Sunday, Bloody Sunday

29th July 2018

Varengeville sur Mer, Normandy, France

When it comes to beaches in France, particularly in the summertime, Saturday night is invariably the worst time for late revellers and Sunday is always by far and away the busiest day of the week. Fitness freaks in the morning and families in the afternoon. I don’t expect today will be any different and last night certainly lived up to it’s ribald reputation.

Its always the last half dozen groups of stragglers to leave the beach which are the worst, the vast majority of folk packing up reasonably quietly and leaving whilst it is still daylight. I suspect the stragglers have invariably ‘drink taken’ as they return to their cars long after sunset garrulous and giggling. Every utterance is astonishingly funny, apparently - and the utterances flow volubly and uninhibitedly without let or hindrance.

Generally, I find humans to be the noisiest species on the planet, never happier than when making, or listening to, a racket. An old friend of mine once informed me in his response to my enquiry why he felt the need to have an inane radio station playing constantly wherever he was that ‘it stopped him thinking’. I was astounded by that reply at the time but have come to realise that, deep down, many people greatly fear themselves and will do almost anything to avoid confronting their true thoughts.

So, anyway, I was a little more wooly headed than usual at 05:30 today due, curtesy of the revellers, to not getting any proper sleep until nearly midnight. I also felt a little stiff and sore this morning as, yesterday, whilst much too busy keeping a wary eye on Amy’s beach antics, I missed my step and managed to go arse over tit on a large, flat, wet limestone rock landing hard on my coccyx and banging my head hard enough to see stars - but no worries there was no damage whatsoever to the rock! However, I was definitely feeling the physical effects of the experience this morning, particularly in my back and neck.

However, at that early hour the beach was magnificent as it was both low water and utterly deserted. It really is a vast wide expanse of sand at low tide stretching as far as the eye can see in either direction and Amy made full use of all the space and freedom to get a solid two hour work out chasing low flying seagulls and diving into pools. Its strange, to me, how she is quite happy to chase flying birds but is totally spooked by any kind of man made kite - whether thats a large windsurfer’s kite in the distance or a small one on the beach. As soon as she spots one she turns tail and heads for the safety of ‘her’ car.

We walked a great distance this morning but I am always mindful of just how quickly the sand can vanish when the tide turns. There seems to be quite a significant tidal range hereabouts and the sand is very gently shelving so once the water starts to rise the sand can disappear astonishingly fast. I am minded of those poor Chinese winkle pickers a few years ago on Morecombe beach (I think it was) who one minute were ‘happily’ winkling away and the next were drowning in seawater. I have a great deal of respect for the sea and try, when in it’s proximity, to never underestimate its ability to indifferently sweep away human life.

To add to the drama on this particular beach, between the shoreline and the sea is a continuous ridge of high, perpendicular, crumbling limestone cliff. Impossible to climb should one find oneself cut off by the tide. As we walked along this morning we herd a loud rumble and crash and actually witnessed a bit of coastal erosion at first hand. I was certainly very glad we were far away from the cliff walking in the sea and not trundling along directly beneath it!

We passed by a sizeable mob of Cormorants drying their wings atop jagged rocks out to sea in the near distance and they somehow reminded me of old style French nuns or, perhaps, those nurses in flamboyant headwear that sometimes appear in Dutch Renaosence paintings. Something to do with their raiment of ‘dark cloaks’ for the French nuns and their outstretched wings for the crazy hats!

I usually have many thoughts as I walk in the early mornings with Amy and one of today’s was in respect of those men in white coats I wrote about the other day. what came into my head were the lyrics from a very old Alexis Korner/CCS (Collective Consciousness Society) stanza, as follows:

There was a time, I did believe
The stories I was told
Of mountains high, too high to climb
So man was hurrying to drive his shaft into the sky
A change of heart, a change of plan
Must surely be the way
Get off the ground, your’e heaven bound
And if you like it when your’e there
You’ll be allowed to stay.
This is the way it has to be
The wise men, wisely, said
So we believed
But some did not
And though we never knew
The wise men, wisely, had them shot!

