Friday, 28 February 2014

Our Road Trip back to Ireland in a Pepsi Can Part 2

The town of Dover
My husband only stayed a night in Ireland and then made the journey back to England to retrieve our Pepsi Can and attempt to get it repaired, which he did, but not before one of the windows was broken and this had to be repaired also. This breakage occurred at a car boot sale when a friend locked his keys in the car and they could not break into the car to retrieve them even though they used every means possible.  It seems that the one redeemable feature of the Pepsi Can was that it was impossible to force the lock… that is if anyone actually wanted to do so in the first place. My husband told me that it was a real attraction to the Algerians in London due to its number plates rather than it’s unusual design.  Some went so far as to kiss the car! Never underestimate the love that Algerians have for their homeland… especially when it’s been a long time since they have been there.  My husband finally drove it back to Ireland professing all to be well… as long as he didn’t drive it past a certain speed… less than 100 kilometres an hour, not nearly fast enough for the long journeys on the motorway, which gave us the uneasy feeling of being in a child’s toy pedal car. As it barely had space inside the vehicle for the 7 of us, we had counted on buying a roof rack to put on top and carry all the shopping and gifts we had acquired during our trip, but…… you guessed it, the roof was too narrow to cope with any roof rack.
The one good thing about our Pepsi Can (yes there was one), as my sister bemusedly pointed out, was that whereas normally people stared at us in all our Muslim garb, whenever we got out of the wretched thing they were more interested in the car than in us.  We were going out one day with some members of the family travelling in two cars, and my Mum told me that her sister had warned her not to attempt to travel in our car due to the fact that, after travelling in it, the one and half hour’s journey from her home to my Mum, she had found it so uncomfortable.  But my Mum wasn’t to be put off and traveled in our car and professed afterwards that it was perfectly comfortable, which might be explained by the fact that she had sat in the front while my aunt had sat in the back.  The kids all complained of sore posteriors from sitting in it for long periods of time and said that, by the time we returned to Algeria their bums were all seat shaped.  Oh well.... better than going pear shaped I suppose.

My husband and I packed the car the day before we were due to leave Ireland, or rather, I gave my husband all our belongings and HE packed the car, as we were leaving in the early hours of the morning before sunrise to drive to catch the ferry back to England.  After he had finished, my Mum went out to inspect his handy work and came back into the house saying what a great job he had done, managing to fit everything in but…..’there’s just one teensy weensy little problem I can see with his packing,’ she said.  ‘What’s that Mum?’ I asked.  ‘Where are you going to put the children?’ she replied.  ‘Well, actually, Mum, I was thinking of leaving some of them behind as a little souvenir of our trip!’ ‘If you do… I’ll post them back to you in an envelope!’ she replied.  ‘Now, Mum, are you inferring something negative about my little angels????’  I retorted, to which we both fell about laughing which set off the course for the remainder of our last night in Ireland.
The port of Marseille
My Mum and I both hated saying goodbye, and I have many heart rending memories of watching her, (and my Dad before he passed away), standing in the doorway in tears as she watched us drive away, so she said we weren’t going to say ‘goodbye’ but just ‘goodnight’, we hugged and went to our beds.  In the early of the hours of the morning we crept out of the house (as quietly as a herd of stomping elephants), dropped the keys through the letterbox and set off on the three hour journey to the ferry. She said afterwards how surprised she was when she didn't wake until the sun was shining as she is normally a very light sleeper, and how it helped to dissipate some of her sadness to know that we had covered a good part of our journey by this time. As we drove along the empty road, with the children snoozing in the back and me deep in thought, feeling inestimably sad as I watched the first light of dawn creep across the sky, suddenly there was a van driving right up behind us, flashing its lights and beeping its horn, and before we had time to think it passed us out, but not before it’s passengers turned on the light inside the van and we saw my brother and his work mates waving and laughing at us as they sped by starting on their long journey to work in Dublin.  I must admit it made us all laugh and definitely lightened the mood for the rest of the journey Alhamdulilah.

We stayed for a couple of more weeks in England, meeting up with friends and some family before we started the insurmountable task of fitting everything we had into a space that was half the size necessary to fit it all. It didn’t help that I had accepted a homemade gift of dried flowers in a pot and swathed around a stick which became the bane of our lives, or rather the lives of the children who had to move it every time they got in and out of the car after climbing over bags of books and clothes and other treasures.  I had to hide a couple of packets of cat food donated to me by a cat-mad friend of mine, in one of the pockets of the storage bags strapped to the back of the seats, in case my husband saw it and they would be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The fact that we didn’t have any cats was neither here nor there.  This particular friend had visited us in Algeria and had attracted all the stray cats in the neighbourhood to our door, and, it was for these cats the packets were intended.
The port of Algiers
Eventually we started off down the road to Dover, to take the ferry back to Calais, with all of us dealing with this particular crossing with military precision, taking travel sickness medication and staying out on deck for most of the hour’s crossing.  We had left plenty of time to make the journey across France to Marseille taking into account the snail’s pace at which we were forced to drive, and without any hitches we arrived in Marseille in plenty of time for the ferry.  Although admittedly by this time, the children all had the imprints of their knees embedded under their chins.  Once we drove into the port to await the ferry we were unable to leave the port again and it had absolutely nothing to recommend itself in the way of restaurants, shops or anything at all to distract us from the sheer boredom of having to wait around for hours. By the time we boarded the ferry for Algiers the books had nearly all been read by the children.
The port of Algiers
After a pleasant journey back to Algiers overnight, during which we met up with friends, we finally arrived in the port of Algiers safe and sound Alhamdulilah.  Disembarking is always quite stressful due to the risk of being asked to unpack your vehicle by the customs, and with ours packed to the gills, it was even more nerve-wracking.  My husband made dua (supplication) on board the ferry to ask Allah to make it easy for us at the port, and then, he backed it up with his own efforts:  He asked me to drive the car in the line-up of cars as we slowly inched our way through the port while he guided me…. in English.  Sure enough one customs official amazed at the fact that I was ‘English’ and, obviously due to the Algerian registered car, living in Algeria, after a brief chat with my husband merely had a good look inside the car and just waved us through without asking to unpack it.  As we all breathed a sigh of relief whilst driving away from the port we all proclaimed ‘Never Again!’  But…… never is such a long time… and…. in our case…..just two years because we DID do it all again…… although this time….. not in the Pepsi Can which got the heave-ho soon after our arrival in Algiers.  But I will leave that trip for another time inshallah.

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