Bugs On The Windscreen

“Where many gather in my name, the queues shall be long, the rolls shall be dry, the bacon overcrisped and a lot of smoke shall emanate from the kitchen area.”

Thus spake St Wulgun, the nearest we have to a patron saint of the English Channel, who’s observation rang true as we entered the Eurotunnel terminal in search of a 20-minute coffee and Earl Grey. The place teemed – rather surprisingly – with various groups of blokes of a certain age, queuing at every one of the limited number of fast-food outlets. 

These groups included edgy-looking gangs of aged motorcyclists clustered in their leathers, (some sporting sweet little white bootees, about which we wondered deeply), as they also cluttered every available flat surface with their battle-scarred, visored crash-helmets – as if preparing themselves for a latter-day crusade.

The outlet we chose was indeed churning out bacon-rolls in industrial quantities to satisfy the queuing need, but since – as observed by St Wulgun – demand was considerably exceeding supply, the burnt offerings weren’t thankfully enticing enough for us to indulge. The free ketchup, we observed, was being applied in volumes sufficient to render the items palatable, whence we repaired to the waiting Knumptywagen clutching our trophy refreshments.

We’d arrived at the terminal in good order, having overnighted less than 20 minutes away, in the village of Smeeth, where The Woolpack pub had welcomed us with the threat of both a Quiz Night and a ‘reduced menu’ clearly instigated to deal with the surprising influx of locals keen to flex their collective grey cells. We availed of both, failed to make the cut in the Quiz and went to bed with indigestion in the car-park.

And now we’re a long way into France – opting for toll-roads where our constant speed deposited us firstly at a riverside overnight at Chalon en Champagne and subsequently close to Villefranche sur Saone, where it’s pissed down continually since we parked up in a campsite unsurprisingly devoid of other human habitation.

A bizarre (and very wet) cycle-trip into the local village has introduced us to yet another Saint – the venerable Jean-Marie Vianney, a former parish-priest of Ars-sur-Formans and – for his abject dedication to the Eucharist; the poor of the village and sinful men in general – the patron saint of all parish priests.

Saint Jean-Marie, whose arrival in the village during the eighteenth century apparently spawned (is that a word I can use in connection with religious celibacy, I wonder?) a large basilica; statues; effigies and a convent (from which cycling nuns have emanated at amusing intervals); a church; a multi-lingual video installation and several souvenir shops selling religious items. 

These items include the most bizarre little models of the Nativity, set in architectural representations of famous cities around the world, which included a Joseph character dressed up as a leprechaun posed before the cliffs of Moher. Such is the power of religious conviction, I am prompted from on high to feature this photo, despite its complete irrelevance to the title of this piece.

Which is finally resolved by the exciting prospect of warmer weather arriving!  As we’ve travelled across France, we’ve actually spattered quite a few unsuspectingly suicidal insects across our windscreen, which should portend great hope and optimism for a future which might include – at long last – a warming summer. 

We live in hope – and might just say a few prayers while we’re at it.


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