Month: January 2017

3 Sept to 14 December – domestic duties and van fixes

At home with many jobs to do

The plan was to spend a few weeks in the UK to work with my sister to help my mother  settle  matters concerning foxes-2 her health and future living arrangements. This turned into a major, stressful and exhausting period for all concerned which was only finally settled in the second week of December. We packed up, sold or otherwise disposed of a lifetime’s-worth of furniture, personal and family things, and assorted clutter while a couple of urban foxes enjoyed the last days of summer sun in my mother’s back garden. I am very happy to say that (at the time of writing) most of the emotional, legal and financial matters are behind us.  My mother has moved into a new home near my sister and we can start to relax a little while we all get used to the new set up.

Between all the travels to and fro we also had a few van-related jobs to sort out.


Firstly there was the van battery which had a tendency to drain rather faster than it should when in storage – no reason could be found, it had been checked and was in good condition.  It is awkwardly located under the floor of the passenger side in the cab so we had been using the less than efficient charging points under the bonnet. Now Neil bought a smart charger which has a couple of leads to permanently attach to the battery terminals and extend into the cab itself.  This allows easy access for permanent trickle charging directly to the battery.  It worked – wonderful! Installing this had meant disconnecting the battery which led  unexpectedly to a solution to job number two…

The non-functioning CD player

The improvised tangle of wires we had lived with over the Van hifisummer was due to the CD player not working.  Because it seemed to read the CD but no sound came out we had thought was a speaker wiring fault and an auto-electrician duly came to have a look.  Putting in a CD to demonstrate the problem it worked perfectly!  Slightly embarrassing but Neil and the electrician decided that disconnecting the battery had performed some kind of therapeutic ECT and the CD player has worked fine ever since.  No more interminable french romantic chansons on the radio!

Alarm vs habitation door

Thirdly was the matter of the alarm not locking the habitation door as part of its central locking function – which it used to do – plus the door itself refusing to lock with a key.  This meant having to lock it from the inside and get out the cab or use the secondary security lock we had installed earlier. The very knowledgeable and obliging Carl Mayer of Outsmart the Thief came to have a look and concluded it was not an alarm problem per se but that no power was getting to the locking mechanism in the door. The dealer we then took it to agreed.  He also opened our eyes to the shortcomings of typical extended warranties that are sold with vans: they would probably pay for the fix but not for the hours of work required to track the problem down.  They adjusted the door so it locked by key however and we decided that was enough for the time being.

This has not been a very interesting blog I’m afraid but has at least taken me on three months!  I could just have skipped over the period but I found I wanted the dates on the blog to follow on seamlessly – sorry:-(  Back on the road next time – rather later in the year than expected! cropped-snails-poor.jpg


1 to 2 Sept – last leg

Enfin – a swim in the sea.

A leisurely forty minute drive from Le Portel and we arrive at our last French overnight stop in Wissant. This is another aire we have selected after seeing it on the OurTour blog as being  handy for Calais but far enough away not to have to worry.  And it has certainly been worrying this year.  Having said that, we have never seen any sign of the desperate people trying to  hitch a ride to the UK.  All we see is acres of flat land surrounded by miles of barbed wire fencing.

We get there so early that other vans are still leaving. But it turns out that vehicles come and go at all times of day here, depending on the time of their crossing.  wissant-cornerWe pick a nice shady corner so we can put out awning, chairs etc. without getting in anyone’s way.  Even some handy drying bushes! This is where it becomes apparent that not getting water at Le Portel was a mistake:-(  This aire has facilities for draining everything but no fresh water for filling up. It seems that you have to leave the aire and go to the municipal camp site a five minute drive away to fill up for a modest fee.  To keep your space you can put chairs and things across your space so as not to lose it.  We have seen this done elsewhere, notably Narlay, where the facilities are quite a long way away. The gauges on our two water tanks (fresh and grey) do not often tally despite the fact they both have a 100 litre capacity and the levels complement each other exactly. The fresh water tank can be showing 100% full one moment then drop to 70% after one small washing up and a cup of tea! At the same time the grey water tank will rise from 1% full to only 5% full for the same operations. Apparently this is true of most water level gauges and a bit of common sense is needed.  Some swift assessments and we decide we can manage the day and night without a refill if we forego showers in favour of … umm… a flannel… a swim?

We walk through the charming little village to the sea – yay!  The tide is in and at the north end of town is a lovely sandy beach backed by grassy dunes. The sun is hot, the water is cool and we have a lengthy wallow knowing it will be our last sea swim for a while.  We somehow manage to get lost wandering back but compensate with an ice-cream in the commercial sea-side strip in the centre.  Loads of restaurants if you fancy a final meal out.  We didn’t as we still had a fridge full of food to get through.  Not to mention the green tomatoes I had ruthlessly stripped from my three late-planted bushes in July.  Despite all the stone-shifting it had taken to make a bed to grow them in, I had not had so much as one ripe fruit.  So they accompanied us while they ripened (together with some of the beautiful pelargoniums I could not bear to abandon). I had had to leave the two basil plants that were thriving between the toms:-(

Before and after.

Wissant is definitely an aire to come back to.  We even discovered there was a path out the other side of the aire that took you to the beach even quicker. But for this trip we needed to get to bed, pack up and go. It was an easy ride to the Tunnel and a helpful border guard asked if we had checked everywhere as we queued to board.  I thought he meant gas off, cupboards fastened, fridge on 12v etc but realised later he meant had we checked for stowaways:-( The crossing was uneventful.  The train does look a little on the tight side as you roll up but is actually simpler than nosing into a car wash, both have rails at tyre level to keep you straight.

Arriving back in the UK at about 13:30 we had decided not to try and get home in one long drive.  Getting home late to unpack and clean up after a long drive would not be much fun, so we find a small Caravan Club site off the A1 to spend the night.  It is a PYO fruit farm and the camping is just a big field with a couple of fresh water taps and a couple of tanks for emptying the black stuff. We are surprised to be told that grey water is supposed to go in the bushes around the field.  We have no pipe to direct it deep into the bushes so end up just nestling as close a possible to the hedgerow to drain out.  You seem not to need such a pipe often but we must get one – we did try by taking a short length from the local builders merchant to check the fit but forgot to go back to buy some.

pyoThe farm shop and café are very pleasant in a rural fashion but the price of a cup of tea and a cake was a bit of a shocker – about the same as central York.  And, judging from the imprecations echoing across the rows of plum trees, they clearly think they have a problem with customers eating more fruit than they put in their punnets! Sours the atmosphere a bit – children are never going to manage to resist a juicy plum while they pick, even the well behaved ones – which these were. And judging from the price per pound, a little shrinkage had been well factored in already.

The sun stays out on a calm, clear and chilly evening and rises cheerfully again in the morning for our final departure of this trip. We have some difficult family business ahead of us for the next few weeks but hope to be back on the road to take advantage of autumn and winter somewhere in the south of Europe.  And I will try and remember to take more photos next time!cropped-snails-poor.jpg