Tag Archives: Ford Escort

Road Trip – Dieppe to Newhaven in a Force 7 Gale

To make matters worse it was cold and our clothing was totally inadequate.  The crew were all wearing clothes suitable for Arctic conditions but we were still in Mediterranean attire.  The only sensible thing to do was to go inside where it was warm, but once inside I just began to feel sick so had to go outside again almost immediately.

Not long into the journey it started to get dark and that made it even colder so as I couldn’t go back inside without being ill I found a lounger in a reasonably sheltered spot and tried to go to sleep. And I was very successful and when I woke I was delighted to discover that we had been at sea for three and a half hours so must be nearly home.  The boat was listing at about 30° so walking was really difficult but I got to the front of the ferry and looked for the welcoming lights of England.

To my horror there were none and when I enquired a fellow suffering passenger told me that because of the conditions the crossing was now estimated to take eight hours!

Duty Free Storm

I was cold and stiff but at least I didn’t feel sick so I went inside and found Richard who like me had remained feeling well by sitting outside.  We went downstairs and it was like a scene from the gun deck of HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar.  There were no staff on duty anywhere because they were all too ill to work and in duty free bottles of spirits clattered together on the shelves and rolled about on the floor.  It was just there for the taking but the last thing we felt like was alcohol so we moved on to the dining room where we found Tony completely unaffected by all of this mayhem and quietly enjoying a meat pie.

Well, that was it for me and as my insides turned over several times I had to find my way back outside fast.  People were lying all around, some had collapsed in the corridors and everywhere there were crew members with mops and buckets washing down the vomit.  I made it to the outside but only just before I emptied the contents of my heaving stomach over the side but a gust of wind caught most of it and blew it back only narrowly missing a group of passengers all clinging on to the railings and like me wishing for the voyage to end.

I tried to sleep some more, but it was impossible so I just sat with Richard and felt thoroughly miserable.  Tony came by several times to see if we were feeling any better but was unable to locate Anthony to check on his condition and none of us had any idea where he might be.

Eventually the south coast of England came into view but it seemed to take an eternity to get close and finally to dock in Newhaven.  We were reunited with Anthony, who it turned out had spent all eight hours of the crossing in the lavatory in his own private cubicle and we made our way to the garage deck and back to the car.

The doors of the ferry opened and being at the front we were first off and the remarkable thing was that as soon as were on solid ground and the earth was no longer moving in conflicting directions we all felt instantly better.  I was amazed that I could recover so quickly and looked forward to the last leg of the journey home.  But our problems weren’t over yet and no sooner were we off the boat than we pulled over by Her Majesty’s customs officials.

They didn’t seem pleased to see us and probably wondered just what we were doing driving this knackered old UK registered, left hand drive car back from the Continent.  Their mood didn’t improve much when they enquired where we had come from and after Richard told them Portugal I added the rather superfluous detail that we had driven back through Spain and France.  They interpreted this weary response as taking the piss and asked all sorts of dumb questions about alcohol, cigarettes and smuggling in general and then told us that if he wasn’t satisfied with our responses that he could impound the vehicle.

Anthony was delighted with this piece of information and got out of the car, handed them the keys and invited them to take it away.  Between us we calculated that it was only worth about £50 anyway, which was way less than the motoring offence fine in Spain,  so between us we could easily compensate Gordon for his loss.

Eventually I think it must have dawned on them that we had just got off the ferry from hell and they grudgingly let us pass.  But it made us think? Just why did Gordon want this old wreck back anyway?  Were we four dumb mules and  were the door panels packed with illegal substances we wondered?

We didn’t really care that much we were just glad to be back in England but not looking forward especially to the three hour journey back to Nottingham.  We dropped the car off in Rugby and replaced it with something a bit more modern and with the luxury of a fully functioning heater completed the remainder of the journey and in the early hours of Monday morning were just so very glad to be back home and in a comfortable bed.

It had been a very interesting week, we discovered just how tight with money Tony was, how far Anthony would stretch the truth to impress supermarket check-out girls from Leeds and how much Richard and I liked going away on holiday together.

The following year the two of us went back to the villa but thankfully this didn’t involve driving a car all the way back home and we have been away several times since but never back to Portugal.  The channel crossing put me off ferries for several years and I didn’t take another crossing until nearly twenty years later, when I finally got over it in 2004 and went to France again using the Dover to Calais crossing, which wasn’t nearly so bad!

Have you ever had a rough sea crossing on a ferry?

Road Trip – A Motoring Offence in Spain and the Guardia Civil

The Guardia Civil…

“I had already learned to be wary of the Civil Guard, who were the poison dwarfs of Spain.  They would suddenly ride down upon you on their sleek black horses, far out in the open country and crowd around you all leather and guns and put you through a bullying interrogation.”  – Laurie Lee – ‘As I walked out one Sunny Morning’

There was still a very long way to go so we planned for another very early start.

When we woke in the morning there was no power anywhere in the hotel and we had to pack in pitch darkness so goodness knows how much stuff we left behind.  We met in the car park and then we had our first problem of the day – the car wouldn’t start!

It was wet and miserable and the electrics were damp and it was probably still trying to get over yesterday’s long drive because this journey was one of the sort of improbable things that these days Jeremy Clarkson does on ‘Top Gear’!

We couldn’t bump start it because it was an automatic so Richard, who understood how cars work,  lifted the bonnet and fiddled with the leads and poked around a bit and the rest of us, who didn’t, stood around and kicked the tyres.  We were all impressed when Richard got the poor thing going and we set off on the road for Burgos on the way to France.

