We set off at 8am in typical Cumbrian weather, it was throwing it down, and it didn't stop throwing it down until we were miles south of Manchester. Jackie elected to do this part of the drive, whilst I read the paper and Cat nodded off. We don't do any motorway driving round here so being thrust into the madness of driving rain and madcap would be formula one maniacs was not the best of starts to our journey to Canterbury.
Eventually the weather cheered up and without incident we arrived at our destination, and Cats accommodation for the next year at about 4pm. We off loaded enough stuff to fill Cathys' small room and went in search of a shop but we found planet Tesco instead, in the middle of Canterbury. The chaos of Tesco is enough to make me run for the hills at any time but after an eight hour drive its pure hell. We stayed as long as it takes to buy the basics for Cats initial larder and a couple of bottles of vino for the grown ups.
Back at Cats student digs we said our short as possible emotional goodbyes and headed in the direction of the M25 and the road to Portsmouth. It was dusk and the plan was to camp in the back of the van. We would get a few miles under our wheels before pulling in somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be a service station but the sign said you couldn't stay overnight, and at that moment we didn't relish the idea of a hard floor in the back of the van. Especially as there was a hotel beckoning us. Lets do that we decided, even though it was a squeeze on our purse strings. Sorry we're full, said the receptionist, our plan had been thwarted, so we decided to get back on the road. We were on the wrong road anyway, going east instead of west as you do on these long trips to strange places. We head back the way we came and find the right road which led us to the next services where they had a room, only one left. We'll take it, we said. We're about 2 hours out of Portsmouth and it's about 9pm.
At a picnic table outside the motel we set up the backgammon, crack open the wine and light up. England is now a no smoking anywhere indoors country, soon to be outdoors too I would guess, but for now we're safe from the fag police here, wrapped up against the chill of the autumn night air we play out three games, that I loose 2 to 1, almost polish off two bottles and flop into bed in our soulless room for a well deserved sleep. Tomorrow we'll make Portsmouth and see my sons family, we should be there about 10am.