It's been a crazy ol' couple of weeks since Leo the Lion decided to have a full on solar Eclipse just one degree away from my sign - "that'll change things!" said a colleague I hold in high esteem.
A week later I was cramming as much of my life in Spain that I could into my little mint green fiat 500 (about 5%) and setting off to drive back to Blighty,
via Valencia, Barcelona, Southern France, Central France, and then a ferry across the Channel from Normandy to Pompi (quite fitting I should re-enter
the UK there seeming it was where I was born) and then the final home run to Bath.
Within half an hour I had car problems that meant I was stranded at a very unhelpful Spanish service station (not that I find the Spanish to be unhelpful
- it was just my luck) In fact, it dawned on me how lucky it was that I had these problems so soon, because I wasn't so far away from Friends that
could come to my rescue.
However, that realisation made me realise that soon I would be, and the difficulties I had experienced trying to communicate with the Spanish attendant
drove home to me how hard it would be when I entered France - seeming I can get by in Spain with baby and body language, but what did I know in France?
It dawned on me that I didn't even know how to say "excuse me, can you help me please?" in French - although saying that in Spanish just now hadn't
got me far!
By the time my friends turned up I was a quivering wreck, they gave me lots of hugs, and laughs and sorted my car out and got me on the road, but with
every hour that passed I just felt like I was driving further and further into the wilderness, with no knowledge, no language, no sense!
"Why oh why did I think this was a good idea?"
That mantra got louder and louder anytime anything happened - like dogs on the motorway or my car warning me that there was ice on the roads - It seems
that hot countries aren't hot all the time, and definitely not in the mountainous regions in the height of winter.
10 hours after I set off I made my first stop for the night - again, just my luck for it to be freezing and without even a biccie or milk for a cuppa -
I hadn't eaten properly all day, and I felt like a naughty child going to bed cold and hungry - except I'd paid for the privilege!
I was freezing, so cold that I could not sleep and when the day broke I got back in my car, just to get back to some sort of civilisation, but boy I was
tired. So tired that I drove on the wrong side of the road twice in the first ten minutes and only realised when oncoming traffic started beeping.
I had another five hours drive until I reached the harbour of my friend's in Southern France - how the heck was I going to do this?
Well, I got by on red bull, full-fat coke and Spanish Double Expressos - now let me tell you I HATE coffee, even the smell of it makes me feel sick - and
the Spanish are well known for having DREADFUL coffee so this is saying something.
Like everyone was saying to me I did it, I made it, but did I enjoy it? Not one minute.
I decided to do this drive because I felt like it would be more of a therapeutic sacred passage that would honour the transition of my life in Spain back
to life in England. I like driving, I find it therapeutic, but this was throwing challenges at me that I just wasn't equipt to handle.
I often think life is like that when you decide to make a "sacred holy passage" of an experience - it somehow gets translated into the word "initiation!"
When I saw my friend I said: "It's SO good to see you!!"
"I bet!" was the reply, with a great big warm cheeky smile.
The plan was to get back on the road the next day, but I was too done in and needed to take the day being nurtured, cared, looked after, my friend had
done this very thing more than once in his life and understood the toll it takes, I was in good hands, and I didn't want to leave them, but if I wanted
to get home, I must continue on, so the very next day, rested and well watered, I get back in the car, my friend telling me it will be easier from
here on and I will enjoy it.
Again, as I leave my friend, I'm in trouble within 30 minutes, I am at a tollgate, there are SO many toll roads in France, which is really annoying especially
as I have a right-hand drive car, so I have to get out and run round to get the ticket, even in my tiny car, because at 5"2 I'm tiny.
Anyway, this one doesn't even produce a ticket - f*** I need that phrase "excuse me, can you help me please?" I look around but there is NO attendant,
only cars coming up fast behind me, the guy in the car lane next door shouts out something in French, and I ask him if he speaks English (in Spanish?!!!!)
Why? Why didn't I just ask him in English??!!!
"Reverse!!!" he shouts....
"Come to this lane"
I look back at multiple lanes of oncoming motorway traffic...
"Just a little bit!" he says...
Oh lord! In I jump, the crazy Spanglish woman in the mint green fiat and reverse...
When I get through to the other side "Hello From The Other Side" comes on the radio - the song of my Tom cat in spirit, so I take heed and pull over at
the next service station - to find my registration plate hanging off!!!!!! You know, the screw just decided to break, like now was the best time for
that to happen or something? Anyway, I tried suction cups, superglue (all that glued together was my hands by the way) and finally settled on duct
tape.As I did that a gorgeous tabby cat the spit of Tom came up and gave me some love and I knew I was being looked out for.
Back in the car, the further I get from my friend, the further the Sun goes with him, the skies turn ever more threatening as they turn into a single cloud that gets darker and heavier with every mile, and then, once again in remote highlands, it turns into a full-on snow blizzard.
