And it was! Done! All done and dusted bar some fannying about that men like to do.
And so we were off. Back to pick up the mixer and all content in knowing that it would be safe and secure attached to our brand new shiny tow bar.
But then Mr M looked at me with alarm.
“It’s getting dark.” He said.
“No shit Sherlock.” I replied.
“No. I mean it’s getting dark, it will be dark by the time we leave the guy’s house. We will be driving back in the dark. The mixer has no lights.”
He then wailed, “It has no number plate! Nor indicators nor brake lights nor nothing!”
I couldn’t hear his last sentence. It was only for bats to hear.
It was gone 5pm. We had no idea who or where to get a number plate from or lights or whatever.
We had yet to phone the seller, yet to let him know we were on our way so he could pop back from work and deal with us crazy English. We would simply have to tell him not to bother.
“We can’t take it tonight.” Mr M explained on the phone. “We have no number plate, no lights, no nothing.”
“What is your registration?” He simply asked, we told him and with that the guy hung up.
By the time we got to the seller’s house it was 5.45pm and virtually dark. There was no sign of life so I made use of the time and phoned our insurance broker to arrange insurance cover for the towed mixer. Thankfully that was an easy peasy job and at least if the worst happened, which of course it wouldn’t, we were covered.
Seeing lights pull up behind us we got out the van to greet a beaming fella. In his hands he was waving a full board thingy complete with the number plate of our van and lights and everything.
My god what a star! He had popped to a ‘friend of a friend’s’ who just so happened to own a motor factors shop. We had to pay of course for it but nevertheless, how fab was that! We would have been totally buggered without it.
And so with the cash paid and the mixer attached with lights and whatnots to the van we set off. It was just gone 6pm and with a bit of luck, even at a much slower speed we would be home by 8.30pm. Those poor poor dogs. But I comforted myself with the fact they were inside, with comfy beds and chairs, they were all together and they had plenty of water. Sure they would be hungry and sure there would be some leakages but that was no big issue at all. A platter of poo was a piece of piss in comparison to the day we had had.
Chugging along happily we laughed about the shambolic day we had, reliving various moments with glee.
Confident of our ETA we stopped at a service station for a quick loo stop and a coffee. The day had been long and we were starting to grow weary.
Sat on the loo, like you do, I heard the door open to the empty and very silent washroom and someone enter.
“Ola?” A girl’s voice said.
I sat stock still. Who was she talking to? I was the only one in there.
“Ola?!” She said again.
Feeling vaguely uncomfortable at the whole situation I sat, not even breathing. I even went to pull my feet up at one point in case she peered under the door.
“OLA!?” She said with some force.
Well this was ridiculous, she was obviously talking to me.
“Ola!” I replied.
“Ola!” She said happily. “Tudo bem?” (you OK?)
And as I opened the cubicle door to greet this friendly stranger, I beamed my friendliest smile and replied, “Sim, obrigada, tudo e tu?”
I was greeted with such a look of disgust and annoyance I nearly evaporated on the spot. That was twice today I had nearly evaporated on the spot and I was getting a tad tired of it.
My new bestie was glaring at me whilst holding a mobile phone to her ear, she carried on glaring at me as she babbled away in rapid fire Portuguese to her mobile friend, obviously telling her about the blithering English idiot in the loos.
I smiled nervously and for some reason, I never liked to ask myself why, I held my hand up to my ear, as if it was a mobile, nodded politely at the infuriated girl and walked smartly out of the toilets.
We didn’t stop for coffee as once again I pulled a bewildered Mr M out of the cafe and told him we couldn’t stop.
We were only about 45 minutes away from home when the van, with the newly repaired engine (if you remember way back when this day started), suddenly started to make a horrendous noise and almost as suddenly stopped. Just like that. With a load bang and some smoke the engine abruptly cut out.
“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” Yelled Mr Mista.
We were currently joining a new motorway, driving across a bridge on an intersection. Mr M skillfully managed to steer the now impossibly heavy load of van and mixer across the lanes to the side of the bridge, but even so there was no hard shoulder and we were stuck in a precarious position.
We sat in silence and stared ahead for what seemed like a very long time indeed. I could feel hysteria rising so I guffawed loudly to alleviate the pressure.
Mr M continued to sit in silence but now stared at me for what seemed like a very long time indeed. I continued to stare ahead. Guffaws stifled.
He then peered over the motorway lanes, an explosion of liquid splattered the tarmac. It was like the van had had a severe case of Delhi belly. He tried the ignition. Nothing.
I will spare you the language he used.
We were just contemplating our next course of action when flashing blue lights suddenly appeared in the rear view mirror. We both hunkered down a tad into our seats, glancing nervously at each other. After an age a torch suddenly shined through my window. Despite me knowing this was going to happen at some point, it still scared me, so I screamed quite loudly. Jumping back the GNR officer nearly fell backwards over the bridge railings, his arms flailing he managed to right himself. Alarmed at the result of my action I jumped out the van, only to nearly knock him back over the said bridge when I swung the van door violently open into him.
For the third time that day I was glared at. I apologised profusely and snuck back into the van.
Luckily the GNR officer spoke English, our heads were spinning too much to speak Portuguese. We explained the situation and he disappeared. Reversing his patrol car further back to the sharp bend onto the bridge, he put on his hazards and switched his flashing lights back on.
