I often open my mouth without really thinking things through. I thought it would be a great idea to have a little trip away with my boy before he heads off to Uni. Yes, let’s go to Belgium, what fun we will have. Oh. I forgot that over the last couple of years I’ve developed a deep hatred for travel, motorways, cars, anything that involves me being too far away from the emergency services should I need to call upon them. I also have developed deep anxiety in general over the last few months, which I believe has something to do with being perimenopausal. Whoops.
Seeing how enthusiastic my son was about the trip and without the threat of Operation stack following through, potentially putting an end to our trip, off we went. My boyfriend R at the wheel, my son T and his mate J and me. I am the original back seat driver and if R refuses to drive me anywhere again I wouldn’t blame him. Even with 4 drops of rescue remedy in my morning tea I began to hate myself on the drive to Dover.
My behaviour was pretty appalling, and we had even gone the long way to Dover so I didn’t have to endure the anxiety of motorway travel. But it appears I imagine that R develops some form of instantaneous blindness on taking his position behind the wheel. I helpfully point out that the vehicles in front are now breaking (to be fair I do feel he takes his eyes off the road for too long at times). I always alert him to the potential hazards as I think a pedestrian may be considering crossing the road and frequently question him as to “WHAT ARE YOU DOING??”
I’ve always enjoyed the Ferry part of the journey, but on this occasion the thought of being in the middle of the sea with no access to the aforementioned emergency services got me a bit jittery. I did reassure myself a little by realising we were never too far from land for an air ambulance to be deployed. Fortunately a nice pint of beer (once we hit french waters and gained an hour making it a respectable time for an alcoholic beverage) laced with another 4 drops of rescue remedy got me through the two hours to Dunkirk.
It was once we started back off in the car that I had to question what has happened to me? We have done this trip so many times, but suddenly I am so afraid of being driven on the right hand side of the road.
Our time spent in Veurne was lovely, there are some fabulous old buildings, my favourite being St. Walburga Church. On all of our visits I had hoped that one time we would happen upon a service in the church. To hear the organ with those vast pipes being played would be a real treat. And I had my treat at last.
In another church there was a timetable of services in St. Walburga, and even though it was written in Flemish we managed to work out that there would be a wedding there that afternoon. So we positioned ourselves in the pub next door and I waited to get a glimpse of the bride. After they’d gone in I noted that tourists could still walk into the church without realising there was a wedding taking place. So, with T’s mate in tow, we snuck round to the entrance at the back of the church and plonked ourselves on the back row. My first Belgian wedding, and I didn’t even have to buy a gift. I was even cheeky enough to stand in the hub of things when the bride and groom came out and took photos.
When we left our hotel and headed back to Dunkirk we were somehow driving on a different road to the one we came in on. It was a motorway. I had read an article on controlling panic attacks recently where it said to try and get excited about your anxiety to change the feelings you are experiencing. So in my head I was trying to get excited. Isn’t it exciting how fast all these cars can go without crashing. Isn’t it exciting how little time the cars leave to swap lanes. Isn’t exciting how close that lorry is to the back of that car. That kind of thing. When I thought it might be working I noticed something. There wasn’t a hard shoulder!! I’m screaming in my head, “where is the f*****g hard shoulder?!” What are you supposed to do if something goes wrong with the car? I spent the next 20 minutes in a state of extreme fear, I could hardly walk by the time we next got out of the car.
I’m glad I waited until the journey was over to discuss this lack of hard shoulder situation with my boyfriend. His reply to my question of what happens in an emergency situation was, “You put your head in your lap and kiss your @rse goodbye!”.
Writing this has enabled me to realise I cannot manage this new level of anxiety with rescue remedy alone. I’m off to get help. If I don’t I’ll never go anywhere again.