Monday, 25 September 2017

Fridge Glitch continued...merci beaucoup Palace Caravanes.

Having proposed five stages of motorhome malfunction a couple of posts ago, I now find I have to return to my theory and adjust it slightly. It remains the case that when faced with the moment that their beloved vehicle of dreams becomes a heap of inert metal the hapless Moho owner passes through five distinct cognitive states, namely: discovery, denial, realisation, catastrophisation, and finally, dudeist acceptance This morning's experience revealed that this is a two-way process, the the merest hint of further trouble prompts even the most stoical owner into renewed predictions of imminent, wallet draining catastrophe. The dire circumstance which prompted Biblical weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth was the discovery that our milk had gone sour. We moved swiftly from yesterday's acceptance of, as NASA might put it, reduced on-board refrigeration capability, to the realisation that our trusty three way Dometic fridge was buggered completely. 

The campsite reception pointed us in the direction of a moho repair place closer than the one at Biscarosse we identified yesterday on Google. Gill made a quick call to Palace Caravanes, the owner spoke some English and he agreed to look at the problem straightaway. It was about 7kms from the campsite and by 10.30am Maisy was in their service bay.

The place was owned by a pleasant youngish couple who made us welcome, plied us with coffee, while the guy and his mechanic struggled to find what was up with our fridge. The narrative continued in a catastrophic vein as Monsieur popped back to update us with all the things he had checked and dismissed as the root cause of the problem - it was not the ignition unit or the circuit board, all the fuses were ok, the main gas valve functioned - he phoned Dometic's technical advice line, they seemed perplexed too.

Meanwhile we were in catastrophe overdrive - the price of a new fridge was astronomical, somewhere between €350 -€500, even before the cost of installation was factored in. We concluded that we could probably get by for a couple of weeks if we bought a 12v camping coolbox, but not for the next two months. Perhaps, we mused gloomily, the best option was to cut short our trip, visit the Costa Brava for a week or so, then head home.

Luckily our wallow in the pit of despair was cut short by the arrival of another Moho owner with a sorry tale. In this case a German couple whose very beautiful big Frankia twin wheeled beast had decided to run its water pump permanently and slowly flood the space between the double floor. Enthusiastically we swapped stories of technical mishaps -- dead leisure batteries in Sicily, ripped side panels in Bavaria, bent bumpers in Murcia, the usual tales of woe. They were a well travelled couple and they recounted their experiences of a long road trip across Australia, journeys in South America and a visit to Antarctica. Eventually we ended up discussing politics, Brexit and yesterday's result in the German elections, musing about the seemingly inexorable rise of right-wing sympathies, particularly among older voters. The man, who had been quite ebullient grew quieter and then said, "Let me tell you something." He seemed hesitant as if uncertain to recount the story or not.

What he told us concerned his moho trip to the UK, which generally he was positive about. All went well until he headed south from Scotland, stopping at a site north of Newcastle. He arrived late and reception was closed. A notice instructed late arrivals to park in a space outside the gate and check-in the following day. This arrangement did not please all the neighbours apparently and a local arrived to suggest that the German should move. When he explained that he was simply following instructions on the sign the local 'nimby' threatened to call the police and commented that Nazis were not welcome thereabouts. In all their worldwide travels it was the only time the couple had experienced overt, aggressive racism.

What could we say? Not only are we British, but we both grew-up in the Northeast. Gill apologized on behalf of our fellow countrymen and I expressed sadness, but not utter surprise at the incident. The Northeast has a reputation for friendliness and warm hearted people. However, that is not the whole story. Belligerence, xenophobia and distrust of people and groups perceived as different or outsiders also prevails. I know this, I grew up in its shadow. I felt sad that one incident might colour this German's view of English people generally. He assured me it was not the case, but clearly the experience had shaken him.

By now it was 12.20, the garage owner  became increasingly agitated about his lack of progress regarding our fridge. "Now I lose even the 12v," he muttered despairingly. The reason dawned on me, it was twenty minutes past noon, the moment when all citizens of La Republique suffer brain-melt due to extreme hunger. "Shall we go to the Centre Commercial by the roundabout and get something to eat?" I added, "you will be needing to close for lunch too?" A wave of relief spread across his face. "Always better after eat," he agreed.

We wandered through the small industrial estate, past 'Chez Fifi's' friterie, then found a fetid underpass to reach the opposite side of the main road eventually reaching the Super U hypermarket back entrance. It had a 'Casino' cafeteria. We used these supermarket restaurant chains a lot when travelling through France on family holidays. They were a convenient alternative to Macdonald's and had grown-up options as well as an inexpensive 'menu enfant'. Our experience today was less than wonderful, Gill's poulet roti was spectacularly mediocre. Maybe the chains have gone downhill or our expectations have risen.

Highlight of the day....
Afterwards we wandered around the store, picked up a couple of bottles of some interesting looking Bordeaux Superior which was on deal, then mooched about in the clothing section as Gill attempted to find a simple t-shirt style cotton nightie which did not have "a short novel on the front," as Gill put it. We had fun reading the naff phrases decorating  the front, most sporting slightly odd messages in English like 'Coffee Morning' 'Good Night' or 'Dog Tired' complete with cute puppy graphic. I can't see Gill being happy emblazoned with cute graphics of any description. The simple nightie search continues. 

By now it was time to check progress on fridgegate. Before  reaching  the front door we could see Madame's triumphant grin and thumbs-up gesture signalling good news. As the owner explained, "it comes to me when I eat!" There was nothing wrong with the fridge. The problem lay in a frayed wire in the 12 volt feed. This meant a live current registered on the mechanic's multi-meter but it was insufficient to power the ignition or the circuit board that controls the fridge's main three-way switch. A five minute repair had taken two hours to diagnose. But we had a functional fridge, our trip was back on track. The repair cost €130, but without Palace Caravanes perserverence the problem would not have been solved. Handshakes and thanks all around, off we went on our way, our beatific dudeist state duly restored.

Three hours and 130 euros poorer - we have a functional fridge.
but the bottles we bought on the Bordeaux wine deal were excellent.....

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