Thursday, April 26, 2012


By now I should be writing to you from Eastern France. But I'm not. Here's why:

Waiting for a delivery

As mentioned in my last post, the fuel gauge I'd been chasing for 5 weeks was finally due to arrive yesterday. We had agreed by telephone to pay the cost of an 'Express' courier service that would guarantee its arrival before midday, therefore delaying my departure by no more than a few hours.

However by 1pm there was still no sign of it so I logged on to view the tracking information and see what was going on. Well, everything there looked normal except that it was apparently sent by 'Express Saver' which was only guaranteed to arrive by the end of the day.

I marvelled somewhat at the journey this thing had been taking to get here. Originally sourced in Germany, it had been obtained by a France-based company called VW Heritage who had sent it to their French-speaking agent in the UK office because it was for a 'UK customer' in France. She had then given it to a courier who had flown it from London Stansted Airport to a sorting office back in Germany, in fact very close to the Belgian border where I will be staying this weekend. From there it had, overnight, flown to Montpellier in the South of France and loaded onto a van for delivery. (I would be passing through Montpellier on my journey to Belgium.) So none of this tracking information made me any happier about the delay we were experiencing.

The spare part had done more miles than the campervan
Finally at 2pm I gave up... I had about 8 hours of driving ahead of me and couldn't wait any longer. So, after agreeing with the supplier that they would refund my postage costs, I packed up the van, filled the petrol tank and said a tearful goodbye to my parents and friends.

I knew the bus was low on oil so I stopped at the first big garage shop on my route, about 25 minutes away from the departure point. Unfortunately the shop only stocked one grade of oil which wasn't right for me so I sloped back to the campervan to find my phone ringing. "It's me", said my Mum, "your package has just arrived". Dad kindly offered to drive out and meet me with it, since his car is much faster and it would help to reduce the extension of my journey.

Noticing a problem

As Dad got out of the car, he pointed at the back of my bus and asked, "Did you spill that when you were filling it up?". I followed his finger, confused, and realised there was a fresh pool of oil under my engine bay. Since I hadn't yet bought any oil, this was certainly not down to any spillages. In fact on looking further back there was a clear drip, drip, drip every yard tracing my route into the carpark. Oh.

There were no two ways about it - I could not drive to Belgium like this.

We bought a can of oil (any grade will do at this point) and sloshed it in, forming a convoy back home. My Dad called a bilingual friend of his who happens to be rather an expert in VW mechanics and the friend suggested that the oil seals could be leaking as a result of my engine performing at a higher pressure than it would have done when they had been fitted. He recommended a mechanic nearby and offered to come with us the next day to help explain everything in French.

Noticing another problem

Dad had given me the package that had delayed me so long so I started opening it, saying "let's just check this is actually a fuel gauge", to which we both chuckled. I opened the box, the paper filling, the inner box and the bag... and found this:

Not a fuel gauge
This is a rear suspension brush. It's for my campervan, I'll grant you that, but it's certainly not a fuel gauge.

I actually roared with laughter and tried to call my agent at VW Heritage, eager to share this news and feed on her resultant dismay, but was told that she was on her way to France. Perhaps by a similar 'Express Saver' service..? So now I wait to hear back from her colleague.

Plan B

In the meantime, I still have a festival to attend and friends to meet - nothing will keep me from that. Rather than driving, I will be flying Ryanair to Belgium on Friday for some traditional tent-in-mud camping, then making my way to Amsterdam with hiking boots and rucksack. The campsite I had booked there also has cabins - they're slightly more expensive but, since I've prepaid and can't get a full refund at this late date, I may as well enjoy the luxury.

On returning to the South, my repaired bus and I can go wherever we like. We can drive South into Spain, East into Provence and Italy, or across into Switzerland and Austria. Europe will be ours. (In a fun, light-hearted, touristy way. Not in a Hitler way.)

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