April 2016. The Practice Run.

We decided that we needed to have a practice run in the van before we did our year away, unfortunately for my sister Debbie and our niece Lauren they decided to visit us from South Africa a few weeks before we where due to leave so they had the dubious pleasure of discovering how truly incompetent we were when we used the van to visit our parents in Sussex.  I did warn them but they wouldn’t listen!  The trip was a comedy of errors.

Darren was driving the van down to the campsite later and we were taking the car.  As usual we rushed to pack the van because we were late leaving and when we arrived in Sussex Lauren asked whether we’d remembered to pack some towels, the answer was no we hadn’t so we left a message on Darren’s mobile phone asking him to bring the towels, he heard the message when he arrived at the campsite!

Darren arrived around 6 o’clock in the evening after an horrendous journey on the M25 and on inspection of the contents of the van we discovered that not only had we forgotten the towels but we’d left the kettle at home as well! We rummaged around the van hoping to find something towel like and managed to find three tea towels and a canvas bag to dry ourselves with, although the question of how we would dry ourselves turned out to be a moot point on the first day.

We came back from the pub that evening to find the van was freezing, we had no heating and no hot water, in fact pretty soon we had no water, hot or otherwise!  We put the pump on to make a cup of tea and it was making a really loud noise, eventually I went outside to make sure it wasn’t disturbing anyone else on the site and noticed that as well as the noise of the pump I could hear water running and that was when Darren realised that when he’d reset the frost protection dump valve on the boiler he’d closed the valve but had forgotten to press the reset button so consequently all the water he’d put in the tank before he’d left home was being pumped out of the dump valve.

While Darren was desperately trying to get the heating to work I went and got a bucket of water to keep us going then Darren refilled the tank. The heating issue wasn’t resolved quite so quickly and in order to wash the following morning we had to boil pans of water and fill the basin and use one end of the t-towel as a flannel and the other end as a towel! My poor husband spend a large part of the next day trying one thing after another to get the heating working with various suggestions from a helpful caravan repairman whom Darren had phoned.

Darren mentioned that he’d noticed an LED flashing so the repairman told him to count the flashes and note whether they were long or short flashes then let him know the sequence because it was morse code for the fault. Eventually after they’d tried everything the repairman said it was the circuit board and it would need a new one which would take a week or so to arrive.  Just as we had become used to the idea of no hot water/heating and a big bill the repairman called back and asked Darren whether he’d tried disconnecting the battery rather than just turning the boiler off and ‘Eureka’ that was the answer and we were all very grateful to have heating that evening.

My sister re-named our trip ‘The Faffing About Tour’, very apt!

One good thing about the trip and the main reason for coming to this area was to see our parents and we met up with Dad and Step-mother Sylv and Mum and Step-dad Bri for lunch at The Nutley Arms where we had a very nice meal and a lovely get together.

I was quite amazed that my sister braved another stay in the van the following week and although it was impossible to find anything because at that point nothing in the van had a place at least we didn’t have to go cold and we remembered the towels so it was quite uneventful.

Our practice run was an eye opener and was definitely needed to get us ready for our trip.

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