Yesterday I drove from London to Bromsgrove for a reunion lunch with a bunch of pals with whom in 2017 I had undertaken a WW1 battlefields trip to the Verdun area and then last year – for each of us our first similar toe-dip into WW2 similar – a tour of the Normandy D-Day Landing sites.
The gathering was as expected a jovial occasion. There is something about a shared touring experience that prompts both a hard-to-emulate collective camaraderie and an instinctive ‘picking up from where you left off’ the next time you meet – most of it no doubt stemming from either sundry random exciting or revelatory ‘research’ experiences and/or humorous and sometimes rather childish ‘incidents’ that occurred upon one’s previous expeditions.
The topic de jour was a discussion about our plans for the summer of 2019 – a 75th anniversary trip to central France and the area where famous but ultimately near-suicidal SAS initiative to try and hamper and delay the movement of Panzer division tank units northwards to bolster the defence of Normandy after the Allied invasion had happened.
Our gathering was joined by a prospective new and potentially rather important tourist, a descendant of one of the SAS men killed on the original mission, who has a wealth of knowledge about what actually happened. Part of our trip will be dedicated to visiting some of the sites that the SAS either occupied and/or scouted and helped to destroy or damage on their hazardous mission.
The lunch was successful in that the dates and most of the logistical planning for the trip were settled and the necessary booking and researching tasks were divvied up between us.
However, my intention in posting today was not so much to mention the lunch but the ‘travelling’ aspect of the eight-hour round trip.
The Tuesday-into-Wednesday night had been noticeably cold – I can assert that with some feeling as my boiler had packed up and there had been no central heating available in my house – and there was a keen frost on the ground first thing in the morning as I prepared to set off.
Suddenly, from about Beaconsfield onwards, the countryside through which I was travelling presented as a ‘winter wonderland’ backdrop of rolling hills and valleys covered in the white stuff.
I must say that, as I bowled along on or about the 70mph mark bathed in the 20 degree Centigrade warmth provided by my car’s heating system whilst listening to Radio Five Live (primarily the comment and analysis leading up to yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions session that I was destined not to hear ‘live’), life felt pretty good.
Most of the traffic surrounding me was behaving acceptably well. I was unbothered by phone calls. I was enjoying the bright sunshine – for about an hour I even donned the pair of dark glasses that I keep in my central console – and what I can only describe as England’s historic and beautiful countryside all around me.
It is at times like yesterday that one can forget about Brexit, the undeniable fact there’s a major housing crisis and (some suggest) a serious risk that our green and pleasant land is about to become irrevocably paved with concrete from the Isle of Dogs to Cumbria and piled high with embryo Grenfell Tower-like blocks.
That’s all I wanted to say, really.