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Dear God, what on earth had I agreed to?

I had been carousing out late one night when some wag had suggested that it was high
time we went off on another foreign adventure. I was, unfortunately, three-sheets-to-
the-wind after my third bottle of port and agreed wholeheartedly that this was a
capital idea – the johnnies need occasionally to be reminded who runs the show.

Regrettably the next morning as we embarked on our ludicrous caper to Bordeaux, it


occurred to me that if I had had more of my senses and a more becalmed liver then I
might have declined the offer of a week-long sojourn Rowing in Bordeaux - “South of
the River” is one thing but “abroad” completely another.

Turner advised us to set off at 5am to avoid the local constabulary, and I have to admit
I was feeling quite emotional as I bid adieu to the shop-keep of the BP Station and
stepped on to the Bus full of Resolve (and paracetemol).

Due to a shortage of space aboard our vehicle we were hard put to cram in the
luggage, and, so to avoid damage to our leather portmanteaux, trouser presses and
travel trunks, we were forced to consign young Wardy to the indignities of being tied
to the trailer. Corky Wainwright maintained that this wasn’t unduly cruel as it would
serve to “toughen him up a bit!” for the rigours of the many days ahead - you see
that’s the trouble with these non-public school types, no fagging means they’re rather
lily-livered when it comes to the harsh realities of life.

By the time we reached Bordeaux, Smiler Prior had been searched inside and out by
the majority of the customs staff in two countries – I think that inane grin of his seems
to suggest that he’s been dabbling with Anderson’s patented cocaine salts again. I
checked our “load”, and I must admit young Wardy did look astonishingly blue in the
lips with salt crystals encrusting his eyebrows. “Not long now, just another 2 hours
till Temple sur Lot!” I reassured him. It might have been my imagination, but I’m
sure I saw a glint of resentment in the chap’s eyes. I do hope he’s not the sort of
fellow to harbour a grudge.

Temple sur Lot is a pleasant little detention centre with a good selection of prune
emporiums and museums. To save time and the bother of untying all those difficult
knots, we left Wardy in situ for the brief two hours that it took to locate and consume
a hearty lunch of boiled horse meat and canned vegetables, and to visit the Palace of
Prunes Museum (founded by David Niven, I highly advise a visit). On returning to
our trailer we brought round Wardy with a snifter of fortified prune juice and a couple
of croissants. This seemed to raise his spirits considerably. The morning sun had
thawed him out and his chin was set with renewed determination. I must say I
admired his pluck.

In Brittany the sun burned brightly overhead and warmed the soil and the jolly French
folk that lived there. It was just a shame that we were in Bordeaux and it was raining
most of the week. Though crowded, the accommodation was quite adequate. The
lavatorial facilities were hardly aristocratic, more innovative, I had never thought of
the benefits of being able to sit on the loo whilst having a shower and brushing my
teeth.
The daily schedule was gruelling and long to say the least, many of the squad came
down with the vapours, galloping clap and I myself had a touch of “Bengali
Shoulder”, an energy sapping illness I had picked up on my many travels round the
East. Towards the end of our time in France energy and etiquette levels fell. My
butler, Maguire, worked his hairy, Irish hands and feet to the bone to try to
consistently turn out the gentleman of the club in their finest evening wear. However,
I found him in tears one night. It turned out that he had happily retired for the night to
the laundry room ready to press my tweeds and flannels, but to his abject horror had
found our resident South Africans chargrilling a couple of Gammon steaks they had
found with my Corby Trouser press (360 model). Feeling an unusual sense of pity for
the poor wretch I had Biscuits Raisbeck beat him to take his and my mind off the
problem, and I believe they were both most grateful for the distraction.

The time had come though to return to good old blighty, and it was a long walk
through customs the customs at heathrow, but with Maguire bearing our luggage,
there was a spring in my step. I noticed more of a gait and hobble in Smiler Prior’s
walk and when I enquired he said that the sensation of firm English customs officers’
hands searching him once more was the most delightful sensation of the whole
voyage.

At this point I would like to indulge the reader in some useful phrases I picked up on
my escapade in the cheap plonk regions of our snail guzzling cousins. These Phrases
should be of some use to the unseasoned continental traveller.

One should first understand that the French is a rich pudding of a language, full of
subtle nuance and hidden meaning. For linguistic accuracy, the following phrases
should be delivered with an exaggerated shrug and lugubrious raising of the
eyebrows.

Yes, we are very pleased to welcome you to our humble little hotel.
Oui?

No, we do not provide any lavatorial facilities other than that filthy hole in the
ground.
Oui, c’est tout

I’m afraid to say we are fresh out of Lapsang Souchong. Is there anything else I can
offer you?
Pas du the.

It is greatly to our discredit that we are not able to offer a more substantial breakfast
to our honoured English visitors.
Un croissant?

Would you be so kind as to vacate your table, because an old man in a beret wishes to
use it for a coughing fit.
Au revoir Messieurs.

Unfortunately we do not sell cigarettes made with a delicious blend of Turkish and
Virginia tobacco.
Gauloises, monsieur?

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