There She Blows …… Collecting The Motorhome

Getting to Cumnock in Scotland meant an early start and involved the following:

  • Driving to the ferry terminal in Belfast. Parking up the car for our return.
  • Boarding the ferry as foot passengers.
  • After arriving in Cairnryan, hopping in a taxi to take us to Stranraer.
  • Getting a train from Stranraer to Ayr.
  • Getting picked up at Ayr train station by the sellers of the motorhome.

The plan was to pick up the motorhome and drive it back to the ferry in Cairnryan. Board the ferry to Belfast where I was to pick up the car and follow Alan home. Sounds simple, doesn’t it…..

Arriving in Cumnock and seeing “The Van” for the first time was quite a moment – nothing prepared either of us for the actual size of this thing, but we were ready with the Grease Monkey workshop supplies so we are ready for any emergency. It was HUGE – I suddenly thought – Alan’s never driven anything bigger than a sprinter van, how are we going to get this fecking thing home.

Look at the size of that!
Look at the size of that!

An hour and a very quick driving lesson later, we were on the road back to Cairnryan. The drive back was “an experience”. There were a few shouts of “KERB” from me as Alan’s sense of space was challenged.

Those tight winding roads on the way to Cairnryan were filled with lorries heading at some considerable speed towards the ferry terminal. I have a new-found respect for the drivers of those 40 foot articulated monsters who have no doubt of the size of the space their vehicle will fit into.

We, on the other hand, drove more cautiously, convinced that unless we had a clear 8 feet around the van, we were bound to hit something.

Quick driving lesson!
Quick driving lesson, why does he look so relaxed?

Along the way we decided to stop at a petrol station to get drinks and snacks – Alan indicates and pulls into the forecourt completely forgetting that we’re not in our usual Citroen Picasso and that getting this beast into a space is a whole lot easier than getting it out.

Cue Alan’s first three-point turn in a confined space.

For a brief 10 minute period we became the local entertainment as the place came to a standstill – everyone waiting to see what we would hit first. As usual Alan did us proud and managed to make a 4 or 5 point turn and get us back on the road.

We reached Cairnryan in good time and joined the queue to board, we even had time for a cup of tea! We boarded the ferry with little or no incident and settled down for the crossing.

Having parked our car at the Belfast terminal that morning we decided that it might be better if I disembarked as a foot passenger so that Alan didn’t have to navigate the van round the car parks to retrieve the car.

When the announcement was made for drivers to return to their vehicles – off Alan went with a “see you later”.

There I am sitting waiting patiently for the ferry door to open. I noticed a distinct lack of other foot passengers and was just starting question whether I might be the only person on foot, when a man perched atop a mobile floor polisher drove past me – we nodded and smiled, I sat on.

He came past me again, and again before finally asking “are you waiting for someone?” I replied I was waiting for the door to open so I could get off – he looked blankly at me and said “This ferry doesn’t have foot passengers – how did you get on in the first place?”

Panic rising, I explained as quickly as I could our clever plan for retrieving our car in Belfast without having to navigate a 30 foot motorhome around the tight car park. He indicated that I needed to shift my arse tout suite to the car deck and find the vehicle I boarded on.

Now anyone who knows me knows that I am not given to a lot of sudden movement but needs must – off I took down seven, yes that’s SEVEN flights of stairs at some considerable speed out through the door and slap bang straight into the side of a 40 foot articulated lorry.

Dazed I turned round and spotted the side of our van opposite the other door. Banging on the side of the van in case he drove off, as the other drivers were doing,

I opened the door and jumped – more sudden movement – arthritic hip be dammed – into the cab just as we were given the signal to drive off.

Much hysterical laughter followed (from me) greeted with Alan’s usual WTF are you doing now look.

Short nerve break!
Short nerve break!

We managed to navigate the van towards the now closed car park. We could see our car in the distance but no way to get to it so Alan decided to drive around the narrow roadway to the terminal building designed for cars to drop off passengers – forgetting that our Picasso is as best 10 feet long and the van is just under 30 feet!

Halfway through, on a slight bend we heard the distinct sound of metal on metal. Alan drove on determined that the van would in fact go through the gap one way or another – I suggested he might like to stop and take a look.

Climbing cautiously down from the cab I made my way around to the drivers side of the van to discover that half of the 30 foot rubber “side bumper” had been sheared right off by a metal fence. Deciding it would take more effort to push it back on than to pull it right off I grabbed the end of it and tugged and tugged until I was left with a 30 foot long piece of industrial rubber tucked under my arm. Get only the best locks for safety purposes.

Alan adopted his usual supervisory position in the cab while I wrestled the bumper in through the side door praying it wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to fix back on.

I settled myself back into the cab and indicated that we could proceed. As we approached our car a security truck drove alongside with a clearly confused security guard asking WTF we thought we were doing.

I can only imagine his horror watching our antics round his car park on the monitor in his nice warm office – we explained our dilemma and thankfully he was happy to lead us to the exit and even happier to see the back of us.

We had previously discussed how we would negotiate the van into our driveway, deciding that our neighbours would be much more excited to see our new acquisition in all its glory first thing in the morning, rather than hear us trying to maneouvre a 30 foot van into a 31 ft driveway at 3.15am.

Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle

So we abandoned the van across two spaces in the large car park at Carrickfergus Castle, which is near where we live. I phoned the police to let them know our plans and was disappointed at the lack of interest they expressed in our new purchase!

Basically I could leave it wherever I liked as long as it was taxed and insured – don’t fecking tempt me!

We had a restorative cup of tea, contemplated recent events and retired to bed exhausted.