Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Things you learn not to do in a motorhome

Jackie carrying big Oscar cat in (toothbrush in mouth!)
We're housesitting in Arbroath, Scotland for three weeks so, after spending just four nights in our motorhome, we're now living in luxury in Colin and Louise's house for three weeks looking after Angus dog, Oscar cat and Hector cat, while they all holiday in Arizona. It's the second time we've housesat for them, the last time two years ago. The bed is so big we need the internet connection in order to communicate from one side to the other and, with glorious sunny weather and views over open countryside or the golf course, in which the house stands, we're feeling pretty lucky and spoiled.

Angus dog and Oscar cat on the bed. No problem, plenty of room for us as well
We managed to squeeze the motorhome (no name for it yet, snail? Ayup? we don't know) along the narrow access road, up on to their drive, turn it round on the drive and reverse it into a space beside the garage, all with Jackie, Colin and Louise watching and guiding. There we decided it should stay for the three weeks as they have insured me to drive one of their cars in order to take Angus dog out for beach/wood walks and for us to drive to the shops and other things. Breathe a sigh of relief, bring the huge wad of manuals into the house in order to read up how everything works and plan our onward trip through Scotland. We've opened the motorhome up each day to air it and do various jobs and, while open Oscar cat and Angus dog have been in it checking everything out and its all been quite nice and homely.

Entrance to the drive, offending wall on the right
The only slight problem we had was the air conditioning wasn't working so, as it has a six month warranty from Webbs where we bought it, I phoned them to ask if we could take it somewhere to have it repaired while here in Arbroath under the warranty. Got his agreement so scanned the internet ( and found a fabulous garage, Checkpoint Garage in Arbroath with enough height to get our motorhome in. Very professional, the engineer explained what he would do when we called in via the car to check it out so we arranged to take it in for repair on Tuesday. I told Jackie I could take it on my own as they reckoned it would take about 40 minutes if just needing a regas, but if something else was wrong I put my bike on board so I could cycle home if required and return when its fixed.

Scratched motorhome with dislodged rear bumper
Driving out was easy as I'd reversed it in so, after shuffling their two cars across the drive, I manoeuvred out of the drive, back along their narrow access road and out to Arbroath, following Doris the sat navs directions to the garage. Handed over the keys and relaxed in their reception chatting to the lady there about touring Scotland in a motorhome, something she has done and fully recommends. 40 minutes later its ready and all ready for me to drive it back home and only £70 regas charge.

During repairs, bumper being supported
Phoned Jackie to say I was on my way and, our plan was that I would drive the motorhome back onto the drive, move the two cars further down the drive out of the way, then manoeuvre the motorhome round on the drive to reverse it back into it's space by the garage. Arrived back feeling quite cold as the aircon is now working, Jackie came out, I moved the two cars down the drive and then got ready to move the motorhome. I had just reversed the motorhome back to the start of the drive ready for the manoeuvre when big Oscar cat came out weaving between cars and motorhome in a playful way. Jackie scooped him up to carry him inside while I drove forward onto the drive keeping close to the left to give myself plenty of room to swing hard right across the drive in order to turn it around. Deciding there was enough space in front to turn in front of the garage I eased forward on full lock moving forward. I had moved forward only about a meter as Jackie came out of the front door yelling me to stop. What can possibly be the problem I thought, there's nothing in front, it's completely clear, but....glancing into the nearside door mirror I saw was she was shouting about.

Looking inside the bumper showing the repair to the alarm sensor
It's a long vehicle and there is quite a big overhang beyond the rear wheels to the back, must be around 2 meters. When turning, the front wheels pull the vehicle and the body turns over the rear wheels, anything beyond swings outwards. On a normal car this isn't a problem as there's not much behind the rear wheels but, with around two meters behind out wheels there is significant swing out on turning. So I had started close to the garden wall, turned on full lock, the back swung out left and contacted the garden wall. Now, before I get loads of comments, yes, I know all this, it's all pretty obvious, but in the heat of executing a tight manoeuvre and with so many things to think about did I forget it? Yes I did. Do I regret it? Yes I do. Do I feel a complete burke? Yes I do. Please just sympathise with me, the damage to my ego and confidence is more than enough!

Repaired, as good as new!
So what was the damage? Well, at first sight it looked pretty severe. A deep scratch on the bottom left hand side, but the worst was that the edge of the wall had caught the rear bumper and pulled it right off. It was about 300mm clear of the body on the nearside but still attached on the offside. The rear lights are in the bumper along with an alarm sensor. One of the lights had popped out (unbroken) and the wire to the alarm sensor was broken. The wall is built of large stone blocks cemented in and about four of them had become dislodged out of place. How can so much damage be done at probably 1 mile per hour? Unbelievable. Even more surprising was that I felt and heard nothing when driving. I'd heard of large lorries being involved in accidents and the drivers not realising before and this really confirmed it to me, I just didn't know and if Jackie hadn't come out screaming I would have carried on quite a bit more, probably taking the bumper completely off and breaking all wires to the rear lights, so it could have been a lot worse.

Apart from the scratches. We'll paint those later
So I gingerly manoeuvred the vehicle off the wall, completed the turning round and reverse back into it's space, returned the two cars to the drive and, fighting back the tears, assessed the damage. Could we fix it, well, yes we think so, Jackie then gave me a big hug and we discussed what we were going to do. It took most of the rest of the day but we did it. Re soldering the wires to the alarm sensor was the most difficult, but fortunately I had put in Jackies BBC tool kit and, in that was her soldering iron. The bumper is fixed on by long screws through the back of the light fittings and those had been pulled out of the body so, we redrilled some new holes and refitted it. I went out to but some silicone sealant, used it to provide additional fixing as well as the screws (as previous) and sealed round everything as before. At the end it looked as good as new, apart from the deep scratch in the body at the bottom. The bumper was undamaged so, on first sight it looks all ok. We'll probably get hold of some match pots and try to paint the scratches next week.

And so to the wall, loose stones removed
So I wrote to Colin and Louise telling them what I'd done and asking if they wanted to get a man in to rebuild the wall, or would they be happy for me to do it. They were happy for me to have a go so that was todays job. Off to B&Q in Arbroath to but a bag of premixed mortar and a trowel and I set to, taking off 7 of the large stone blocks that were loose, chipping off the old mortar and then rebuilding and pointing. What a good job the weather is so good! After about 3 hours the job was complete and I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with the results. On taking the blocks off I notice some pieces of a red reflector in amongst it, not off our motorhome, so it appears we are not the first to hit it. It probably means the wall is in a lot better condition now than it was before.

Looking happy - actually quite enjoyed a bit of building
So that's my sorry story, I'm still feeling a bit depressed about it, but at least things are virtually sorted now. Jackie's still talking to me and seems very understanding, which is fabulous. We're going out for a hike up a mountain tomorrow, think we need it!

Putting the finishing touches, brushing the semi set mortar
The finished job, quite pleased with it
Evidence that we're not the first people to make contact with the wall. These bits of reflector are not from our motorhome

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