Saturday

what started off as a relaxed quiet day at paleo, after solving some ticket trouble, became another long night. We went early and spent some time eating with family and some family friends at the Indian village before seeing Tracy Chapman, a regular favourite at paleo. After more family time drinking and chatting, dad Gillian Lucas and Josie headed home and we moved up to La retour tent for the first time this year to see Kate wax and her Bjork like electronica.

Caravan Palace were next up at the club tent, with the crazy fusion of jazz, swing and electronica (going to try to catch them again today, Sunday). They really got the crowd going and played some amazing music (a band of about 10 people all with traditional jazz/swing instruments, plus a couple of people with electronic kit).

We skipped another rock group and just waited for the next act in the club tent, Data. This was another incredible DJ who started mayhem in the club tent. It all gets a bit hazy after this but I’ve been reminded that we went into the camping village, we woke up vicci (who previously went to sleep in the car while we were in the club tent) and stayed until it closed, at around this time my wheelchair decided it was too tired to carry on and slowed to a snail’s pace. We had some interesting times in getting me back to the car and then back into bed.

 

Friday

check out the pictures on Flickr!

 

another incredible day, Peter Doherty on his own with a guitar, what can you say. Great  songwriter, musician and performer with an incredibly laid-back attitude.

massive crowd for ska-p, a very popular punk/ska band with an energetic Spanish singer.

fatboy-slim was unbelievable, we went right to the front and everyone bounced around. Very good showman and a great DJ.

Thursday

some great reggae including alborosie, Amy Macdonald has a great voice, Moby was an incredible live act especially the rave finale.  The show stealer was 2manyDJs, with an atypical lack of encore.  We had a chat with their support staff afterwards. Jaime seemed to have to look after everyone last night apart from me, everyone was very merry.

Wednesday

Prodigy were incredible, my all-time favourites live alongside faithless and muse. We stayed late and went into the camping Village. Lots of fun being an intermediary translator between girls and guys, inaccurate translations make for a good laugh.

Raj’s account of the outward journey

Saturday the 18th of July, 2009

 

My version of events start just after 3am in the early hours of Saturday morning. Pulling into Tom’s driveway I was warmly welcomed by Vicci and Ellen who were already busy at work packing up the Chrysler. Vicci was pumped for the long hours ahead. Ellen was typically all smiles wearing a very comfortable looking dressing gown. Exhausted from my drive up from London I blagged my way out of helping too much with packing and got in a couple of hours kip.

 

Jaime wakes me up about an hour or so later. Apologetic for disturbing me but  absolving her guilt with a quick reminder I was being woken to start our HOLIDAYS! 🙂

 

We had the sunrise lighting our departure on an almost perfectly clear summer’s morning. Vicci was at the wheel, Tom sitting upfront, and in the back was Jaime, Ellen, and myself all in a row. Cosy in the back with all our additional luggage acting as footrests. The drive begins for Dover. We were only slightly behind schedule leaving The Warren around 5am. With Vicci in “trouper mode” and the route to Dover being reasonably straight forward it wasn’t long before the three in the back slept, including myself.

 

The next time I woke Jaime was on the phone with Chrysler, head office.  Using all her charm Jaime was negotiating a stereo unlock code. Apparently the garage back in Oxford had reset the stereo during the last routine service. The success of Jaime’s phone call was pivotal. No stereo meant no tunes. And Standlake to Founex with only my vocal range for entertainment would not have made happy the rest of the team! Thankfully Jaime’s charm worked and the unlock code was correct. From this point on ipod playlists were rotated in 30 minute blocks to help cater for everyone’s diverse taste.

 

Our ferry left Dover around 9.30am. It was only a short stint across the English Channel to Calais. With the Chrysler parked up in one of the below decks we were free to wander the boat’s upper decks. It had been years since I last was on a ferry and I’d forgotten how exciting it all was. There was a gentle rocking of the boat from side to side as we sailed off. It meant walking wasn’t as straight forward as on land. Get the rhythm of the rocking wrong and you’ll be falling sideways instead of walking forwards. In addition, any feelings of nausea could easily be attributed to the the rocking sensation. Poor Jamie wasn’t enjoying it too much.

 

We had a quick stroll. I was dead excited to see England get smaller in the distance so we all wandered to the back of the boat where there was an open deck for passengers to take in the view. It was very impressive. The white chalky colour of the cliffs of Dover were picturesque, with the harbour and town making up the landscape, and Dover’s old castle at the highest point on the hills. Wonderful!

