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!
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!
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.