Monday, August 28, 2006

Water water everywhere

Where it's not supposed to be. One of the girls was having a shower upstairs, and I could hear something dripping while cooking in the kitchen. Went into the hallway and water was pouring through the ceiling. Over the fusebox. Everywhere.


Just got the car back, and fixing that cost me a fortune. Looks like more expensive repairs are in the pipeline.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Summer Holidays

Just had a couple of weeks away.

The first week was spent up at Griffon Forest, near York. We've been there twice before, and love it. It was really pleasant to be in a cool lodge (the weather in England was unusually warm). We packed a lot in: Flamingo Land, swimming, relaxing in the hot tub, visiting Lotherton Hall, going to Scarborough and Bridlington.

The first time we went to the coast was very unusual. We had hired some bikes in Dalby Forest earlier in the day. It was right and sunny, and as we neared the coast it looked very strange - a brown band in the sky ahead of us. Then we went into dense fog and the temperature dropped about ten degrees.

On the way home we stopped off at Magna. In addition to the pavilions (OK, but suffered a little - as many of these attractions do - by some of the hands-on exhibits being broken) much fun was had outside in the playground.

The second holiday saw us heading off to a beautiful cottage in the Dordogne. Another repeat visit - we were there the same week last year. We also went back and had a good day climbing through the trees at L'Appel de la Foret.

The holiday itself was great, but the journey was "Interesting". Having driven down and gone across on EuroTunnel, we were about an hour and a half south of Calais when something in the car went. Lots of vibration, sounded pretty sick, felt bad. We pulled over and couldn't see anything, but attempting to start off again resulted in the car shaking and it obviously wasn't happy. We were stuck in a pretty dangerous position at the side of the motorway, and knew there was a service area (just a picnic area, really) just along the road, so we managed to limp to that. Calling the recovery company, they tell us that they can't do anything - we have to contact the police to get towed off the motorway before anything else can be done. Having been towed to a local garage, there are lots of phone calls - eventually we get someone at the recovery company who can speak French.

It takes a while, but it was too late to get a hire car and, while the garage had a car themselves, they wanted a large cash deposit (more than we had). We were put up in a local hotel for the night (OK, but not quite the Chateau we had booked as the overnight stop), and were back at the garage next morning. The recovery company still couldn't get a car from the major hire companies, and it was looking like we would have to stay there till Monday or Tuesday. But we eventually negotiated with the garage that the recovery company would guarantee some of the deposit, and soon after got on our way.

The car we got was actually very nice - a new Renault Clio. I've always thought of this as a small car, but it didn't feel like it, and even managed to take most of our luggage. I was impressed, and the Clio is definitely a car I would look at when the time comes to replace mine.

Coming back, we had to set off very early to get the hire car back to the garage before it closed. Clearly the recovery operation was up to full speed by then: the rental had all been paid for, a taxi was waiting to take us to the compound where our car was waiting, it was put on the back of a truck and taken up to Calais. We had to take the car onto the train and off by ourselves - the recovery vehicles can't go that far. And driving through the ticket barriers and up to the car park felt OK, but the car rapidly sickened from then on. Sounded like I was dragging tin cans along as we got on the train, and it wasn't happy. I managed to stagger off the train, and only needed to go about half a mile to get to the services to meet the next recovery truck, but it seized up completely on the slip road into the services.

It's now home, and we're looking at a replacement gearbox and clutch. More expense!

While the trip was reasonably smooth in the end, and we did get there and back without too much of an interruption to the holiday, the recovery company could have done better. I'm not sure we ever talked to the same person more than once in a dozen or more calls. The initial response was sluggish and uncertain - just at the time when you need good service, they didn't seem to be on top of it. This was the same sort of problem I saw when I had an accident - they sorted the claim and repair out very well, but seemed incapable of doing a good job of making sure I was alright and able to get home in the immediate aftermath of the incident.