Last week we were in Kent for a very special reason. Our cousin Rebecca was getting married and she asked our youngest, Reese, if she would be one of her bridesmaids. Reese was thrilled and for the last year, if not longer, she has been asking if today was the day!
Since Kent is so far away from our home in North Wales, we decided to make a holiday of it. We booked a week in a caravan park via The Sun Holidays on the Isle of Sheppy.
Sadly the week wasn’t the relaxed holiday that we expected. Yet even with all the problems we had we still made sure we enjoyed ourselves.
It all started just a few weeks before we went away. Hubby was involved in a car accident. He was ok, but sadly our poor people carrier went to the garage in the sky. We then had about a week to find and purchase a new car. After lots of researching via Parkers and What Car we decided to get a Volkswagen Touran.
We’ve been burnt so many times when buying a used car that we researched very carefully the car as well as the dealers. We made sure we chose one that offered warranty and had good reviews. Because of all the trouble I had had with my last car and trying to fight the dealer to either return the car or to pay for the repairs, I wanted to make sure I had someone to fight for me, someone who was on my side. So we decided to get a car on hire purchase.
Sadly, no matter how hard you try, you cannot tell when something is about to go wrong on a car! Our new car, nicknamed Sylvie, turned out to be the 5th car we’ve owned which has broken down within three weeks of purchasing it. This time it happened on the way down to Kent, 6 days after I purchased it.
We were travelling along the M40, happily singing along to the Greatest Showman soundtrack, when suddenly the display said: “Check coolant”. We had checked the coolant before leaving and this was the 3rd time in as many days that we had seen this on the display. Yet there had been no signs of a leak or anything more serious. With no sign of a junction for several miles, I had to pull onto the hard shoulder and hubby, who was following in the car behind us, quickly got out and added more water to the expansion tank. A few miles later we arrived at Warwick services and with a journey of 100+ miles to travel, I made the decision to call my breakdown cover and be towed to our destination.
I told hubby to carry on in his car with the dog and the teenagers and that I would wait with the youngest three for the breakdown truck. We have Green Flag cover and nationwide recovery thankfully so I gave them a call. They sent a roadside assistance mechanic to begin with. He agreed that there was no obvious sign of a leak, yet the car was showing all signs that this was the problem. He arranged for recovery as he also agreed it was the most sensible route to take with such a long journey ahead of us.
We then started a looooong wait. Luckily being at the services meant we could at least sit somewhere warm and have something to eat. I also had the idea to speak to someone about why my car would be there longer than the free 2 hours parking you are given. This was the right thing to do as we were waiting for almost 4 hours until the recovery truck arrived. By the time the truck arrived we were all very bored and fed up and I was skint having spent all the cash I had on me trying to keep them fed and happy!
When they had finally arrived the car was quickly loaded onto the truck. The driver then apologised and explained that he couldn’t take us all the way to the caravan and we would need to change breakdown trucks at the Watford Gap services on the M1.
We arrived at the Watford Gap and moved onto the next recovery truck, only to be told that he couldn’t take us all the way either and our next stop would be the South Mimms services on the M25. After we’re loaded onto the 3rd truck we’re told that there would be another truck waiting for us at Thurruck services, also on the M25, but thankfully it would be the last one as that one would take us all the way to the Isle of Sheppy.
Finally, we arrived at the caravan. 13 hours after we had left home and 7 hours since we had stopped on the M40. I thought my night would be over but I wasn’t allowed to rest yet!
Whilst I had been travelling to the caravan, my anxious teen had had a row with both hubby and the other teenager and in anger had punched the ground. All signs pointed to the fact that Anon had possibly broken something. I had to get into hubby’s car and drive 40 mins to Maidstone Hospital. I was quite impressed with the hospital, we weren’t there long and they x-rayed Anon’s hand straight away. It was inconclusive as to whether there was a fracture, so they treated it as one and taped up Anon’s hand. Finally, after being awake for almost 24 hours, we made it to bed!
The rest of the week went easier. The caravan park was lovely, as were the staff. The only downside was the caravan. This was badly in need of upgrading (and I wished we had upgraded our accommodation before leaving and I will next time) and was too small with only two bedrooms. We had 2 adults and 3 children (inc 2 teens) in our caravan. My parents, who had also come on holiday with us, had 2 adults and 2 children and were given a 3 bedroom caravan.
We spent most of our time in Maidstone or the park, apart from the day we spent at Hop Farm. On Friday, I went with my parents to visit my great aunt who lived nearby.
On Saturday, it was the day of the wedding. We had to get our little bridesmaid to the bride’s house for 12 pm and then be back at the registry office for 4.30pm. At least, that’s what we thought and I could kick myself for not double checking the time when I dropped Reese off. It turns out the ceremony was actually at 2.30pm, which was the time we were leaving the caravan park! We thought people were teasing us when we got the message en-route!
Trust us, travelling over 200 miles away for a wedding to actually miss the ceremony! Despite the fact, we arrived 5 days beforehand! We completely missed seeing Reese perform her duties as a bridesmaid, although we have been promised pictures!
We arrived at the reception in time for the four eldest to join in the group picture with all the children and for hubby and me to join in the bride’s family group shot!
Despite missing the actual ceremony we had a good evening. Hubby especially as he got completely wasted (guess who was the designated driver!). He came over to me at one point and slurred “I just had a jager bomb. Dunno what one was, but I had one!” with a proud look on his face (Gareth and Dan, if you’re reading this, you’re a bad influence!!!). Poor love was suffering the next day so I thought it would be a great idea to keep Rhian (8) and Reese (5) occupied by letting them practise their drumming skills with all the pots and pans!
Whilst we were at the reception, Ruby (11) noticed a guest book and asked if she could draw a picture in it of the bride and groom.
Finally, Monday arrived again and it was time to leave. The week had gone by too quickly. Of course, we couldn’t set off straight away as the car had to go to the garage.
We’d managed to fit it into the Halfords Autocentre in Maidstone on Thursday and they quickly discovered that the clip holding the metal cooling pipe at the bottom of the engine had broken and this had led to the pipe rubbing against the drive shaft which had put a hole in the pipe. They needed to order a part from VW but when I phoned on Friday it hadn’t been ordered yet but they promised they would do it and that it would be there by 12 pm Monday morning. It was but now we had the problem that the warranty cover wouldn’t cover it. Thankfully the dealership where we bought the car were willing to do so without any fuss and we were able to leave Maidstone by 4 pm.
It was another long journey home, made longer with toilet breaks and for people to stretch their legs, especially the dog. The car behaved and we arrived back very late. So late in fact that the children have had an extra day off school today as no one was up in time!
Despite all the problems, such as the car issues, missing the ceremony and the caravan, we had an amazing week and are already planning to go down again next year. Although maybe earlier in the year as everything had already closed down as they had declared their season over. Yet, we live in a tourist town which is still open with the (low) season not due to end until next month!