Bidding farewell to all the lovely folk, both French and English that I had met whilst staying at Parc Verger I set off for Toulouse to meet up with Frankie, a lovely French lady who I had chatted with on one of the internet motor homing forums, and who had invited me to stay on my way down to Spain.
But less than two miles up the road towards Toulouse I suddenly sensed a change in the air temperature inside Thebus and the noise levels also. It felt like a window was open. But glancing round – eeeek – I had left the door open.
Little Miss Phoebe was clipped to her travelling line on her bed so was safe from danger: fortunately there was a bit of a pull in on the right side of the road and I hastily headed for it – of course as I braked to enter the layby the door flew wide open, and as the electric steps automatically extend when the door opens there was a moment of panic as the layby was uneven and the steps began to grunge on the gravel. Heart racing I stopped with no damage and shut the door very firmly before starting off again. About another couple of miles down the road there was a repeat of the same heart stopping problem, with this time nowhere easy to stop. I slowed carefully (feeling grateful I wasn’t in the south of the uk with a score of impatient and angry drivers behind me and eventually found somewhere to pull over without the door flying open and the steps extending.
Now – when I had first arrived at Parc Verger, one morning waiting for the bread van I popped out for a minute to check that I hadn’t missed it, and on my return the door wouldn’t open. As I had only intended to be gone a minute to two I left Phoebe loose in Thebus., though got chatting to someone and stayed away longer than I intended. So when the door wouldn’t open imagined that she had jumped up at the door and somehow flipped down the lock. I had a spare set of keys for just such emergencies but the door still wouldn’t open. Fortunately the side sliding window was ajar so Franc and a visiting builder found a set of platform steps and I got inside to open the door, thinking Phoebe might be slightly less excitable if it was me climbing in though the window. But try as I might the door just would not open. It transpired that the latch of the lock is made of nasty cheap metal, and had simply broken in half, so when the door catch was operated the broken half of the latch stayed in place holding the door shut.
After much complicated jiggling and unscrewing of bits the annoying part was removed, and I sent off to England for a replacement lock. Now, one would have assumed that the company making the replacement locks would have made one the same shape and size as that which was being replaced. No such luck! Not only was it a different shape but there were some extra internal parts which fouled a strut inside the structure of the door. Duncan, who supplied it, said the best way round the problem was to carefully file off the offending bits. As the lock was jolly expensive Franc, unsurprisingly, did not fancy being responsible should the ‘nasty cheap metal’ that those bits were made of shatter and render this new lock useless. But he explained that if I locked the door with the key as I left all would be well and I could get the mechanism sorted out when I returned home. Of course I never thought that when driving along there was no latch to hold the door in place and the suction of the wind simply pulled it open.
So the journey to Toulouse went on in fits and starts as I continually pulled over to shut the door again. Eventually I rigged up a sort of fix which involved Phoebe’s retractable lead, and a bungee cord. There being nothing suitable on the door to attach the lead to it simply went round part of the door handle, and although the door did not fly right back, if was open just enough to be worrying. Not a pleasant journey at all.
I decided to stick to the motorways as in the inside lane I had a chance to pull over onto the little pull-ins with emergency phones they have every so often, and fortunately most times the traffic was not so heavy that it made it difficult to rejoin the carriageway from a standing start. As the day went on and our journey was turning out much slower than I expected we got into the five o’clock Toulouse traffic and I abandoned any hope of shutting the door, trusted to God and just drove on,
The countryside on the way down was not a spectacular as I had expected, but I would guess that as with all motorways they keep them away from the prettier parts of the countryside as much as possible. We just skirted the edge of the Dordogne then breasting a hill just before Toulouse as the sun was beginning to set there was a fine range of mountains in the blue of the distance just merging with the blue and red of the evening clouds, so one couldn’t be sure if they were clouds or mountains, but I decided they were definitely mountains, which was confined by my charming hostess when I arrived.