Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.....

La Ferté-St Aubin to Chatel-de-Neuvre, 142 miles. 

The thundery showers that France Meteo had been promising since Sunday arrived in the middle of last night. No thunder, but much thrumming on the roof about three feet above my sleepless head. By morning it had improved to being damp and drizzly, with 'occasional longer spells of rain' as the Met Office like to say. So, there was lots of water outside the van, but Maisy's white water tank was more or less dry. 

There followed one of those Moho sagas where something dead simple (replenishing water tank) becomes annoyingly problematic. The water tap at La Ferté-St Aubin needed two euro coins to operate it. We had one, and four  50 euro notes straight out of the ATM. Of course what we should have done is walked 300m to the boulangerie bought a couple of croissants and got some change, but it was raining and we wanted to get started. Instead we agreed that there were lots of motorhome service points on N roads so we would fill-up on the way. 

The first one we found had a none standard tap fitting, the second one was broken. We gave up, went to a campsite, filled up, and spent 20 minutes struggling to make the water system​ work because running the pump with a trickle of water had caused an airlock - but we persevered. We have water - hurray! 

One glitch attracts another. They hunt in packs. We needed fresh milk - and a few other bits a pieces. This too proved more challenging than anticipated. On the N roads south of the Loire in every small town every Atac, Intermarché and Carrefour Market was crowded in some kind of post bank holiday grocery shopping spree - no room for a Moho among the closely packed, Twingos and Dusters parked with wild abandon by their malnourished owners. What we needed was a plan, so Gill consulted Google maps to find a Hypermarket with a car park the size is Belgium. Carrefour Moulin seemed to fit the bill, and it was located conveniently off the rocade. Perfect, apart from every entrance seemed to have a height barrier - this is an annoying recent trend with Carrefour we have noticed. So that's how we ended up in at St. Pourcain's Lidl, which was fine, apart from the fact that Lidls in France only stock UHT milk and the main reason we wanted a supermarket was to buy fresh milk.....

St Pourcain seemed like an interesting town with a clutch of places selling the local wine. Vineyards are not that common in Auvergne, so we were looking forward to trying it. The large free Aire by the river was well designed, busy, but had a few bays left. We envisaged a late afternoon stroll around the town before we ate. It was at this moment we discovered the coin operated service point was broken and we could not fill the water tank. We had no option but to backtrack 15km up the road we had driven down and find the nearest ACSI site at Chatel-de-Neuvre. Finally, we filled the tank and settled in.

Another field in France
The site is next to the Allier in pleasant open country. We walked a few hundred metres along the edge of a big ploughed field beside the river. The late afternoon light was garish and thundery, but the threatening rain passed over. We took a few a few photographs as the light was beautiful. I wished I had grabbed the Canon, but had to make do with the phone camera.

Another path through another field in France
I love the way light can transform the mundane into the extraordinary -  like the curved lines of  recently planted lettuces

I think the place must be a former municipal, the facilities are functional, but recall France of yesteryear evoking memories of the whiff of Galloise and green painted pissoir. Just to complete the Clochemerle image, the site's big open barn has an ancient 'corrugated' Citroen van slowly rusting away among piles of junk. 
Primitive sanitaire

This would be worth a fortune in Hackney, they are much loved by Hipster owned pop-up food  trucjks
As evening fell we hoped that we had finally escaped the attentions of Mischievia, the little known Roman minor deity of the annoying glitch. No, she had one final trick up her stola. Before we left I bought myself an early birthday present - an iBoost wifi wand - at £159 its expensive, but I hoped it would enable us to use more free wifi and connect better to campsite connections which tend to waft about somewhat. At first, to a technical Mr Bean like me the instructions seemed a bit complicated, but if you perservere  and take it step by step it all becomes clear. So I was feeling quite pleased with myself that I had connected it all and it seemed to be working yesterday. This evening when I plugged it into the 12 volt socket the lights on the control unit flickered, then went out. After a bit of investigation it became clear that all the 12 volt sockets in the van were dead - a fuse had blown. Why now, when they had worked perfectly for years powering all manner of devices, including some hefty ones like the plug-in tyre inflator. I wondered if it was a problem with the iBoost.

As email to Adam who had developed the system established that it was not a problem that had been reported before. He was exceptionally helpful and even offered to assist in tracking down which fuse was blown in the van's distribution box if I sent him a photograph of the unit. Right now, however, not only am I unable to use the new iBoost, but our 12 volt sockets which we use to keep our phones and tablets topped up when we have no EHU are dysfunctional too. 

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