Image of a car garage

Swingbridge garage

Got the van into the garage for 7 am and set off to walk around Newcastle on Tyne. It was quite cold to start with but later on the sun came out and it was red hot all afternoon.
They called me about 1 pm to collect the van which cost me £291.66 for new disks, new pads, new shoes, new fluid and the handbrake cable serviced.  I went to pick the bike and my other stuff up and by the time I got to my friend Lynda’s about 12 miles away the brakes were stinking, squealing and fading. I was gutted and after I got my stuff took it straight back. They jacked it up and cleaned it all off but were adamant there was no problem, it was just the brakes bedding in. They did seem miles better after I left later so let’s hope they’re all sorted now. Part of the problem is these motorhomes are standard commercial vans with a camper conversion and instead of running at full weight occasionally, they do constantly. So the brake swill get hot but still shouldn’t fade

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I rang PC Specialist today and they said there was an option in the BIOS to disable the screen and this had been checked. I have never been into this BIOS so I don’t understand how that could possibly have happened. Anyway they have it on stress test and I can pick it up tomorrow.
Except I have booked the van in tomorrow at Gateshead for 7 am to get all the brakes replaced! It’s their company policy to not let machines go out without a thorough stress test but I persuaded them to let me have it and finally I picked it up about 15:30 and headed up north.

The first thing I did when I got parked was go into the BIOS, and work out what keystrokes I’d need to enable the screen in case that problem occurred again. I’ve never heard of a switch like that and have not a clue how it could have been changed. However it’s all done now so let’s hope it behaves.

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I docked at 11 am on Monday UK time and rang work and they agreed I could book the week in as holidays, and let them know if I got sorted before the end of the week.

I then set straight off to Wakefield where PC Specialist are based. I rang them on the way and explained and was pleased to hear they’re open til 20:30 now so there was no rush. I got there for about 2 pm anyway and handed the computer in. They said if it needed a new screen it could take 2 weeks, so I set off for Oldham where there is an Argos and a PC World. I had to get a backup computer.

I saw some lovely Lenovo all-in-one’s and checked their power usage and they would work in the van and the price was very favourable in comparison to the one I got from PC Specialist. However for various reasons I decided to wait on getting a back up. I found a nice place to park up for the night with stunning views and I couldn’t help but feel glad it was cool again instead of the 37 degrees in Italy. :)

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If you’ve read from the start you’ll know that right back in Autumn 2013 when I was readying the van for Europe and I had 2 tyres stolen that from that point there were non-stop problems that had to be overcome. It cost me over £3000 in the end for everything that needed to be done and to sort stuff out.

Since coming to Italy the brakes failed in the Alps, Jack got stuck down a pipe, I had my wallet stolen with my bank card and driving licence, and now…my computer has broken, so I can’t work.
I said if anything else went wrong I’d return to the UK as too much was happening and I was not only fed up with problems but was worried if something serious happened. However with a broken computer I’ve really got no choice because I’m due in work in about 10 hours and as I don’t speak Italian there’s only so much a local computer repair place can do. (Also the awful problems I’m having at work have come to a head. :( )As mine’s under warranty anyway I decided to return to the UK immediately.

There were some slightly scary bits coming back as the brakes were awful but it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I paid the toll to the Brenner pass which was only €24 for the 301 km trip, then the €8.60 toll through the Brenner pass. After that I turned off TomTom and made my own way on toll free roads so instead of the €110 I spent on the way in it was only €32.60.
I need a vet to sort Jack out before I can return so I diverted once in Germany to find one that I’d found on my phone but it was shut. I checked another two in Luxembourg but one was a private vet with no access to drugs and the other was closed and I tried a final one in Belgium that was also closed.
I’d been to one in Arques before near Calais, but they would not be open til Monday morning. I probably spent a small fortune ringing a friend to help me out as I’m no longer on Three network’s “Feel at home” package since leaving Italy. However my friend Ellie came up trumps and found me a vet in Ardres, about a half hour from the ferry terminal. I telephoned him and he (Maurice) said he’d be there at 9 am. Phew!
What’s this going to cost me calling a vet out at 9 am on a Sunday morning!

Image of a vet's premises

Ardres vet

I got to Ardres late Saturday night after leaving Venice about 10:30pm Friday night, and calling in at Germany Luxembourg and Belgium on the way! There was a group of kids in the town centre, typical pre-teens and teens bored on a weekend and looking for something to do. So they were all happy to try and help out. A few knew the odd English word and a few understood my bad French and eventually we worked out that there was no vet in Ardres, yes I was from England and yes I knew the Queen and no I had never met Sting! Hmmm. Did I believe them? Not!
So I set off driving around town and it only took about 10 minutes to find the vets. I was elated as it was directly across the road from a free car park. Result! I parked up and got some much needed sleep.

