The Best Laid Plans...

Aaarrrgh! -where to begin?

Peter came and picked me up on his way home from work and we headed down to his to finalise the paperwork and hand over the rest of the cash and Herman [although at this stage he was still a nameless VW LT35 van] was mine.

So, after topping up the tank with a jerrycan of diesel I’d brought with me [I noticed we were running on fumes during the test drive at the weekend], I set off for the journey home. The gearchange was a fucking nightmare! Even worse than I’d expected; the stick has an orbit only slightly smaller than that of the planet Pluto, swivels in its own socket and trying to find a gear is about as easy as threading a needle while wearing boxing gloves. My old mate pat who used to have a VW Combi back in the eighties and once compared its gearchange to stirring a large pan of porridge would have felt right at home.

As I rumbled slowly out into busy traffic at the end of Peter’s road, I put my seeming inability to get the damned van to go above 30MPH down to the fact that I must be selecting the wrong gear each time. As it turned out, I was wrong and it was merely the precursor symptoms of a much more terminal problem - although it took a long time and plenty more stress for me to realise it.

Anyway, I got about half a mile down the road and the van stalled when I tried to pull away from some traffic lights. I managed to get it going again - tho’ it took a helluva lot of cranking of the starter - and limped round the corner, only to stall again after another 100 yards or so. [At this time I was still blaming my own inability to find the gears properly and thought it was my fault it’d stalled twice]. To my horror, I couldnae get the van to start again this time and - with sinking heart - listened to the starter motor gradually s-l-o-o-o-w down, as the [pretty crappy] battery ran flat. I had to shamefacedly ring Peter on my mob and get him to come out and tow the van back to his [We did initially try to jump and then bump start it, but with no luck].

Once back at Peter’s we put the battery from his Landcruiser in and tried again. The van fired up immediately, although it sounded a bit rough. I proposed that Peter drive it back to mine [on the Landcruiser battery] and then I’d drop him [and battery] back at his in my Trooper. To be honest, I didnae trust myself to get it home without stalling it half a dozen more times, as I was still convinced it was my dodgy gearchanging that was the root of all the evil. Anyway, Peter agreed and off we set, only for the van to stall again after a couple of hundred yards. This time Peter was the one looking sheepish and thinking he’d cocked up a gear change. However, as it transpired, our sloppy gearchanging wasnae the problem because, the van wouldnae start again - even with the heavy duty Landcruiser battery fitted. By now, the penny had belatedly dropped and I realised that there was a fuel problem with the van and that was causing the constant stalling.

So off Peter hobbled off down the road towards home, clutching his heavy Landcruiser battery, while I busied myself re-attaching the flat car battery in the van - so we’d at least have some hazard lights on it. I also sent Marie another in my occasional series of increasingly depressing SMS progress reports. After about ten minutes I saw the welcome sight of Peter returning in the Landcruiser and once again we attached the tow rope and the VW van made his ponderous way back to Peter’s house.

Since it was already dark by now, I declined Peter’s offer of ‘having a look at it’ while on his driveway and instead arranged to come back down at the weekend, when we’d have some hours of daylight ahead of us to get a good run at trying to sort out what the problem was. We pushed the van into a handy corner in front of Peter’s house and he dropped me off at home - a broken and beaten man. My depressed arrival back at HQ slightly ameliorated by the fact that Marie [knowing, thanks to my text messages, what a stressful time I’d had] had nipped down to the offy during my absence and got me in some bottles of Guinness Export to help numb the pain.