There was still the problem of the view, or lack of one, from the bedroom window. After much deliberation, I hit on what I thought would be the answer. I would erect three wooden posts, each three inches square and eight feet high, using metal post-holders, and to those posts I would fix a trellis. If I trained a wisteria over the trellis, that would hide the gas tank from view very nicely, and would look attractive into the bargain.
Why I didn't buy all the bits and pieces –
including the wisteria – in France is something I shall never
understand. But I didn't. Mrs S and I visited an English garden centre
and selected a magnificent wisteria plant, one that was already eight
feet high. Just getting it back to our English home was something of a
challenge, and I still had to transport it to France – along with three
eight foot posts, the trellis and all the appropriate tools for a week's
work. It took me quite a while to pack the car that Sunday afternoon.
After passing through check-in and before going through to the dockside
at the ferry port, cars were selected, apparently at random, for a
security check. So far I had been lucky and managed to avoid this
hassle – but not this time. I can't have been more than a yard or so
from the gate to the quay when somebody in a fluorescent yellow
waistcoat jumped in front of the car, causing me to practice an
emergency stop. He waved at me imperiously, directing me into the
security check area.
I was invited to step out of the car and to
open the boot. The security officer glanced inside and groaned. I'm
sure that he was sorely tempted to tell me to close the boot and drive
on, but his conscience won the day – either that, or he thought his boss
might be watching. Anyway, everything had to come out – suitcase,
toolboxes, wooden posts, wisteria plant, even the spare wheel. As I
stood there holding up the wisteria, a sniffer dog was brought across. I
was not best pleased when he cocked his leg against the plant, but
relieved that at least he missed my leg!
The contents of my
suitcase got a cursory examination, but not so the toolboxes.
Everything was pulled out and scattered on the ground – screwdrivers,
chisels, saws, a positive cornucopia of potentially lethal weapons. I
was escorted into an office where I was asked to hand over my passport
before being thoroughly searched. A second, more senior, security
officer arrived and proceeded to question me.
I considered phoning my Member of Parliament to complain about this
harassment. But even if I had decided to do so, I couldn't have done
because I didn't even know who my Member of Parliament was let alone his
telephone number. I decided against ringing Mrs S as she wouldn't have
known either, and in any case she would have been in bed and asleep by
then and wouldn't have heard the phone ringing. I couldn't anyway,
because my mobile phone had been taken along with my passport – a
passport which stated that ‘Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State
requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may
concern to allow the bearer (me!) to pass freely without let or
hindrance'. And here were British people hindering my passage!
eventually managed to persuade the security officers that I was not a
terrorist intent on hijacking the ferry, nor was I a hacksaw murderer on
the run, and nor was I intending to wage a solo war against the French
in order to regain Anjou for the British crown. By the time they let me
go the ferry was nearly due to depart and I had no time to pack the car
properly before driving over the ramp just as it started to lift. As a
result, I had wisteria leaves tickling the back of my neck for the rest
of the journey.
A year or so down the line, this is how that wisteria looked.