To Eggs Benedict and back
by JM Curry
My husband’s head nods in rhythm with the jolting cab. It’s 2am and we’re sitting behind a Perspex screen wearing face masks, sops to the 2020 pandemic, Boris’ health precautions. The driver manoeuvres the truck along the Welsh country lanes, no doubt ruing the moment he answered the call. Two and a half hours later he’d found us! Our dog is nestled at our feet bemused by the turn of events. As are we! I turn to view our motor home, now sadly sitting atop the flat bed lorry. Oh! How naive were we to ignore that blinking red battery light on the dashboard.
Motor home newbies we enthusiastically brushed aside the little nag. After all we’d had it serviced just yesterday, or rather after going in for an oil change last Friday we collected our motor home on Tuesday. Duly serviced with four new tyres (cargo grade- I’d insisted. If I’m going to be in charge of a three and a half tonner I want to know it can stop!) What else could a twenty year old vehicle need other than tyres and a good dollop of Duckhams hey?
We’d asked the advice of our friend and mechanic.
“Well that hole under the step might need seeing to.”
“Uh Huh! But looking pretty good otherwise?”
“And that rubber there, that’s perished- see where the oil is leaking out.”
Our enthusiasm hardly dimmed. “Uh Huh! Apart from that, looking pretty good, yes?”
“You need a new cv boot on your front nearside. And those two brake pipes need to be replaced.”
I nodded knowledgeably whilst my husband made a note.
“And see this under here- phfaw! Put my hand straight through that- totally rusted. That’s too near the jack point- have to get that done. You don’t seem to have reversing lights either.”
Hubby looked rather pale now.
I rallied to the cause, “OK, so apart from those two spots of welding, a complete service, four new tyres, a new cv boot and two brake pipes, check reversing lights- looking pretty good? Yeah?”
“Your horn doesn’t work. That’s peculiar.”
“It’s big enough, they will surely see me coming!” I chuckled and hubby smiled weakly. Spirit undaunted I proffered, “alright so let’s review the situation then: apart from those two spots of welding, a complete service, four new tyres, a new cv boot and two brake pipes, check reversing lights and horn, looking pretty good? Yeah?”
“Oh! Sure. It’s clean. Quite impressed. Got a new gear box too and someone’s done the repairs to the rear properly.”
Hurrah! That’s the answer we’d been waiting for! Hubby perked up.
And so four days in the garage, works duly completed off we set for a week in North Wales in Monty motor home. Twenty years old, we already love our baby.
I drove, hubby navigated. I noticed a red light, indicating battery. We were perplexed- how come? Starts first time, definitely strong battery. The garage never said anything. “Must be on charge,” hubby and I agreed. I soon adjusted to the width and length of the vehicle and eventually I mastered the gear box. (I drive an automatic and struggle to adjust to a manual car- this was a whole different beast!) Changing gear was harder work than I wanted but I quite enjoyed it. My knees begged to differ but I whacked down some paracetamol and ibuprofen, ignoring the pain and enjoyed the challenge. I felt a bit like shouting 10:4 across the air waves as I bobbed along the country lanes. (An image of a ‘rubber duck’ and a ‘bear in the air’ kept popping into my head. I had to explain it to the navigator- a 70’s song reference.) We made our destination, an oldie worldy pub near Welshpool by tea time. Our friends had stayed the week before and recommended the amazing food. It had an award winning chef and the Eggs Benedict was the best ever tasted. My friend would know- being a bit of a foody.
Pulling in there was no convenient electric hook up for us. That was fine; we’d use our stored solar power, if we could just work out how to use it! Glass of Champers to celebrate and beans on toast. We made up our bed and turned in under clear starlit skies and the raucous cawing of a rookery (which was actually rather annoying but we were the invaders of the corvids’ territory and they quietened at nightfall.) It was September but still warm enough to leave the door open. I called my goodnights through the fly screen door into the balmy night air. “Nos da pawb.” Got to give the lingo a go. Only the sheep heard and they didn’t appear to speak Welsh.
Good night’s sleep. Off for breakfast.
“Heard all about your chef.” I said to the Landlord.
“Agh! Sorry. Wednesday’s his day off. What can I get you?”