For three hours my little 1.2 girly mint green Fiat 500 is rocking it, or should I say skating it, the French don't slow down you see, well they do actually,
from 130km to 110km! (The motorway speed limit in the UK!) My car was a pretty little ice skate darting between slurry and HGV'S as Renaults were aggressively
coming right up behind me. On the other side of the road, I passed accident after accident. This was my worst fear come true, I've had a few close
shaves with cars, snow, and ice, one being writing my car off on a motorway when hitting the ice in my early twenties, that kind of shizzle stays with
Three hours later it's still snowing, but it's starting to turn to rain, and I am on country roads in the arse end of nowhere trying to stay calm, country
roads and snow? Hmmm twists, turns, sharp bends and no HGV's breaking down the snow before you. I'm stuck it seems, between the lesser of two evils.
Finally, I make it to this tiny little hamlet that I actually find is all theirs, it's like a mini village of incredible Ice age history! Everything is
dripping in picturesque snow and I am welcomed inside, and once again nurtured, cooked for, looked after and housed, this time in my own private priest
house (where I could pray!) which felt more like Queenly Quarters. My friends bought this lot to renovate and turn into a retreat and I was coming
to see whether it would be suitable to bring my students to, was it worth risking my life for?
In retrospect, no, probably not, but only because sense told me so, this land was something else and with the snow falling all around the lands, it was
profoundly pretty. My own little cottage was profoundly luxurious and this time it felt this time like the universe was no longer sending me to bed
like hungry (far from it actually, I'd been treated to a country cottage cooked roast) and cold (due to the romantic log fires) naughty child.
It felt more like I was being told that I had passed some kind of test and this was my reward :)
Maybe things will be easier now?
My friends check my car over and send me on my way with the best ever egg sarnies, seriously I never knew egg sarnies could taste so good, and off I go,
back through the country lanes, once again I find myself worried sick about the snow and ice, the fact I am on my own, I don't know anything about
cars, or any French, this seems an isolated area, oh and my petrol light is on and I can't find a petrol station - in fact I get more lost trying...
Yup, I'd worked myself up into a frenzy, waiting for the calamity to happen within 30 minutes - like maybe running out of petrol.
I didn't run out of petrol, I found the motorway in time, but again, I just kept getting this acute awareness of how much I seemed to be riding on luck
and I was not comfortable with that.
It's six hours drive to the ferry and the heavens open, it's six hours of feeling like my car is a ferry on a river, but hey ho, that's better than feeling
like an ice skate on a rink, a road would have been nice though.
I make it to the queue for the ferry, it's cold, dark, wet and windy and I'm still scared because I am petrified of drowning - so scared of it that I couldn't
even bring myself to learn to swim until I was thirty- six. WTF? There are HGVs getting on it too?? Arrghh?? How the heck does it not sink??
I drive into it feeling like I am being swallowed by jaws, I find my cabin in its ribs and dive under the duvet, this is where I stay until they play some
ship ahoy alarm over and over again at stupid o clock in the morning - it's okay Tiff, it's just the alarm to say we are docking.
I get off the ferry - I am still scared. Now because I've been driving on the opposite side of the road continuously for the last 16 months - and I am
sleep deprived again, but, as I roll my car off the ferry, I am home and it all feels like I never left.
I land home on the second eclipse, and I tell myself I never want to leave again, that I was mad, stupid, lucky.
But then I stop, and I realise that actually, this journey was all about showing me just how little faith I have in my abilities.I'm the type of person
that can't find something I've put somewhere, after hunting around for what seems like forever I find it, and I am impressed with where I decided to
put it, it was a pretty smart place, and if only I would gauge myself as that smart in the beginning then it would never be an issue - this pattern
happens pretty much every time I lose something.
I may have been mad, stupid, and lucky, but I was also brave, strong, courageous, an achiever, and competent.
If only I had listened to all the people telling me to have faith and that I had got this, maybe, just maybe, I might of enjoyed my passage.
How many of us live this way?
I'm not talking about daredevil drives through mountains at the peak of winter necessarily, but just the day to day journey of life, with all it throws
or could possibly throw our way.
How many of us are wracked by the thoughts of all the worst case scenarios?
When I was younger I worried so much about everything that I became OCD, but the spiritual journey has saved me - usually.
I was shocked to see my normal patterns that may always be there in the background completely take me over, yes I had my challenges. A lone travelling
woman with no car knowledge or languages other than English driving through two foreign countries over five days in the worst weather conditions -
maybe it's a bit of a high expectation to think I could just be all chilled (in the relaxed sense of the word). But if I had known I was going to make
it, maybe I would have enjoyed the journey.
This makes me think of the years I spent as a Tarot reader in one of London's top centres, it was like a conveyor belt of people worried about life, seeking
to know everything would be okay. But the truth is, you will never know it's going to be okay, until you get there, and you will never get there, unless
you set out on the journey, and okay you could stay where you are, but you aren't happy there either, you are stuck!
It's like the quote in my gym says "choose your hard".
If you want something, you have to go get it.
Now I am ready to cut myself some more slack and to believe that I have got this thing called life.
What about you?
What do you want?
Are you going out there and getting it?
Or do you not have a clue about which road to take?
This weekend you could take the road to Cornwall if you like?
I'll be there - yup, I'll have left my safe haven and got back on the road, to welcome you to your journey.
Click the pink link below:
Whether You Think You Can Or You Can't, You Are Right!