 

There wasn’t too much debate needed for the next decision, it was time for breakfast. Everyone’s choice for breakfast was a little different. But we all had one thing in common, coffee.

 

After breakfast Tom and I had a go at the slot machines. I’d never played on these things before so Tom was feeding me instructions. Apparently it’s tradition to use the slot machines while crossing the channel. The results were £5 went in and £10 came out. Victory!

 

Before I had time to get bored on the boat we were already docking into  Calais. At this point things got a little manic. It seemed all the other drivers were extremely keen to leave the boat immediately. Maybe they had cabin fever or something but it was like motorists were almost revving their engines. This was rather confusing to me because surely the vast majority of people on the ferry were just starting their holidays. I couldn’t understand the rush. So we all bundled in the Chrysler in a quick-smart fashion and did our best to keep from delaying any vehicles behind us. For the next part of the journey Ellen was at the wheel and it was Jaime, Vicci and me in the back.

 

After getting off the boat we were soon on the motorway. A little point of useful trivia I soon picked up. French motorways are signposted with blue signs, just like in the UK. However, with UK motorways signs start with the leter ‘M’,  in France they use the leter ‘A’. Ellen was explaining it to me.

 

At the very first services we came to we pulled up and made time to organise ourselves inside the car. Tom had to be strapped in fully and the luggage at the back had become disorganised. It didn’t take long.

 

One of the items we were carrying in the back was Tom’s shower-chair. This is the chair Tom sits in while having a wash (obviously you can’t use a very expensive electric chair in the shower). At this point Vicci must have been extremely tired. The poor girl had been up for some 25 hours straight making sure the trip got off to a flawless start. After Tom was in and the bags were sorted Vicci was adjusting the shower-chair with cushions and blankets to make a shower-chair into a sleeping-chair.

 

I only draw attention to this adjustment of the shower-chair for one main reason. Either Vicci sleeps with the deep slumber of a hibernating grizzly bear or the additional cushions on the shower-chair transformed the chair into some industrial strength comfort! No matter how pounding the base beat of the music became, or how explosive the roar of laughter from a funny joke was, or how many times your nudged the girl, Vicci slept on! . . . and on  . . . and on. It was incredible! I’d never seen anything like it before. Vicci could sleep through anything! The next time Vicci awoke was at lunch. We’d pulled into another services a few hours later. The ramp to the Chrysler went down and, with Vicci still asleep in the shower-chair, Ellen and Jaime rolled her her out the door. Eventually the bump at the bottom of the ramp woke her!

 

It was a most delicious lunch. Tom and Ellen had packed up all the perishables from the fridge before we left and with a few extra bits from the shop we had a really lovely picnic. Olives and baguettes and cheese and lettuce and beetroot and yoghurt and other kinds of lovely things.

 

After lunch we got back on the road. We didn’t want to stop for too long to eat. There was a lot of driving ahead of us. Ellen remained at the wheel. Vicci got back to her deep deep slumber. We drove on. Ellen was very excited about cruise control on the Chrysler.

 

We weren’t doing too badly for time. We were making reasonable mileage but were definitely behind schedule. And then it happened. A loud pop followed by a flapping noise. We were travelling at 120kph up a gentle gradient on the A4 (French motorway) somewhere near Verdun, about 60km west of Metz, and we heard something that sounded like a tyre wasn’t happy. At this particular part of the motorway there was only a slow lane on our right, no hard shoulder. After a couple of hundred yards the hard shoulder came back and Ellen very calmly pulled the over the Chrysler. Ellen, the one with easiest ability to exit the Chrysler, inspected the right rear wheel and confirmed our fears. The tyre was hissing and letting out air at a very fast rate. We had a puncture.

 

Springing into action I knew this was my time to shine. All them years as a boyscout I figured, “no problem, I can fix a flat!”. We unloaded the boot. Out came the luggage and it began lining the edge of the hard shoulder. Next we got out the spare tyre and jack. I figured the jack lines up with the underside of the car next to the wheel. Ellen and I worked together to winch up the car. The jack was perpendicular the chassis. This was a mistake. The jack only had a very narrow base. And with the gentle gradient of the slope, as the rear right end of the Chrysler became increasingly elevated from the ground, the Chrysler naturally wanted to roll backwards under the force of gravity. Eventually the Chrysler was too high up and the jack was unable to resist the force of gravity and it gave in. In a sudden jolt the jack buckled under the pressure. This gave us all a shock.

