The latest episode (Episode 51) was posted on 4th May 2016


(These extracts from a journal that I have kept since the autumn of 1979 are picked at random. I've tried to cut out all the humdrum, but it will take a while before it really gets going. There may well be too much about food)

I'm skipping most of the time we spent in Tobago. It was all wonderful, even Jacob's Guest House, in the dining room of which was a large reproduction of The Last Supper and a larger poster of the Kentucky Union Stud.


24th August 1987 – At Camping Bonne Anse Plague, near La Palmyre, Charente

We reached St Malo on Saturday evening, about 7.30pm French time. After an hour’s wait for the swing bridge to open, we drove Intra Muros, past the Casino and found the Hotel Surcouf. This was a good moment. The Hotel was oldish, and had a little forecourt. The rear of the Hotel had a lovely view of the bay. At either side of the gateway leading into the forecourt was a little lodge house, one room downstairs, one room with balcony upstairs. It looked for all the world like a tiny 1930s Hollywood Studio. And one of the little lodges was for us.

We showered, then went out and had a drink in the hotel bar, watching the sunset over the bay. Then off to Le Magellan for tarte pecheur, truies et frites, coupes Sandra et fromage.

Back to bed. Didn’t sleep too well – noisy boys, early leavers, one seagull returning from a disco. Still, good breakfast, and off we went. Bought supplies somewhere south of St Malo, negotiated rennes and nantes. Lunched at a little picnic area 15 kilometres south of Nantes (good chevre, good butter – stolen from Brittany Ferries – and good baguette from St Malo. Headed south. Thought about Ile d’Oléron, but made instead for Bonne Anse. Crowds of cars leaving the peninsula. Found the campsite, booked in. Large pine forest, long walk to sea – hopeless beach and hopeless sea, really a lagoon. Jake had a small outing on his surf ski and was very philosophical about it. We all decided, however, that we would not stay here…

At God knows what hour in the morning there was the mother and father of storms: sheets of lightning, claps of thunder, blankets of rain. It poured. Ruby went out to fasten Jake’s tent flap and got soaked. A sudden gust of wind (Force 23 on the Beaufort Scale) sent our carefully washed and preserved empty plastic boxes the length and breadth of le Camping.

I lay in bed, counting the seconds between flashes and claps (sounds perverted, doesn’t it), praying that the storm wouldn’t strike the pines, the tent, the camper van, and repeating, like Catholics gibber Hail Marys, ‘rain, rain, go away…’ In the end it did. Dozed. Dreamed. Awful nightmare about having abandoned Jake on a campsite in the south of France and being lured to England by Patsy*. She was concerned only about the damp in the cellar **. Also about being menaced by a Ron Dellar*** lookalike, and visiting a friend in married quarters at Epsom College. In the dream I got on two trains, one with Christopher****, which wasn’t going to London, and one with a crowd of teachers who blithely said that the first stop was Chester. So I jumped off that train, and ran along a railway cutting to a rural station full of boys from Dulwich College, some of whom were attempting to lie down under the train as it came in. I then ran to Brixton, which in the nightmare was a small ugly town on the top of a large hill, where no one would tell me how to get to Waterloo (to catch the boat train) because I was white. I saw a bus at the bottom of the hill, raced down to it, but the driver wouldn’t tell me where it was going, because I was white.

Finally, I got on the boat train and (I think) on the boat, but then discovered I didn’t have a passport. Woke up. Everything soaking wet outside, pine needles bounced 12 feet in the air, tent awash. We got up, quickly breakfasted, packed everything, including the sopping tent. Ruby started the engine of the camper van – wonderful! Worked first time. No repeat of the awful Austrian problems of last year.

But then…