Richard was driving and by the time it got light we were making good progress north along a main highway that, because it was Saturday, was not especially busy this morning.  To this day I still dispute the designation ‘motorway’ because it was single carriageway, had no emergency lane, no lights and as it happens no road markings either.  Richard was driving sensibly and only overtaking when it was safe to do so but then, after about sixty kilometres, we had our next problem.

And this was serious!

All of a sudden the interior of the car was flooded with blue flashing lights from behind as though it had been struck by lightning and a Spanish highway patrol vehicle was pulling us over.  Richard complied and we all left the vehicle to be confronted by two Guardia Civil policemen in their olive-green uniforms, black boots, creaking leather belts and straps and those black tricorn hats that they used to wear, getting out of their green and white patrol car and looking very serious and menacing.

We weren’t absolutely sure why they had asked us to stop and when we asked for explanation one of them drew a diagram that seemed to indicate that we had overtaken on a single bold white line.  White lines!  What line?  It may have been there twenty years previously but it certainly wasn’t there now.  There were two of them and the older one started to write out a ticket for a fine for twelve thousand pesetas, which was about £60 (about £300 at today values) and seemed like a lot of money to us, especially bearing in mind that we didn’t have any pesetas left anyway.

Anthony was minded to argue but, although we didn’t know it,  this would have been a very foolish thing to do because these guys were not exactly the friendly village bobby or the laughing policeman.

The Guardia Civil were left overs from the previous fascist regime who on the whole found the transition to democracy and civil liberties difficult to come to terms with.  Everyone in Spain was frightened of them, they patrolled in twos, bullying and picking on people and were mockingly called ‘parejas’ – married couples.  The younger one tapped his fingers on the holster of his pistol and readjusted his cosh in his belt in a threatening sort of way and the rest of us took that as a sign that we should just shut up and pay up.

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This didn’t get over the problem of having no cash but the two highwaymen had a solution to that and made us follow them to a garage where they supervised the cashier as he exchanged everything that we had got into pesetas and the policemen gleefully took possession of it.

He took all of our French Francs, UK Sterling and what few Portuguese Escudos we had left, and actually we had more of those between us than we thought because Tony had been holding back on a bit of a stash concealed in the back of his wallet that he hadn’t owned up to and the rest of us were all a bit upset about that.  It turns out that Tony would rather juggle gelignite or jump from an aeroplane without a parachute than spend his cash!

We had been thoroughly mugged and as we waved goodbye to the two policemen Anthony shouted a rather unpleasant accusation of dishonesty and an invitation to thoroughly enjoy our contribution to the Guardia Civil Christmas party fund, which thankfully they didn’t hear.  He may have been closer to the truth than he realised because someone told me later that this was a regular way that the Guardia Civil would supplement their wages.

When we got back home I wrote to the Spanish Embassy in London to complain about this and to request a refund and although they replied and sympathised they explained that they had no authority over the police and therefore couldn’t do anything to help.  It was a nice letter though!

Richard was rather upset about the incident and sulked for the next hour or so while we drove past Burgos and stopped at a little town at just about breakfast time and found a bank where we could get enough cash to buy some fuel to get us out of Spain.  We carried on out of Castilla y León and into the green mountains of the Basque Country, past Bilbaó and San Sebastián and then headed east towards the Pyrenees and then the last Spanish town of Irun at the border with France, which we finally reached about twenty hours behind schedule.

Have you ever been in trouble with the police in a foreign country?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone But Not Forgotten – First Cars

 Hillman avenger WRW 336J

My first car was two tone blue Hillman Imp which was a twenty-first birthday present but it was unreliable and would only go for about thirty miles before seriously overheating so I only kept it for a few months and I bought my own real first car, a flame red Hillman Avenger top specification GL, 1500cc, registration WRW 366J, which featured four round headlights internal bonnet release, two-speed wipers, brushed nylon seat trim (previously never used on British cars), reclining front seats, hockey stick rear light cluster and a round dial dashboard with extra instrumentation.

Oh Boy, I was so proud of that car…

 

Road Trip – Madrid and Castilla y Leon

It was still hot and the long straight road just kept going and going with nothing to break the monotony of the empty plains and the expanse of dusty red soil and the occasional vineyard.  As we drove I started to get a sense of just how big Spain is, four times larger than England and not as many people living in it either.  At some point in the afternoon we crossed the Guadiana River for a second time today and then drove through the towns of Valdepeñas and Tembleque and then the sun started to go down and it started to get dark.

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Road Trip – Armação de Pera, a Crate of Beer and Bread Roll Rationing

Actually we didn’t need a great deal, the two main items on our shopping list were beer and bread, in that order!  We found the beer and quickly calculated how much we would need for three days and set about assembling the purchase at the counter.  The shop keeper seemed a bit agitated by this but all she was trying to make us understand was that she would rather like the bottles back when we had finished with them because there was a deposit on them.

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Road Trip – Alcantarilha and Villa Estrella

In the 1980’s my brother Richard worked in a car sales garage in Rugby for a man called Gordon Pitcher who owned a villa on the Algarve in Portugal that he used to rent out for holiday lets and, as the property was in rather a remote location, included in the deal was the use of a car for getting about.   Gordon was a businessman who didn’t like unnecessary expenditure so as the car was UK registered he had to remove it from Portugal by a certain time each year so that he didn’t have to pay local vehicle tax and insurance.

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