We'd booked a Thursday evening crossing from Newhaven to Dieppe. I took the whole day off, and was outside at half past eight in the morning washing my bike. Then I strolled down the road to vote. The polling station, a church in its everyday life, was offering free coffee and cakes, so I had a second breakfast before returning to polish my bike, which had dried in the already glorious sunshine.
Next on the agenda was a ride to Alton, where some friends from the scooter forum were having a lunch meet. I enjoyed a chat and a sausage sandwich, and was eventually joined by Howard for the journey to the port.
While I waited, I'd been enjoying the Chinooks flying out of nearby Odiham. Soon after we hit the A31, I was delighted by two fighters - Tornadoes? - travelling overhead, banking steeply.
As we approached Newhaven, the traffic grew heavy so we had to filter. There was no sign of the port, and we were coming close to the 45-minutes-before-sailing cutoff for checkin. As I uncharacteristically whizzed over a level crossing whose lights had started to flash, I spotted a sign and pulled in to the port entrance. Howard, however, was still intently filtering and hadn't observed my disappearance. I decided it was better to stick where I was than pursue him through the rush hour, and soon he had returned and we were through passport control.
Eight other motorbikes were already parked below decks, and I surmised correctly that this was the rest of our party. Bikes were secured by riding into a chock, which lifts up and forward to secure the front wheel (and terrifies me every time). Bike held, I dismounted, failed to put the sidestand down, and the bike promptly fell over.
It hit Howard's, and I had a horrible vision of all ten going down like dominoes, but luckily this didn't happen. The only damage was to my windscreen, which somehow popped off and could not be refitted by the combined efforts of me, Howard, a ferry employee, and a bloke in a Jeep with a toolkit.
"Non," the ferry man said eventually. "Dead." I would ride around without it all weekend; good thing the weather was warm and it didn't rain.
We located the group of bikers without difficulty and introduced ourselves, then settled down for the four-hour crossing. At the other end we sat-naved to our budget F1 Hotel, arriving shortly before midnight to a smiling welcome from the receptionist.