Tuesday, 12 October 2010

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This is the first chance I;ve had to slet down a quick summary of the past two days, the first days of the convoy, Our first day and a half in the UK were piecemeal, sometimes chaotic and frustrating, but generally friendly. Of the 28 vehicles that were to assemble by 8pm on Saturday at the romantic Services at Junction 2 on the M40 at Beaconsfield (for historians - What would the first Lord Beaconsfield have made of the convoy?) only 4 showed up. By 8am Sun morning, there were 18. Some had decided to park in a slip road at White City, across from BBC TV where we thought to parade before setting off for the Channel Tunnel. When we arrived there and managed to assemble all 23 vans in the right order, the BBC let us know that our presence would not be welcome in their drive-in area, even if it simply moved through. It will be a good day when the spiritual director of BBC Middle East News is no longer Mark Regev, the Israeli Press Officer. Luckily, we'd had Press TV interview some of us earlier at Beaconsfield,l and the Al Jazeera cameras were waiting for the convoy at the Westway/Shepherd'sd Bush roundabout, so we had publicity despite the sleazy Beeb.
Rich, partner-co-driver on the convoy, and I had been separated from some of the others further up Westway into the West End, so Rich turned on sat-nav. Sat nav knows what it knows - the shortest distance between two points, but, alas, not the fastest. We used it but made exceptions  and it worked out. Anyhow, I knew that once we found ourself in the safe hold of the Old Kent Road, we were Folkestone bound. We were one of the first cars to get to wait around and around for the Chunnel train. Ah, but once off the train at Calais, some lead vans decided they had arrived at the 24 Hours at Le Mans race (we were later to pass through Le Mansd, but the new super-ring road means the thrill of the old ring road - the actual race track - is no longer available to the 50mph senior citizen dreaming of Stirling Moss. With some key vans out of our 4 mile or so convoy radios, the night grew darker and longer. The convoy was too strung out, as were its drivers, and wrong turns were started and false starts were made. There were no serious misadventures, so when we later met up at the designated service/parking station for the night, we were able to have some small group discussions which came down to learning to learn from our mistakes and learning patience. Next morning, the entire convoy assembled for short talks by Keiran, the convoy leader (and our section leader) and Adnan, who had been elected as Emir for the Muslim convoy members. We set off in one long convoy, in fine weather and high spirit. After our first break, at lunch, we split up into four sections, making driving easy. The trick of convoy driving on heavily trafficked roads is to stay close enough, but not too close, to the van in front. Another trick is to have the section leader out front, and to have another very knowledgables pair in the last vehicle, to report on any vehicle in trouble.
We made fairly good time on this second day and made Bordeaux, where a serendititous wrong turn led us around the gorgeous waterfront and grand squares of the city. I remembered it from forty years ago, when the buildings were grimy with car exhaust and soot. The city is now full of light. It shines. We spent the night in a run-down outer suburb, camped in and around a mosque. This was an experience worth reporting, as I shall tomorrow. Now for a night's sleep in a bed. A real bed! And a shower!!

blogged from about 50 miles south of Madrid on the Cordoba road.


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