Anyone who is lucky enough to live in a rural environment will understand that the need for reliable independent transport is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
My darling car broke down at the end of July, at the worst possible time financially. The absolutely worse thing happened, the clutch went, spectacularly so, even if I do say so myself. Fortunately for me, I was at a friend's house and not on the open road.
Number three son is, again fortunately for me, doing a mechanics course specialising in heavy goods vehicles. My go-to mechanic was mired in family problems and cars were piling up left, right and centre at his place so he couldn't help immediately.
Again, fortunately for me, my other half had his car and we were mobile, for a while.... Then it happened, a suspension spring on his car snapped and in August!!! Dun! Dun Dun!....anybody that lives in France or has dealings with anyone in France knows that August is the month that nothing gets done. Nada, Nichts, Rien!
As mentioned, our go-to mechanic couldn't be gone to and he didn't have the tools to do the specific job required (Sod's Law came into play here, the part that broke rarely fails, therefore, the tool required to remove said part is expensive and not all mechanics have them!! - Joy!) So off we went to the next village and enquired at the newly taken over garage whether they could repair the spring. It took the owner four days to get back to us with a price and availability. At this point, I must point out that we ourselves were looking on-line for a replacement spring.
We tried VW in St Lo, who tried to convince us that both springs needed to be replaced and he would call me back, that was never going to happen!!! When the village mechanic came back to us he said it was nigh on impossible to find the part for my partner's VW Golf in France, because the sports chassis wasn't sold in France!!! He quoted a 200% mark up on the part and factored in eight hours of work!!! And we had to agree then and there or there would be a four-week wait because (you guessed it!) they were going on holiday!!
Thankfully my next door neighbour gave me the number of his go-to mechanic. In this case, he really was "go to", he has been banned from driving so we had to limp there with the car!!! We ordered the part from Euro Car Parts (a fantastic company in the UK see link below) it was with us within a few days (delivery companies in France appear to work on a skeleton staff also during August). Was the sorry saga over? Nah! Don't be daft (remember Murphy's Law? Well it turned into Sod's Law!)
We dropped off the car, making plans for the rest of the summer, trips to the beach etc, only for our hopes to be dashed!!! Told Ya!!
Apparently, we needed another part (stabilising bar) which we ordered from a French website with a 24-hour delivery. Redemption?! Nope!! It didn't turn up the following day, we chased it and were informed that it takes up to 48 hours to action the order (remember we're in August!?). So I cancelled the order and ordered the part again through Amazon France, again a 24-hour delivery, and due on Saturday morning. The Saturday morning came and went, we checked on the on-line delivery status and guess what?! The driver had tried to deliver in the morning with no response (according to the system), this was, of course, absolute bollocks! Amazon France delivery notice stated that the address couldn't be found! So needless to say I was not amused!!! Call me pedantic ("You're pedantic!") but one cannot state that no-one was home when the address cannot be found in order to ascertain whether anyone was home or not!!! Amazon France was brilliant, they refunded my express delivery charge because it was anything but and the part was delivered to a nearby DIY store for collection.
Now I will digress a little here, I have always looked at motorbikes with a degree of fear, why would you want to bowl along at 90+ miles per hour without a shell to protect you?! Necessity being the mother of invention (and in our case lack of transport) we were forced to use John's motorbike. He has been a motorcyclist for nearly four decades, so he gets it, loves it even! Me? Petrified!! But I donned Number three son's crash helmet and manned up!!! Wow!! I loved it!!! It was amazing!!
Anyway, back to the sorry tale of two cars...second part found, ordered, delivered to the mechanic, who.....went away on a four-day bender with his new girlfriend!!!! When he eventually came back (and sobered up) he then told us ANOTHER part was needed! Back we went on-line, Amazon France again came up trumps and delivered the third part express delivery to the DIY store.
John's car fixed, the last week of the summer holidays, it rained!!! We managed two days on the beach, two wonderful days!
Number three son volunteered to strip out the engine and clutch on my Citroen C4 Grand Picasso. It was going to be under the watchful eye and mentoring of our go-to mechanic, but the latter was still dealing with personal family and work issues. So Number three son had to go solo. With the aid of a manual, he started dismantling the engine. I would say at least two-thirds of the engine had to be dismantled in order to get to the clutch. But before that, we needed to take off the two front wheels. Easier said than done when you have locking wheel nuts that have worn and refuse to budge!!! Seventy euros poorer and with the new key and some expert advice gleaned from the wondrous invention that is the internet, the two wheels were removed. Then the brakes, then the suspension, then the drive shaft, then the particle filter and turbo, not to mention the battery and all the electrics.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, it's fixed!!! Three and a half months without a car and it starts, it goes into all the gears and it stops, except....it is now belching black fumes, lacks power when the accelerator is depressed (I could very well be depressed myself at this moment in time!) and it will most definitely fail its emission test for its French equivalent of a MOT!!!
To be continued.....