It also occurred to me on this morning’s walk that as this is Sunday and as we are probably just hunkering down here for today there really isn’t much to write about travel-wise, that it might be a good opportunity to write just a little about myself - hopefully helping to put some context to my ramblings.

So, I am a mature bloke, a widower of just ten years now, who continuously travels somewhat randomly in an old Jeep with Amy, my young Malinois companion. A rescue dog from the SPA in Rennes last September.

We travel on a very, very small stipend and so ‘wild camp’ everywhere by which I mean we eat and sleep in the Jeep anywhere that is quiet and convivial (not always possible to achieve) and certainly where we won’t come into confrontation with the law, landowners or any other ‘authorities’. We follow a ‘less is more’ concept of living and continually refine and strive to survive on less and less ‘stuff’. I am, by no means, a religious person but I do admire the philosophy of the Tao and strive to conceptually weave my transient life into its vast tapestry.

I used to travel with two Saarloos wolfdogs - half wolf, half GSD - that I had bred many years ago but they tragically got shot in the Western Sahara in early 2016. At first I couldn’t bear the thought of trying to replace them but, by and by, came to realise I missed the unique solace that only a non-speaking companion can provide. However, rather than try to replace them with another wolfdog I elected for a slightly less demanding companion but somehow ended up with a Malinois - not fondly known as ‘Maligators' for nothing!

Amy is my ‘autism assist’ dog. I have never been diagnosed as autistic and she’s never had any special training, but why let such minor details stop us?!

I certainly don’t think in words and numbers but, rather, in pictures and images and in the same way that your device or PC uses a lot of RAM to process pictures my brain can similarly quickly get overloaded with audiovisual inputs and go on ‘tilt’ until I can stop and allow it to catch up with events. That is where Amy comes in. As I understand it an autism assist dog is simply there to give succour to their autistic human companion when the human is finding it hard to cope with ‘things’ out in the big bad world. I can’t see much training is needed for that job and I have to say Amy does it very well. When I go into ‘overload’ a quiet ten minutes cuddle with Amy reboots my brain and I find I am able to continue navigating my way round the increasingly complex world of man and his mendacious ways!

My self diagnosis of autism comes from having got to know quite well a few officially autistic people and comparing notes. It would certainly explain a lot about my childhood, particularly my reaction to so-called ‘educational ’institutions’ and my inability to read people.

Travelling and living, in the manor that Amy and I do, frequently puts me into a mental tailspin and I think the Jeep has a lot to blame for that. I understand that the native Australian Aboriginals believe that to travel by mechanical means, or indeed any means other than their own two legs, moves their bodies too quickly and their spirit gets left behind. When travelling by car, for example, they require to be able to stop frequently to allow their spirit to catch up with their body. Its a point of view I can definitely relate to. In my case travelling in the Jeep presents new information too quickly and in superabundance, particularly in those countries where the language and culture is not native to me. Walking would reduce the flow of incoming visual information into my head and make life much easier to deal with.

However, its a motorised world we currently inhabit (certainly in western Europe, anyway) and to finally ditch the Jeep, as I fully intend to eventually do, and walk will represent quite a big deal to me creating many daily logistical problems such as sourcing food and water.

My next immediate decision is what ‘destination’ to head for as we are currently really just ‘holidaying’ here in the summer sunshine on the beaches of Normandy. Once I have decided the destination, eastern Europe and beyond is a distinct possibility, I can then plan - in principle at least - a route that would be most suitable for travel on foot.

Its a big step to take, literally and metaphorically, so you might have to forgive me if I tarry on the beach for a bit longer than I originally intended but whilst I’m here I try to keep you abreast of the idiosyncrasies of daily French life as Amy and I see them!

Phew! that’ll do for today I think - more, no doubt, tomorrow.

Mr Hulot's Holiday

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Amy and I travel on a shoestring - and its a thin shoestring at that! - So, if you enjoy reading about our travel trials and tribulations and would like to make a small donation please do! Amy will be particularly pleased as she is very fond of her daily dinner. Woof!