He then reappeared with a silent friend. Both stood by my side of the window as the traffic whisked past us on the other side. The officer then asked for our triangle, our warning triangle and also for us to put our high viz vests on so that we could get out the van safely. This is the law in Portugal, you must always have a warning triangle and high viz vests with you otherwise you get a fine.
“Yes, yes, of course!” Agreed Mr M and promptly bent down and shoved his head under the driver seat.
I sat there smiling at the GNR. I didn’t know what else to do.
I then heard a hissing noise but presumed it was the van farting or whatnot.
I felt a sharp pinch on my calf and looked down. Mr M was gesturing frantically at me so I also bent double and shoved my head into the foot well.
“We don’t have the vests and traingle.” He hissed.
“We don’t?” I asked.
He sighed. “They were in the blue box and I took the blue box out to make room for the bloody mixer that never fit inside the feckin van and forgot to put it back in.”
And so, for some reason I can’t determine, for a good five minutes we pretended to look for the vest and triangle that we knew full well were sat in a blue box on the drive at Custard House.
Making puzzled noises and comments to each other we searched the blatantly empty back of the van for the blue box.
The GNR officer eventually lost patience, “Do you have them?” He asked.
“No. No we don’t.” Admitted Mister Mista finally.
Ignoring the fact we had no vests he told us to organise recovery. So we phoned the insurance company and all was fine and dandy until we told them about the cement mixer.
“But you don’t have insurance for a trailer.” They said.
“Yes. Yes we do. We organised it earlier.”
“We have no record of that.”
“Yes. Yes you do.”
“We don’t. We can pick up the van but you have no cover for the mixer. It will have to stay there.”
No. No. No. No.
Making full use of our new friend Mr M turned to the GNR officer and told him the news.
The officer snatched the phone from Mr M and began shouting down the phone. We caught bits, it was something along the lines if you don’t come and tow the mixer off this bridge immediately you will be held totally responsible for any accidents caused by it being sat here in a lane of a motorway.
The phone was handed back to us.
“We come.” The operator said dramatically and with that hung up.
Eventually a tow truck and taxi turned up. The tow truck was tiny. We looked at the van and then the truck and then at the driver of the truck. He seemed non-perturbed and immediately hitched the van up and onto the back of the truck. It’s rear end hanging out and over the back rather precariously. He then tried to hitch the mixer to the tow bar of the truck. His attempt was admirable. He tried desperately to stretch a 20cm thick piece of sold metal and it was fascinating to watch.
I am not quite sure how he managed it in the end but he did. He hitched the van so tight against the front of the tow truck that somehow it gave him that extra millimetre of space needed to be able to attach the mixer to the tow bar.
As we prepared to get in the taxi with some relief the GNR officer came up to us, shook Mr M’s hand and then handed me a piece of paper.
“You’re fine.” He said.
I misunderstood. “Yes, thank you, we are fine now. Thank you for your help.” I gushed.
I took the piece of paper and nodded and smiled as we both got into the taxi.
“What is it?” Asked Mr M.
“A fine. 30€.” I replied.
And so we set off on the final leg of our journey, the tow truck following behind, taking the van and mixer, we presumed, to a holding pen until the morning.
It was 11.30pm by the time we got back to Custard House. A full sixteen and half hours after we sat off so full of enthusiasm this morning. The dogs were ecstatic. And apart from the tsunami of wee and two Bandy dog logs all was fine.
Too exhausted to even eat, we took cups of tea and the dogs to bed and sat and stared at the wall ahead.
“Bloody hell.” We said together and fell fast asleep.
Two hours later I was woken by my phone. Blearily I answered.
Rapid Portuguese yammered down the phone and the sound of a lorry hooting his horn somewhere outside made me sit up so quickly I catapulted a sleeping Bandy Bot across the room.
“Jesus effin Christ!” I exclaimed as I poked a snoring Mr M. “The frickin tow truck is here!”
Stumbling into my dressing gown and slippers I put on the outside lights and peered outside. Sure enough the bloody driver, van and mixer were sat at the bottom of the track. I slipped and slid down the muddy track to the bottom gate.
I then desperately tried to explain that the gate wouldn’t open, that he had to come round to the top gate. He stared and stared at me and then finally understood. I pointed and told him where to turn his truck and how to get up the other track. The driver nodded, got in his van and disappeared in the opposite direction to what I told him.
Trudging back up the muddy hill I heard the truck return and pass by with speed up to the second entrance. Thankfully Mr M was also up by now and so we opened the top gate and walked down the track to direct the truck.
We got to the bottom of the track just in time to see the driver reversing his truck at such an angle that the towing mixer had jack-knifed. Failing to realise or stop he continued to reverse at a hard left, causing the mixer to raise up on one wheel. As it threatened to topple completely over the driver finally heard our shouts, but not without continuing to reverse a tiny little bit more. The mixer and truck were now at right angles to each other and the final little bit of movement caused the cement mixer to crash horribly into the rear of our van.
There was a deathly silence. The driver straightened up. The mixer fell back onto two wheels. We stared at the mixer. The mixer that we had spent sixteen and half hours and god knows what cost in fines and tow bars and lights to try and desperately get home in one piece.
The wheel that turned the mixing bowl was bent so badly against it’s main body the mixer was now unusable.
“It is your fault.” Said the driver in perfect English. “It is dark. And your van? It is too long.”