A Grand Old Time By Judy Leigh
Evie Gallagher is regretting her hasty move into a care home. She may be seventy-five and recently widowed, but she’s absolutely not dead yet. And so, one morning, Evie walks out of Sheldon Lodge and sets off on a Great Adventure across Europe.
But not everyone thinks Great Adventures are appropriate for women of Evie’s age, least of all her son Brendan and his wife Maura, who follow a trail of puzzling text messages to bring her home.
When they finally catch up with her, there are shocks in store . . . because while Brendan may have given up on life and love, Evie certainly has not.
Evie – on buying her campervan.
It grinned at me. It had a little face, a wide smiling mouth where the grille was and it had huge round headlamps for eyes. For sure, it was beaming, full of mischief, like it was saying buy me, please. Of course, I was just being silly. I mean, what would I do with a camper van, here in France, so many miles from home? It’s been such a long time since I’ve driven anything and after Jim died, it was just the little trip once a week to the supermarket and to Brendan’s house to listen to that miserable wife of his complain that I’d parked the car on her begonias. But when I saw it, I thought, why not? Why ever not indeed? I could take myself off, have a proper time of it, drive all day long singing whatever I wanted at the top of my voice. It’d be grand. In the evening I could have a couple of glasses of that nice red Merlot, maybe then I’d sleep under a warm duvet, my head on soft cushions, gazing through the little windows up at the stars.
I’m sure Brendan would say I was a little bit mad, a bit foolish, but what else was I to do? Go back to that care home, the chairs smelling of stale stew and piss? It wasn’t for me, not now. Not ever.
Kat gave the owner a good old tongue bashing in French about me having a test drive and he looked a bit pale as he handed me the keys. He looked much worse when I nearly ran over his foot on the way out of the garage. Kat said ‘Turn left, Evie. No, the other left,’ and the van stopped with a jerk and I was surrounded by traffic, French traffic, blaring horns and yelling drivers waving their arms at me. So we lurched forward, hopping along like Skippy the bush kangaroo and the gears groaned. Suddenly it became like second nature. There I was, peering over the wheel, my eyes screwed up tight so I could see in front of me properly, and I was away and running. Away and driving, with France opening up in front of me like a giant road map.
Kat pointed out what a gendarme looked like. He was in the middle of the road, so I avoided knocking him over, gave him a friendly wave like I was the queen, then I turned the little camper van back to the garage. Well, I couldn’t walk away from it, not after that. I’d crouched in its bucket seats, tugged at its wheel and breathed in the sickly stench of the people who’d owned it before. I’d give its seat covers a good shampooing, clean it up nicely inside and out, polish its bumpers so that it shone in the sun, and I’d be off to the south. That was what I’d do. I had enough money left over from the gambling. My mind was made up.
‘I’ll buy it,’ I said.
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