The day before he arrived, I filled up with petrol ready for an early start, hitched the trailer onto the car (the Citroen - the Merc doesn't have a towbar), loaded the bike onto the trailer (single-handedly, big effort) and then made sure the paperwork was all tickety-boo. Hit the road Saturday morning at 6.30. Only I didn't. Battery was flat as a pancake. Panicked. Nobody was around to give me a push start. Then remembered I had a portable jump lead battery thingy, but it wasn't charged up so it probably wouldn't work. Luckily (er, extremely luckily), it worked and the engine started. Then banged my head on a sharp corner of the bonnet. Kicked the car. Set off.
Arrived at the airport at 9am, half an hour before the plane was due. Headed for the airport caff. Discovered the plane was delayed by half an hour. No probs, another coffee. Plane landed and then spent ten minutes (or more) in arrivals looking for a biker in motorcycle gear. Didn't see one. Returned to the caff in case he was there. Bloke wearing ordinary gear recognised me and introduced himself (his biking gear was in a big bag). Went out to the car and trailer (parked up by the roundabout outside the airport - didn't want to risk the bike getting smashed by the car park barrier arm coming down after the car had driven through), unloaded the bike, did the paperwork and that was it. Done. Then the chap whizzed off towards the ferry port and Blighty. However..., perhaps due to jet lag, over excitement, lack of concentration, whatever..., he whizzed off in the left-hand lane and circled the roundabout in a clockwise direction, having completely forgotten to drive on the right. Luckily (extremely luckily!), he didn't meet any traffic head-on. Could have been the shortest length of motorcycle ownership ever recorded. Emailed him the following morning to check he'd got back okay. Quite relieved to hear that he had and that he was very pleased with the bike. Phew!
Now began my search for a French registered bike. Actually, it didn't - I'd been thinking about what bike to get for ages. Trouble is, as is often the case, one starts off with a set budget (in my case about £5000 or €6000) and ends up looking at bikes that cost a whole load more. However, with sanity regained, my shortlist comprised the KTM 950 Adventure (the newer 990 isn't as good - it's fuel injected and 'jerky' according to reports), the BMW R1150GS (bit heavy), the Honda VFR800i (highly revered sports tourer - had one recently but found it a bit cramped), the Honda Africa Twin (again, had one recently, bit slow and a bit tall and its saddle was uncomfy, especially 'two up'), the Yamaha GTS1000 (found a low mileage one - 8000 kms - fairly locally) and the highly regarded KTM SMT (bit out of my price range though).
Then I thought, this is silly; better to buy a cheap Honda Transalp 600 for around €2000 and save some money. But then I argued (with myself) that, as this could be my last opportunity to buy a decent bike (after all, I'm knocking on a bit now), better to go for something you really want. Right, bugger the Transalp. So now it was a toss up between the KTM 950 (€6500, 17000kms) and the Africa Twin (€4600, 21000kms). But..., on the negative side, both are tall, uncomfy for a pillion (this consideration is becoming more important as I spare a thought for Georgie) and are 'trail' oriented - i.e. capable of off-roading. How often do I need a bike for off-roading? Answer: never, ...well, hardly ever.
So..., I then set a new brief: road tourer, comfy riding position and good for a pillion, loads of mid-range power, preferably low mileage with a top price of €6000. Spent all last week-end (well, most of it) consulting my memory banks (in decline, admittedly, but there's still a bit of info there), trawling through internet reports and flicking through various old bike mags. Came to the conclusion that only one bike fitted the bill: Honda's CB1300S. Then, as luck would have it, spotted one for sale on the French Leboncoin site (an excellent site for buying and selling all sorts of stuff - out here it's far more popular than eBay): a 2005 model, one owner, 4450kms (2765 miles), €6000 (£4839). Just the job. Have contacted the seller and hope to collect the bike next week.