Sun 02 Jul 1995
Anthony Day

2/7 - 4/7/95

It was on a breezy Sunday morning (2/7/95) that I first set eyes on the heap of tin oxide masquerading as a trailer that I was going to have to tow half the expo to Austria in. The parlous state of the mudguards, the ridiculously small wheels, and the spare tyre (containing no air and even less tread) did not inspire confidence, but with a typical caverish "it'll be alright" attitude we set off anyway. The first rainstorm to hit Cambridge in two months happened while we were packing this trailer of the loads, and the beast of burden (my Lada) which was pretending to tow it. I suppose that should have been an omen that everything was not going to go according to plan.....

(1) Got to Ramsgate without a hitch in time for the earlier ferry. This had been booked solid earlier, but there was now a space for us. "Terrific" we thought. "We'll be in Austria by tea time" we thought....

(2) It's now ~8.30 on Monday morning and we're happily travelling through Belgium. Noted that the car was not pulling very well on hills, but think nothing of it until a Belgian car overtook us honking his horn and gesticulating wildly. Thought he might be pissed off because we'd been overtaking slowly but pulled onto the hard shoulder on the next slip road to check. Discover that the passenger side tyre on the trailer is looking a bit mangled and blown out.

Now, normally all we would have to do is put the spare on... But the spare isn't in much better fettle than the old one. So the next bright idea is the National Breakdown. Decide that Nick will stay with the trailer and Anthony will go and find a public phone rather than use the emergency phone and risk alerting the Belgian police to all the illegal things about our trailer.

(3) Within two minutes of Anthony leaving, two Belgian policemen on motorbikes roll up. Neither speak any English, so Nick spins them a yarn in halting French about how he isn't towing this trailer down the Autoroute with his bare hands and his friend really has gone to fetch help. Maybe they believe him, maybe they don't, but they piss off anyway, so that's OK.

(4) Meanwhile, Anthony finds a phone fairly easily, and rings the freephone number in the handbook. Unfortunately, what he hears is a recorded message in English which doesn't make any sense, and certainly doesn't sound like "Where have you broken down?" Faffs around for ages redialling and trying every combination of extra numbers but has no joy.

Fortunately, there's an alternative number to ring the control centre in France directly. Unfortunately, Anthony doesn't have any Belgian money, so goes back to Nick who is asleep against the trailer. This has taken an hour.

(5) Decide to go and get some Belgian money and attempt to ring National Breakdown in France, so Anthony goes off to a bigger town, gets some money, buys a can of pop with the equivalent of a �2 note and thus gets some Belgian change. He then spends ½hr trying to get a Belgian phone to work, because some NB have kindly told him he needs [illegible] for an extra dialling or something. Having realised that this is total crap, he finally gets connected. Success !

...Almost. Having got connected, Anthony spends all his Belgian change listening to "You have been connected, please hold the line" in six different languages. So its off to another shop to get some more change and try again. EVENTUALLY he gets connected properly and manages to tell the bloke most of the relevant info (Nature of problem, car make, model, engine size, colour, fuel economy, volume of fluid in windscreen washers, owner's shoe size...) before his money runs out again. Note that the vehicle location is not in the preceding list. AAAARGH! off to another shop to get some more change etc. etc... At 11.45 the bloke says a mechanic will appear in 45 minutes. Great. Anthony goes back to join Nick.

(6) Mechanic turns up at 13:10, grins from ear to ear and tells us our tyre is broken. He tootles off to get a replacement and takes away our spare to fix that also. He returns at 14:50, we pay him (with English money) and we're off.

(7) 5 km down the road, Anthony notices that the car isn't pulling very well, somebody overtakes us gesticulating wildly, and a feeling of déjà vu overtakes us.

The same bloody tyre has blown out again, this time there is a 7" gash in it where the rusty prominence that passes for a mudguard has gone through it. Fortunately, this time we have a serviceable spare, so it only takes an hour to change it and beat the crap out of the remnants of the mudguard to ensure there is no repeat performance.

(8) Rest of journey was uneventful. Massive rainstorm in Karlsruhe, and we had to stop near Munich to get some kip. So on Tuesday morning, we carried on to Austria. The car was doing really well on the Pötschen Pass until....


Dear reader, do you think this noise was from
a) A nearby meteorite impact
or b) Driving over an unexploded shell
or c) the third blowout in 24 hours on the same trailer wheel.....

....At least in Belgium it had been sunny, now it was pissing buckets. We toddled off to the Opel dealer who told us the nearest spare tyre emporium was in Liezen (40 km). We gave up and went to cry on Hilda's shoulder. She arranged for the local garage to collect the trailer, and then provided us with a trailer to get all the shit to base camp. The axle has broken, and is going to cost ÖS3000 (~£200) to fix, so I think the trailer is on its way to the great scrapyard in the sky.

_The Moral_

If you want a shit trailer to tow to expo, do _NOT_ ask Wookey for a 'shit' trailer, just ask for a simple trailer, and maybe you'll get something vaguely roadworthy.

End of rant.

not quite...

Things to do on the hard shoulder of a Belgian autobahn by Nick

  1. Kick the trailer
  2. Get rained on
  3. Kick the trailer again
  4. Talk to the large Belgian policemen on even larger motorbikes and persuade them that you are not a vagrant with a pet trailer and that you really don't want to be arrested (With hindsight, this may have been the better option).
  5. Examine the bits of tyre, strange lumps of metal, coke cans, used condoms, Tory ministers and babies lyt in the gutter
  6. Attempt to play patience and spend the next ten minutes chasing your playing cards across the Autobahn
  7. Kick the trailer really hard
  8. Laugh at the Germans in their really big car and even bigger caravan who stop on the hard shoulder too. (Unfortunately, they left again in ten minutes, rather than 6 hours)
  9. Fall asleep, then be scared shitless by some bastard Belgian lorry driver who steams past at lots of miles an hour tooting his horn
  10. Grab a random branch from the bushes and pretend to be carving something whilst hacking chunks out willy-nilly
  11. Hope that the policemen don't return. "Yes Ociffer it really has taken 5 hours for my friend to find a phone. Yes, he is English, like me"
  12. Kick the trailer .................

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