We’ve had a bathroom extension built. Just a small bathroom extension of 10sq metres. It was scheduled to be completed shortly before we were due to set off for a trip to the UK. Enough time to clear up and prepare for the trip. So we thought…

Each year we take a trip back to UK in our campervan, to see our family and friends. It’s like taking a holiday, but in reverse. Like taking a holiday from a long term holiday. Actually, it’s like taking a holiday from a long term activity, gardening and building holiday. But who’s complaining. We were ready for a holiday, having had three months of intensive pressure of having builders in, working in the garden and the big “C19”.

When I say we were ready for a holiday, what I meant was, we weren’t. Mentally yes, physically no. Normally, we spend at least a week physically preparing for the trip. I have a checklist that comes out each year. (I like checklists!) The list is checked for changes or anything that is unnecessary, or needs adding. I also add a list of jobs to do before setting off. This year we had to add a surfboard (I’d tell you about it, but it’s a long story) and research travel restrictions due to a bug that everyone seems to be worrying about. 

The Route

Our ‘holiday’ consists of a mostly leisurely drive through Spain and France (hence the travel restrictions research) and includes a stopover in Dax to visit a lovely friend and her family. It means we have two deadlines, a night in Dax and the booked ferry. So we had a schedule.

Two days before planned departure date we were:

  • Still waiting for delivery of bathroom window. 
  • Checklist was still on computer. 
  • Discussion with builder still ongoing re annex. 
  • Garage still needed tidying to store materials. 
  • Furniture  in annex still needed covering. 
  • Van still needed checking and packing. 

That’s a lot of ‘stills’, but things were still moving forward even if we weren’t!

The day before departure date, again, no delivery of said glass. Then, just as we were packing up, our water pump decided to pack up too… and on the day the builders were mixing lots of concrete. Isn’t it strange how things happen at the worst possible time? I was then employed as a ‘coolie’, transferring water from the cisterna to the cement mixer, by hand… or rather bucket. There was nothing ‘cool’ about it, on the hottest day of the year!

Departure day came and went. We didn’t. The glass didn’t come either. But we were in Portugal. Things happen s l o w e r in Portugal. No worries… breathe deep … a m a  n  h  ã! … we could set off a day late. Amazing calmness really, considering the absolutely frazzled state we were in and the impending deadlines. 

Departure date, + 1. After late night packing and a few hours sleep we were up at the crack of 9.00am to depart. Good news – the glass was on its way and two hours later so were we! Yay! What a relief. Stress free holiday time! Or so we thought… 

En-route though, we got a message that the pump had packed up again. Must have seen us packing and thought, “what the hell”. No problem though, Electrician had been called and would fit a new control box.

Departure date +2, another message from our neighbour – had we seen a black mannequin arm? That would normally have seemed rather bizarre, but I had seen a black mannequin arm in the garage. I thought it was an idea of ‘Her Outdoors’ to use in the garden. But I was tidying the garage… and threw it away.

By this time my mind was boggling, trying to think what on earth could he need a mannequin arm for anyway and why it was in our garage? Was he an undercover cop planting drugs, to safe guard a stash of money, to use as a weapon, or what? Long story short, he was planning to use it as a burglar deterrent and the builder was gluing its hand back on. He had put it in the garage to dry. Having explained where I’d disposed of it (the local lixo/waste bins), one of the labourers was despatched to find it.  He went to the garden waste instead. I then drew a map. I’d like to say the search was fruitful, and there’d be no ‘arm in that, but nor was there one in the bin any longer!

The following day, another message. The pump (see departure day +1) had burnt out overnight. When I say burnt out, it wasn’t just the motor that had burnt out, it had gone up in flames! Fortunately it was contained in the pump house. But it was dead. Kaput. But no problem, the Electrician was on hand and a replacement had been sourced which would only cost… (I groaned). It was a lesson to us both – work too hard and you eventually burn out. What we should do is take a holiday. Err… is that where we came in?

In the next blog, I’ll explain how we thought replacing a few roof tiles would be a cheap, quick job that didn’t require any supervising or any major decisions and we could set off with no worries.

Anyone know where I can get a black, right arm for a mannequin?

Marcello: Neighbour, Design Consultant, Photographer & Friend (still, I hope).

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