The next morning I awoke in a panic. I checked the clock and it was 40 minutes past 9! I quickly rang Maurice and he said yes he was there waiting for me. I grabbed Jack and his passport and we ran across the car park to the vet’s but…it was all locked up and spiders webs all over the door that clearly had not been used for some time.
I banged on the door and rang the bell but no answer. An old lady was trying to tell me in French that it was closed and I tried to tell her in French that I had just this second spoken to Maurice and he was supposed to be there.
I rang Maurice back. “Yes he said, I’m in!” I said “Ou etes vous?” Le vets est ferme!” He then gave the phone to someone else who eventually managed to say “Stay there he will come for you.”
I stayed there and literally 3 minutes later here was Maurice. They had moved premises over a year and  a half ago hahah so much for the internet! And so much for not trusting the kids either!

Image of a business park with a veterinary surgery on it

New vet

And what a swanky place it was! Absolutely pristine and clearly purpose built. Maurice was very relaxed and took my word for Jack’s weight, gave me the tablets to give to him and then totted it up on the computer. I gulped as I got my debit card out and he said…”€64.76 please.”
I get him out of bed on a Sunday morning, make him wait 3/4 of an hour, then he has to come and find me, and that’s all he charges me? I was astonished to say the least and more than happy to hand it over. At least one thing has gone right for me! Now I can ring the ferry people and see what they say.


I rang DFDS and explained my situation and they were very understanding however as I was booked to leave in about 6 weeks time and I wanted to reschedule for that same day, I would need to leave from Dunkirk and there was a massive surcharge of £74. I expected a surcharge but not that much, but hey, I need to sail that day so what the heck, I paid it without argument and was booked for 12 that day. I just had time to fill up with cheap diesel and get to the port.
I did that and when I arrived at Dunkirk I was ‘told off’ for not checking in at least 1 hour before sailing. I simply apologised and said nothing else and as I looked at him stamping stuff and tapping his computer I knew somehow he was not going to let me on the ferry. It was that feeling I got when Jack fell off the harbour wall and into the sea at San Giuliarno. I knew it was going to happen. Sure enough he turned to me after a few moments and said “You cannot sail today. 24 hours must pass from the time your dog sees the vet to the time you sail.


He was of course dead right. I’d totally forgotten but that’s the law and I knew it. So I asked in a meek tone “What shall I do?” He advised going into DFDS’s office and seeing what they could do then looked away. He had nothing more for me.

I found their offices and spoke to a lovely French girl who was very efficient and officious and said this was the law I must know that. I said yes but I had forgotten, was it possible to change my ticket yet again?
After some though and tapping at her computer, then chatting to her supervisor she returned and said “I would love to come to England with you and stay in your van with you for a few weeks.” However it got lost in translation and I think she meant they could change my ticket and this time it would be free of charge. I Nodded and she got on with it and once I had the new ticket in my hand I said “Wait…I paid £74 as I was sailing the same day. I ought to have remembered the law, but so ought your ticket agent have known it and not sold me the ticket. I should get a portion of that sum refunded?”
She thought about this and finally agreed and suggested I telephone customer services.

Back at the van I telephoned customer services. I got a lovely lady who understood everything easily and finally suggested I write in to head office so they could sort it out. She went off to find the address but I knew if I had to write in I would get nowhere. So I asked her in my nicest voice if she could find a supervisor to speak to but unfortunately he was on the phone. I suggested she pass my number on to him so he could call me when he was finished and she took it and said he would call back but I wasn’t sure he would. They never do.
Anyway, less than 10 minutes later he called back. I explained everything all over again, and he said at the end I will simply refund your entire £74 that you paid this morning!
I said “No I am more than happy to pay a re-scheduling fee, take £10 or £10 or whatever it is.” but he was certain, “I understand the problems and my staff should not have sold you that ticket therefore I will refund the whole amount to your card.”
To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.

DFDS have been my preferred ferry company since they took over Norfolk line and now I will not hear a word against them.

So, I drove into Loon Plage which was pretty but empty. I drove around the countryside which was pretty but had nowhere to stop. Drove back to the ferry car park and took Jack for a walk along the waste land. I had about 20 hours to wait.

What the heck, what an adventure.

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The Drain monster is exposed…it’s a Coypu!

I know what the drain monster is! We went to the park this morning as usual and although as we approached we hear the usual thud/splash as they presumably jumped off the pipes and into them, when we got to …

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Drain monster – The Video!

