Somehow, I ended up with only four days to get everything ready for this trip. You could argue, like my parents loved to, that I had months to prepare myself for my time on the road and that the preparation period began well before our holiday to Portugal, where from hundreds of miles away I couldn’t meddle around in Fanny. With my distinct lack of foresight and laid back approach I failed to carry out any drastic work required on the van in the time before the vacation and left it all to the last minute. Knowing after weekends away in Snowdonia and the Forest of Dean that I had the basics to survive and the van was in reasonable health, I was confident that in the few days between a relaxing week in the Algarve and setting off on the road trip that I could get everything done.
This idea was slightly derailed when I got home and opened up the garage only to remember that I had lent my uncle the keys so he could work his magic putting in a new lock for the sliding door and fixing a few minor leaks around the windows. Knowing that he had been trusted with the important unlocking, van mobilising little piece of metal, he took his duty of care extremely seriously, so seriously in fact that he didn’t risk losing them and kept them on him at all times. Even on his trip to Devon. So, with my uncle treating my keys to a trip to the coast, I had lost a crucial fiddling day.
Fortunately, he was prompt in his return and the next day of misfortunate set backs could begin. Heading straight to the tyre garage to change the rubbers around my rear wheels, I thought I’d inquire about the shrieking, squeaking sound which pierced ears anytime I’d require deceleration and gently squeezed the brakes. After a fun waiting period of melting in the baking sun beams which were slow cooking me through the shopfront glass, the forebodingly glum huddle of mechanics dispersed from the wheelless shell of my van to excite me with the news that my front brake system needed replacing with the suggestion that a five thousand mile trip in their current condition would drastically increase the already worryingly high requirement of the use of a break down service. As the thought of unstoppably charging down hill towards a watery stop in a lake painted a wet and gloomy picture in the back of my mind I had no choice but to let them carry on with the promise it would only take a day, and left my van overnight to have the key ability to stop reinforced.
Another vanless day passed restricting me to just the laying of clothing and food randomly across the floor before taking the opportunity to prepare for my preposterously premature birthday celebrations. As I’ll be on the road for my 21st it was either July or October for a few drinks with my mates, and as they’ll have returned to uni and October being ages away, it was 2 days before departure day or nothing. Somehow wasting another day hunting for a sombrero and buying tequila, much work remained to be done in my Fanny.
The repercussions of the celebratory drinks extracted another heavy toll on my van organisation time as the following morning was devoted to the saga of Henry Davies’ keys. Despite being one of the most intelligent people I know, Henry has the incredible ability to occasionally be an absolute idiot on a hilariously entertaining scale. In this particular episode, on his way out of his house he mistakenly took one of his mum’s bags who was due to go on holiday early the next morning. With the error unknown, Henry drank his way to bed. Come 5am, the silhouette of his father appeared at the foot of his tent asking his intoxicated son to point him to his car so he could reclaim the missing bag. With his mission complete, Mr Davies returned with his wife’s bag in hand and headed off on his holiday. What should be the end of this drama is only the beginning…
The next morning the search began for Henry’s keys. Looking through all the rooms, around the outside table and everywhere around the car. They were nowhere to be found. The shock realisation that they were in the glovebox of the car which was locked worried my delivery driver friend nearly as much as my mum who feared being left with the stranded victim until his parents returned after five weeks with the spare key which they had used to lock the car. As all the guys decided which window they would break, because everyone should get a go, Henry kept trying to call his airborne parents. Whilst this was all happening my dad and uncle were raiding the garage for anything useful to break in with. First up was an old wire clothes hanger which would hopefully squeeze through the window and hook open the door. Minutes of struggling to push through the seals around the door successfully penetrated the Mini, and the hook wobbled around the handle. The promise of a completed hooking to unlock the door was as misleading as it was disappointing when the handle was pulled and nothing happened.
The next genius idea was the threading of a fishing rod through the ever expanding gap beside the window, towards the lock switch in the centre of the car. More minutes of furious wiggling followed as the rod was shunted in. To a backdrop of innuendos regarding penetration and pole handling the rod edged closer and closer until it reached its goal. Pushing the buttons up and down the suspense increased until it all came to a snapping close with half the pole falling to the inside of the locked vehicle.
As everyone’s hopes of laying waste to Henry’s windows grew, Henry finally heard from his nonplussed parents who quickly decided that he should handle it himself. My dad, trying everything he could to regain the space on the driveway carried on rummaging through the garage for anything else to prod around with. Utilising his further education in engineering, Henry finally had his lightbulb moment and began to poke around with another stick with the aim of opening the glovebox, flicking out the key and unlocking it with an accurate stab. The following jubilation was shared around. Henry, ecstatic to reclaim his car with all his windows intact and my parents delighted to have a free drive and a full fridge.
With the bizarre distraction over, I was left with just 24 hours to sort out the van, and my parents still reminding me that I should have done it all before we went away. Still, I managed, and after a brief panic over an illusive passport, I was good to go.