s not the last time that Calamity Chris and a footstool go head-to-head. I will aim to be better prepared next time.
So after a week of white bums, sore backs and bruised egos, we prepare to leave France tomorrow for at least four months. I would like to thank her for being a wonderful, safe and agreeable host to the start of our new adventures.
We have laughed far more than we have cried. We have been honest with one another and we have learnt to live together – even enjoy each other.
I can think of no better Country in which to start our travels. France has always been our ‘home from home’ for she features in all of our best memories.
Merci Francais; vous avez été un merveilleux… revoir hôte pour l’instant…