 

We were now on the side of the A4 with a broken jack and a flat tyre. It was time for help. Tom got on the phone and spoke with our European breakdown policy people in the UK. It eventually transpired that motorway breakdowns can only be legally serviced by the the official breakdown service. French motorways are privately owned. Luckily there was an SOS telephone exchange about 10 feet away.

 

A short while later the motorway roadside recovery team arrived to assist. With the right tools now on hand in the back of their maintenance vehicle the  replacement tyre on in a jiffy. It was somewhere after 8pm when we were finally back on the road.

 

At some point Jaime took over as driver. The point at which this happened is a little foggy for me. I cannot recall if it was immediately after the puncture or if we stopped at some services again and then Ellen and Jaime swapped. I get the feeling the slight mental block might have something to do with Jaime’s crazy driving. For the next 4 hours, when Jaime was behind the wheel, my heart rate could not have dropped below 120bpm. The girl was wild on the wheel! Erratic breaking, cutting up drivers after over taking, hesitantly entering motorways. Oh my lord, never had I been so scared!

 

Ah, I jest. It wasn’t too bad. And Jaime did have the hardest drive to do. By this time the sun had long set and it was a particularly fiddly bit of the journey. It took keen attention from both Tom and I on directions to make sure we were on the right route. As we approached Strasbourg on the A4 we travelled across the river Rhine and into Germany. We were aiming to use the German A5 autobahn to blitz our way into Switzerland at lightning speeds. But the the French A4 and German A5 are not connected by motorway. We were winding our way around using national roads. Single lane things with roundabouts. It was tricky.

 

Once we were sure we were on the autobahn we were making great time. We entered Switzerland around Basel. It must have been nearing the small hours of the morning by this time. Shortly after arriving across the border another quick toilet break at a services and Vicci took over the driving for the last leg of the journey. I have to confess, with Jaime returning to her back seat position I was more at ease with the driving. Tom was confident over the route we were taking on Swiss soil so I don’t think we used the map too much after that.

 

It was nearing on 22 hours of straight travelling and all those who were not directly involved in driving or directions were drifting in and out of sleep all the way to David’s front door.

 

We finally arrived at David’s house at about 3 o’clock in the morning. Once we came of the Swiss main roads for the town of Founex it was like the whole of Switzerland was sleeping. So peaceful.

 

Josie was the first one out of the front door to welcome us all to Switzerland. David shortly followed. We had arrived. What a journey. What an experience. And we get to do it all over again, in reverse, on the way home. I know I can’t wait!

leading up to paleo 09

while we are waiting for my friend Raj’s account of the eventful journey out to Switzerland, I will give a short account of the first few days at my dad’s newly adapted house.

We arrived very early on Sunday morning and slept until early afternoon after having some trouble getting down the  stair lift (ellen eventually worked out the wheelchair needed to be as close to the chair lift mechanism as possible to avoid excessive leverage effects , namely misalignment of the chairlift on its running rail causing it to stop). The day was spent relaxing with family and children, meeting Charlotte the nanny and learning her experienced methods of childcare, everyone else swimming, playing badminton, football.

We tested the amazing roll a ramp solution which takes me up on to the patio, and it works like a charm. I have to be careful coming down forward as the rear wheels of the chair fishtail when I turn, so I have started coming down backwards.The evening involved Lucas watching DVDs and Josephine watching the adults having a drink or two. ahem…
the next day, Monday involved much the same during the morning and early afternoon, I enjoyed a power shower from two girls in bikinis (such are the strains of swimming-pool life) and then we were preparing for the basement housewarming party.
This was a chance to celebrate the incredible adaptions that Gillian and Dad have made to the basement and the rest of the house to enable me to stay here. Many incredible people came and said hello, it was a great chance to catch up with a lot of old friends and people who have given support. The event was really enjoyable, if slightly surreal, it felt great that everyone was so supportive of progress in my new life. Unfortunately I didn’t talk to everyone and some people probably stayed in the background (like Jose, who used to give us the ultimate Verbier back route tours). Hopefully I will get the chance to catch up with all these great people again, some through the paleo week. Times like these make me appreciate how much love people have for my dad, in and out of work, and as people always say, how he really is unique in what he can do at work and how much he can and will change in the world.

Paleo: summer festival

we are in Switzerland now, before the festival paleo. Staying at dad’s new adapted basement and having great fun in the garden with Josephine, Lucas, dad, Gillian, Ellen, Raj, Jamie and Vicci. Jamie and Vicci are my two PAs who have come to help me out. We have decided to write a combined diary of the trip….