As moose pointed out, the rest of that first evening may be summarised under the general heading: ‘Beer’.Â It’s amazing what euphoria can do.Â By the time we realised we were actually on board (and had come to terms with the disappointment of not being able to drive to Dover and then back up from Calais with no sleep and little beer,) we had already missed dinner and were the last people left in the bar.Â Then we did some calculations involving docking times andÂ time differences and it turned out we had about four hours left to sleep. But hey, what did we care, we were on the boat!
The next morning dawned bright and clear and beautiful in a ‘you made it to the ferry and therefore to Europe in spite of everything’ sort of a way.Â Kate and I headed down to the van and were the only ones on board when we were ordered toÂ drive off (we were the last on, you’ll remember).Â I told the guy that my friends weren’t here yet but he said they could walk off.Â It occurred to me that the looks on everyone’s faces when they realised the van had gone might be quite funny, soÂ I turned the key full of optimism and enjoying the sounds and sights of the busy port when it occurred to me that the one sound I wasn’t hearing was the engine kicking into life.Â So I tried again… nothing.Â The guy came over and shouted at me to get a move on and I tried again.Â Silence.Â Â Now he’s really pissed off with me because he assumes I’m stalling to let everyone get on the van but I assure him I’m trying and he walks away in disgust.
I keep trying the engine.Â Nothing.
Two minutes later he came back and I asked him if he could tell me where the nearest garage was and he says ‘Ten kilometres.’
‘I’ve run out ofÂ diesel,’ I say.
He shrugs.Â ‘It’s not my problem.’ Then he walks away again.Â Â Three minutesÂ after that (only soime ofÂ the others are now present,of course) a guy in one of those little tug trucks for moving the containers reverses up to the front of the van and hauls me off toÂ an out of the way corner of the dock.Â To cut a long story short, everyone else then turns up and there was much sniggering and, wierdly, even more relief that we’d made it on board in the first place.Â
The guy from the boat came up to us again and I asked him if I could buy some diesel off him?Â ‘No,’ he said, and walked away.Â As is my wont, I have of course apologised profusely every time I have spoken to him so far and now he doesn’t seem angry, merely indifferent – perhaps ascending to the heady heights of ambivalence at times.
Se we were stuck. The only option, I thought, was to get our ‘motorcycle support team’ (Gav and Katie – more on that later) Â to drive to the garage and buy fuel for us and then carry it back, but then they were out of phone range andÂ to get out of the port they would go through customs andÂ probablyÂ wouldn’t get back in and anyway it was too dangerous and even maybe illegal for them to drive with fuel in a little can and… You get the picture.Â Â A few more minutes of standing around went past when the guy suddenly drove up in aÂ dinky wee car andÂ offered to give me a lift to the petrol station.Â Â You could have knocked me over with the fumes from an empty diesel tank.
So I got in and we got a big twenty litre fuel can from their garage (one of the green ones that they call Jerry Cans in old war movies – it goes perfectly with my camouflage shorts and white/blue legs which reminded me that I must look like an utter fanny to this guy, sitting in that wee car in my full holiday kit and not having thought to get enough fuel to get us off the damn boat… Oh, did I mention that I had to borrow money off of Moose because I didn’t even have any currency?Â It wasn’t exactly my finest hour.Â But anyway, we got the diesel.Â When we got back, of course, the engine still wouldn’t go so we had to get a mechanic from their workshops who found the handpump to prime the engine – you’ll have gathered that we are all keen car mechanics in our spare time – and after much pumping and turning and expiring engine noises, we were sorted!Â Apparently, the workshop was norrmally closed on a Saturday so we were ridiculously lucky, plus, if it hadn’t been forÂ our guy’sÂ kindness in the face of our incompetence we’d never have made it out of the port until about five hours and several expensive taxi rides later.Â HisÂ name isÂ Henk and he was going to his two daughters to Austria for their holidays the next week.Â I hopeÂ you had a great time, Henk and thanks for the help.Â Â
So we were off!Â
Ah, but hang on, we still had no spare tyre and we had a long way to drive before Monday so we thought we’d best get a new one.Â That’ll be really easy on a Saturday in the middle of the industrialised Netherlands, er, right…?