We’ve been back to the park several times now and observed the drain monster down there, although, observed means watching and seeing nothing but hearing those moo’s! I decided to video on my phone so you can hear them and …

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My fridge is hot stuff

If you’ve read my blog since the beginning you’ll know that for most of the item I’ve had the van the fridge hasn’t worked. It works fine on mains, but on gas it works for a while then for no …

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The drain monster

Jack and I have found a drain monster. No really, we have. We were walking in our favourite place in the park and Jack as you know is banned from being off lead here after getting badly bitten, and after …

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Another lens broken

Yet another item has failed on me, this time my new 24-105 Canon L series lens that I bought last year from Portus Digital. I’m so frustrated with these constant problems at the moment. The 17-40 lens is the only …

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Camping Rialto

I’d found Camping Rialto on the ACSI map and it was €21 a night but being an ACSI member it was only €16. Leccie, showers, laundry and a bus stop right outside the gates, what more could you ask for? The …

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Things got hairy here, for what reason I have no idea but everyone was asked to leave the car park, and when I parked along the road I got 11 hooters in one day! That’s the worst anywhere. Public holiday …

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Taking time out

Some evenings I’m simply walking the streets with the dog, enjoying being in Italy, not even going into Venice sometimes. Other times I go into Venice and walk around aimlessly, it’s very nice there so easy to do. I’ve come …

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Avant kicks Opera’s butt

I’ve been using Opera browser now for about 20 years or so. I’ve never liked Internet Explorer, Netscape was awful, I can not get used to Firefox and it often has lots of bugs and problems, and Chrome is just …

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Lightning…it’s very, very frightening!

I went into Venice last night as the sun had come out nicely and it looked as though it was going to be a really nice evening and night. My plan was to go to the Fondamenta Salute which is …

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Jack nails a hat trick!

You can’t make this stuff up! There we were walking through the park, with Jack on the lead for you know what and what! But we got to the top end of the park by the new marina and I took …

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Take a brake

You may recall that when I first came to Italy my brakes faded out, you may have read it here. I just checked a price back in the UK and for new brake discs, decent quality pads and new shoes, …

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Thanks DVLA

Just got round to contacting DVLA today about my lost driving licence. Someone told me you could contact the British Embassy and they’d sort you out but when I rang them they were about as helpful as a sack of …

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Jack and bloody culverts!

Despite his fright in a drainage culvert yesterday, Jack decides to nip down another one and investigate. I hadn’t seen where he’d gone, he disappeared into a stand of trees and bushes so when I faintly heard his yelping I …

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Jack and the dark culvert

Parco San Giuliano is enormous and we still haven’t explored all of it yet, but we do a little more each time. Today we explored a slightly wild section that edges onto Venice lagoon. The entire park is littered with …

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Repairing the bumper

I’ve come out to a place called Jesolo that I found when I first came to Italy. It’s a large carpark which is almost derelict it’s so grown over. It’s almost hidden from the road too I only saw it …

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Venice again…

Well obviously me being here this is all you’re going to hear about hahahh I’ve posted an album of photos here… there’s about 100 I think. I may add some more later on but that’s all for now. Here’s a one …

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I think they came to rob me last night…

It was almost 2am CET, and I’d been working on some photos but had not long turned the computer off and was playing with the dog with his favourite toy when I noticed a flashing outside. It was almost like …

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Oh yes. I was awake very early this morning so took Jack out for an hour and watched the sun come up which was beautiful. Then I got my gear and went across the road to see if the local …

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More battery woes!

This trip lumbers from bad to worse! The voltage needle had been fluctuating slightly as I used the computer so I decided to investigate. Checked all the wiring and stuff, went to check the batteries and…they’re bone dry! I can …

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Lost my wallet

For the first time in my life I’ve lost my wallet. I’d been busy the other morning going to the garage, getting water, shopping at Lidl’s, finding a new lens for the one I broke the other day, just those …

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Bang! Clatter! Crash!

I found a laundry, that was good. Only about 2 miles from where I’m staying too so that’s even better. However when pulling away I broke one of the upper lights on the back. The hanging cable on the left is …

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New shoes

I spent the whole of Tuesday in Venice with my shoes on. They’re pretty much worn out and were only cheap ones anyway. It was really hot and of course walking on tarmac all day does tire your feet out. …

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Half work – half play.

Today was my first day back at work since last Friday so I was nervous as to how the MiFi would perform. It has seemed ok so far albeit slightly slow, but the work interface uses sockets so needs a …

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A quick snapshot of Venice.

I’ve not processed any of the photos yet I’ve been too busy, so here’s a quick taster of some obvious touristy shots just to whet your appetite.   I love this boat! Oh wait…do I have a thing for boats… …

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Venice finally!!

OK here it is, background info first. Sosta does not translate into what we think of as an aire. Sosta means stop, layover or rest, and doesn’t necessarily mean you can park your motorhome overnight. Like the French aire it’s …

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