Where to begin?
Reims, France? Parked up with our old French ami, Ernie Leclerc, who deigned to accept our Euro credit-card in exchange for a tank full of gazole, when other lesser fuelling stations spurned our advances. And in return for this gesture of entente cordial, we in turn deigned to avail of his hospitality and park up overnight in an empty corner of his beautiful, newly tarmacked car-park, alongside his clearly brand-new supermarket in Jonchery-sur-Vesle. About which, more later.
So, where indeed to begin? Dentists. That’s where. Dentists and two conspiracy theories. About which you can make your own minds up once you’ve absorbed the author’s laboured hypotheses which follow. Ready? Ok, here’s Conspiracy Theory One.
We went to the dentist. First thing in the morning. Regular, bog-standard check-ups, OK? Coincidentally, on the day before we set off on our 3-week Knumpty-van trip to Montenegro (a journey delightfully described as ‘insane’ by a much-loved relative who’d just witnessed our planned route for the first time.)
A prolonged and edgy read of an aged ‘Country Life’ magazine in the waiting room (do properties like those advertised REALLY exist outside of our imaginations?) then a quick usher into the Surgery; recline; open mouth; probe inserted; long list of incomprehensible four letter acronyms fired like automatic rifle fire at Nurse-On-Computer barely able to type them in fast enough; quick and vaguely uncomfortable clean (“Just raise your hand if you want me to stop” – has anyone ever?); electronically hummed to an upright position; sign a few forms then out onto the street – while The Navigator Par Excellence remains behind to pay the bill.
The author is on the street in double quick time because he has been assigned to speedily acquire something breakfasty from the newly opened Artisan Bakery DIRECTLY OPPOSITE THE DENTIST. Well, there you go. Conspiracy Number One or what? You’ve just paid out to have your six-monthly teeth-clean and when you stumble out, all you can see are pastries. Pastries! An absolute windowful of sticky, gooey Chocolate Knots; custard-oozing Pain au raisin; muffins and – wait for it – shiny, sugary lardy cake! I ask you. What a fine way of drumming up business for this particular dentist. Clean your teeth, admonish you for eating too many sugary things, then push you into immediate temptation which no amount of flossing is ever going to resolve. (“Would you like me to book you another appointment in three week’s time, Mr Paterson?”)
And as if that’s not enough, we then set off on our Epic Journey, headed south, along remarkably free-flowing motorways to a delightful overnight stop with family in Wimbledon, thank you B’s (we forgive your daughter for labelling us insane) – then head for the Channel Tunnel via the M25 and M20.
And hence along comes Conspiracy Theory Two: I believe an amalgam of Dentists (tick the box if you like the collective noun, there) must have won the contract to build specific sections of both these motorways.
I mean, who – in their right minds – would build sections of the nation’s most heavily-used motorways out of short, concrete sections laid at right-angles to the general direction of thundering traffic? These sections are then clearly welded together in-situ by unsupervised dental apprentices using too much bloody amalgam, so very joint is like an overfilled tooth, jarring above the bite with a quick-fire repetitive thump-thump-thump (naturally amplified by the box-like interior of the trusty Kumptywagen) until our newly-cleaned and recently pastried teeth are shaken loose in their sockets – to the point that all we can practically do is to take up that offered appointment in another three weeks to have them all cemented back in.
And for those of you tenacious enough to have read this far, our Route To Montenegro is the Featured Photograph for this episode, so you may judge for yourselves the rationality of our trip. And for those keen for a glimmer of truthful reportage, we are indeed parked up in a beautifully smooth, flat and fully unseamed tarmac car-park alongside an Ernie Leclerc supermarket in downtown Jonchery-sur-Vesle. And in the morning, his artisan bakery opens. And it’s a drive through.
Now, where did we put that Dentist’s phone number?