The road from Rimini
I am afraid that this post may end up reading a bit like a commercial for AA European Breakdown cover. But just occasionally, when minor domestic disasters hit, you end up not feeling infuriated with every piece of adminsistration you come across (the hours of "your call is important to us", interruptinng hours of tapeloop Vivaldi) ... but in the hands of efficient people who actually get you sorted, and nicely too.
This story is, of course, about the van. When finally the lads had found a way of insuring the thing before the European road trip, I had a sudden rush of maternal responsibility and insisted to the son that he take out a month's AA breakdown cover for Europe. Never has £160 (if I remember right -- which was the cheap rate for him as AA member) been better spent. Because in fact the poor vehicle did in fact break down on the Italian side of the Brenner Pass (as I briefly mentioned a few posts ago). It was terminal problem with the clutch.
The first thing that happened was that the AA (contracting out I assume) got it to a local garage, for diagnosis. To be honest there was a bit of delay then, while feelers were put out on its mendability in Northern Italy. The prosecco swilling local garagista was convinced that there wasnt a hope in hell, but for obvious reasons the AA were quite keen on trying to find some local first aid.
The garagista, of course, proved right, and so repatriation of the corpse (from not far from Rimini to Cambridge was agreed). The lads flew on (rather than drove) to the next place on their trip (Berlin) -- with some financial assistance for extra expenditure promised -- while the van (and most of their stuff, sleeping bags etc inside it) waited its own transport. The deal was it was to get the Cambridge shortly after the planned date of their return.
Sure enough, the very next day, a guy rang to say he had the van and could deliver it the following morning. And so he turned up in a vast truck, which he had driven all the way from somewhere in south Italy with two dead British cars, picking up the guys' van in Rimini.
It turned out that he spent his life doing this, taking dead vehicles (or maybe occasionally living ones) between the UK and Italy, both ways. You'd have thought he would be fed up with the whole thing, and not particularly minded to do much more than the basics for yet more people with broken down cars. But far from it.
His truck was so vast that he could only park on the other side of the main road outside our house. And this meant that the van had to be got out onto the road and then pushed across the highway and manipulated into a small space in the lay-by.
The guy would have been quite within his rights I think, to have dumped the damn thing somewhere off the actual road and to have waved bye bye. But actually he got us all organised, pushing and steering .. and in just a few attempts the van was safely and conveniently positioned.
I feel embarrassed at the sequel. I asked him if he'd like a cup of tea or coffee, but he said he really needed to get on. I then thought that maybe I should give him some cash, but I bottled out -- somehow, when you've just driven from Rimini, being slipped a £20 note could seem a bit of an insult. And I wasnt sure that he looked like a wine man ... and to hand him a copy of A Don's Life or something would have been a bit too self-regarding.
So we just let him go... back to Rimini I guess.
But thank you so much.