I was disenchanted but encouraged by the amount of hand sanitizer everywhere and the number of blue plastic gloves in the bin, so put in our order. Hubby inevitably had the full cooked breakfast, with the delightful sobriquet “Full Welsh.” I stuck with the Eggs Benedict, which although the menu said ‘comes with ham,’ mysteriously arrived with salmon and not a word of explanation. A tad disappointed, I bit my tongue and the salmon and quite enjoyed the hollandaise sauce, which the landlord tells me, as he cleared away, he prepared himself. My stomach flipped as his finger gave the interior of his nose a good prod. His gloveless hands grabbed our plates as he wiped the sweat from his brow and asked if we wanted some more tea. Err- no thanks! Bill paid. Sharp exit. A quick tour of the churchyard opposite (hubby thinks it a morbid pastime- but I think it reveals a lot about the history of a village.) Pack up and off. His turn to drive.
I pointed out that the red light was back on. Hubby thought it must be something to do with the power supply to the living quarters and enthusiastically shoved Monty into gear and away to the lake- to drive all the way around. When we arrived at our first pull in the sun was shining and glistened off the glorious waters, the viaduct making a wonderful back drop for our photos. There was a canoeing business down by the water’s edge. Rather quiet out of season. The attractively coloured canoes jiggled in the shallow waters, their bright frames moving to the plop and ripple of the lake, occasionally giving a hollow ‘thwunck’ as they knocked into each other. The silence was calming. The air a joy to breath. After a walk with the dog we were back on board. Our plans to drive around the lake have been thwarted by a recent land slide, we discovered. So we made the best of the situation and decided to head as far as we could, park up and cook our lunch. Dog in situ, seat belts on, keys in ignition. We were ready for the off. Yet: what was that whirring noise? No vroom of the battery kick starting the monster truck into life.
“That sounds like the alternator dear.” I said, trying to be practical.
“Bloody thing was only serviced yesterday.” Hubby was feeling despondent. His mood was not improved when I asked if his phone had a signal. Nope, his was out too. Hubby trekked off to find a phone box. Three hours later the first AA man turned up.
“That’s your alternator, that is.” I felt smug at identifying the cause but deflated at not realising how serious it actually was. I tried to ask him something but the man had verbal diarrhoea. Within twelve minutes of arrival he’d departed, having started the engine, saying no point going anywhere, it could stop at any time. With a “you’ll have to have a flat bed truck and be taken to Cardiff,” he was gone in a cloud of diesel fumes and unanswered questions.
I made a sandwich and a cup of tea whilst we awaited the flat bed. When the huge lorry arrived at 9pm the driver was buoyed by the fact he’d managed to find us at all. His optimism was dented when he got a handle on the situation. We were facing the lake and he was on the narrow one way strip at 90 degrees to our rear. Any vehicle has to be front loaded. We heard him muttering as to why the first chap didn’t turn us around ready. Clearly not one to come all the way from Liverpool and fail, he set about an ingenious hook up that involved hubby shouting directions and me turning the huge steering wheel whilst being pulled backwards. All was going fine until a shout of ‘stop!’ and a huge jolt and bang. My heart sank and my back smarted. Had I hit him? No it was just a pot-hole. (Made mental note to check the offside rear under carriage- that really was a heck of a bang.) My lower back was in spasm and I really needed to lie down but had to carry on, hubby was stressed enough. Amazingly the driver dragged us out and loaded us on to his flat bed, managing a nine-point turn in the confined space. We were off.
I shove my handbag into the small of my back to try to tame the developing sciatica and get as comfortable as I can. Dave is a fantastic driver but a little disconcerted by the narrow Welsh country roads. He takes us east and I can tell he almost breathes a sigh of relief as he hits the A roads of his sanctuary: England. I ask how long to Cardiff. Then the bombshell: “I’m afraid I won’t be taking you all the way. We will need to change.” At this Hubby wakes up. We look at each other, we shrug in resignation, not the holiday we’d planned! A change onto another flat bed at 3.30am and then to a pick up to drag us back to the garage where Monty was serviced. I leave a message on the garage answer machine:
“I bet you were surprised to see our motor home on your forecourt when you got to work this morning. Well, not as surprised as us, believe me!”
We finally make it home flopping into bed Thursday morning at 5.45 am
I am awoken at 9 am by my friend on the landline.
“I hear you’re home- how come? How was the food? Did you have breakfast?”
My weary voice croaks back, “well, let’s just say it was a long way to go for Eggs Benedict!”