England - Round The World Tour 2 2003 Day 145

M3 motorway

Monday 4th August

A blown tire on the camper-van has left me with a little time on my hands to catch up on some of the events of the past few days.

Our first priority once arriving in England was to show off our new camper-van to the family. We nicknamed the van the ‘brick’ after its aerodynamic characteristics. We spent the past few days organising ourselves and visiting as many family members as we could. Jacqueline is on the Isle of White with her two youngest. Accordingly, we spent a night with John & Lisa this time around as well as a night in our usual cupboard under the stairs at Jacqueline’s house in the company of Jenny-Lee. We also visited Mum & Dad. Mum is still doing relatively well although she is still very quickly out of breath. We’ve been exploring the possibility of taking them both to Ireland in the camper-van. This would fulfil a lifelong dream for Mum but will probably be something for next year.

We left Essex and headed down to Hampshire to visit Paul, Hazel and their kids as well as Annie, Lee & their kids. After enjoying a couple of hours with Hazel and the girls, we saw Paul’s new apartment for the first time and spent a night there. I always enjoy spending time with Paul and this time was no exception. As a treat for Annie’s kids, he took them to the local supermarket for a ‘chocolate run’. The kids were each given a shopping trolley and fifteen seconds to run up and down the chocolate isle to collect as much as they could. Everything they put into their shopping trolleys within the fifteen seconds, he bought for them. It was an absolute thrill for the kids and a whole load of good fun. Annie’s fridge is now so full that opening its door triggers an immediate avalanche of chocolate. They’ll all have zits and pimples within a week.

We spent last night at Annie’s house and today we all went down to the beach for a couple of hours. The whole day was a lot of fun and everybody enjoyed themselves immensely. We made it to within a few miles of Basingstoke on the way back before the tire blew and sent everyone’s adrenaline levels through the roof. Luckily we made it safely to the side of the road to inspect the damage. Fortunately it was only a blown tire but, unfortunately, the jack that is in the van doesn’t seem up to the task of lifting the van hire enough off the road to get the demolished tire off.

Shortly after we stopped to repair the blown tire, a friendly police officer stopped to assess the situation and was good enough to provide us with the number for the AA to call for assistance. As it turned out, however, the AA were little help to us and seemed to keep throwing all kinds of obstacles in the way such as the van being too heavy for me to become a member for their roadside assistance program. Luckily, Louise’s future father-in-law would pass by our location on his way home from work and stopped to pick up everyone (except me) to take home. I’m now sitting here on the side of the road waiting for him to return with a bigger jack. The AA was going to charge £50 for the membership as well as a whopping £85 surcharge for already having broken down. I’ll not reveal what I think of the AA just right now.

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