Shortly after the the visit from Messrs. Clark and Watts of Ashford Borough Council, I went down with a nasty cold. It started with my throat flaring up. With all the stress I was dealing with, the cold hung around for ages. Normally, a cold comes and goes within a few days, probably due to my living practically in the open; constant fresh air. Many people who live in concrete boxes with double-glazed windows tend to never open those windows. No doubt because they have been told that doing so means that they waste heat. As a result, they are often ill, for long periods.
I had sweated the cold out which resulted in my bed clothes becoming soaked in sweat. It was at this time that I had a visit from a neighbour who offered me a bath. I of course, accepted. A bath! What luxury! I took the chance to ask whether it might also be possible to get some laundry done, explaining about the sweat-soaked sheets. “Of course.” was the reply.
The kind neighbour is called Mattt. (Yes, with three Ts.) She describes herself as a glass artist and tutor. She makes beautiful glass objects. She also teaches the art of working with glass. (www.creativeretreatsandholidays.co.uk)
At the agreed hour, I popped across the road for my bath. I had dropped my bundle of laundry off earlier that afternoon. The idea being that by the time I had my bath, the laundry would be ready. The bath was fantabulous! I wallowed for ages, even dozing off!
In conversation, I discovered that my presence in the car park had deterred the lewd behaviour that had apparently been going on. I’m told that it was a dogging site! Interestingly, I am aware of similar behaviour going on there. There is of course, the usual graffiti in the gent’s toilets and I soon became aware of one of those little Smart cars, a black one. It would park outside the toilets all afternoon, every day. Now and then, another car would appear, from which the occupant would go into the toilets followed by the man in the Smart car. After a short while, both would reappear. One heading off and the other return to his Smart car, where he would sit until he met another man. When the toilets closed for the night, he left.
I placed a plea for help on the local Facebook page. I got a couple of replies. I had been offered some old scaffold boards and some ramps. Unfortunately, the ramps were not long enough. The man offering the scaffold boards said that he would drop them down to me. After a number of messages, a time to drop the boards off was agreed. They never turned up.
As luck would have it, it so happened that Michael was compelled to take his yearly holiday time from work. Company policy meant that he could not carry his holiday allowance over into the next year. So, with Froggy in tow, who also had the free time, turned up with the intention of helping to lift the caravan onto the trailer.
Ironically, that evening, I also had a ‘phone call from Freddy Ripley.* He said that he was still up for lifting my caravan. He said that he had all the gear needed and arranged to turn up to do the job at 11:00 the next morning.
The next morning, 11 o’clock came and went. At 12:00, I telephoned Freddy. He said, “I’ll be with you this afternoon. I’ve just got to grab some scaffold boards.”
At 1pm I spoke to Freddy again. This time he told me that he couldn’t get the scaffold boards until the next morning. “OK.” I said. I told the boys. We all agreed that Mr. Ripley was full of shit and would likely not turn up. We had a cup of tea and decided that we would just get on with the job.
In no time, the caravan was lifted and the wheels, followed by the axle were off. We also cut the A-frame off from the point where it appears from under the caravan.
Froggy had had the foresight to bring with him a load of broken scaffold boards. We managed to make up a load bearer by Froggy bolting several together. They worked a treat. However, there wasn’t enough to make a second. I walked up to the village to see what I could source while the boys set everything up, ready. On the way up into the village, I spoke to a fella who knew the man who had originally offered me some scaffold boards. He telephoned the man. It was the wrong man. We had confused the ‘scaffold’ man with the guy who had offered some ramps. The fella thought he knew where the ‘scaffold’ man, named Michael, lived. I made my way to the address given. The man was in. Unfortunately, it was a different Michael. We had a little chat as it turned out that this Michael ‘follows’ me on Facebook and reads my blog. He showed me a scaffold pole that he has. I thanked him and said that I would be back for it if I needed it. I then headed back into the village. I wandered into the churchyard as I had previously seen good bits of wood lying around there. Nothing of any use, though.
I then popped into the pub. Ryder was there. He said that he had managed to source some ramps. I explained that we had removed the axle and therefore now needed something to make up load bearers. Ryder turned to a man called Dave and asked him whether he would have something that could be of use. “I have some good lengths of 3x2 that you can have.”said Dave.
I thanked both Ryder and Dave. Dave said that he would pop down to me when he had finished his drink. I then headed home with the good news.
Dave soon turned up. Froggy and I then followed Dave to his home a short distance off in the sticks. Dave opened his shed/garage to get the lengths of wood out. I was in awe of the contents of the shed. It included the chassis of an old truck and a traction engine. Dave gave us the two lengths of 3x2 that he had. They were about 15’ long. Plenty long enough to make two 7’ bearers. Dave said that he didn’t want them back. As it turned out, they were really handy in more than one way. Next time I was in the pub, I paid for a pint for Dave to have the next time he was in.
Froggy cut the two lengths of 3x2 in half, then bolted the four halves together to create two load bearers. Over a cup of tea we then worked out a plan of action. We used the scaffold boards bearer at the rear of my caravan, which were supported by my big 5 ton axle stands.
We used Froggy’s axle stands and my 3 ton axle stands at the front. Carefully, we lifted the back, then the front in increments until my caravan was high enough to start to roll the trailer under. We used a number of jacks to do the job. We were then able to rest the front of my caravan on the trailer.
We then lifted the caravan higher. By this time we were having to make blocks. We balanced them on the jacks as the jacks were unable to raise high enough on their own. We lifted in increments again, raising the axle stands a few inches at a time, then resting the bearers on the axle stands. Each time, we added to the height of the blocks balanced on the jacks.
Slowly, we eventually managed to slide the trailer fully under. The operation was very slow going, deliberately. It was also very cold. In fact one cold see the ice forming on the trailer and ground, etc. as we were working.
By around 10pm, Michael got onto the internet and found a take-out delivery service. We all ordered a lasagne each with garlic bread. It was the strangest lasagne I’ve ever had. Basically, it was meat balls and spaghetti. However, believe me, it went down a treat. Hot food was just what we needed. After a cup of tea, we were ready to tackle the job again. By this time, though, I had several layers on, as well as a thick hat and gloves!
Rowan was brilliant while all this was going on. She chilled in Michael’s home when she wasn’t exploring. When she returned from wherever she was, she would come back to the caravan. Upon seeing the work going on, she would simply head over to Michael’s place.
Froggy got a tape measure out. Michael and I jiggled the trailer until we were all happy that the trailer was perfectly in line with my caravan. We then slowly lowered my caravan onto the trailer. Once the bearers had been retrieved, Froggy cut the 3x2 lengths to the width of the trailer. We then used them again as bearers, this time to sit my caravan on. The caravan chassis is not a straight level one. It is shallow at each end and reaches a depth of about 6’ in the middle, where the axle is bolted. Once I was happy that my caravan was level and safely resting on the bearers, I strapped my caravan down with my old load-bearing ratchet straps that I still have from my days as a lorry driver. They are 5 ton straps. I could only use two, but that’s plenty enough as there is 10 tons of load pressure holding my caravan to the trailer. It won’t be going anywhere.
Froggy and Michael were absolutely brilliant! They done most of the hard work. In fact, I spent more time in a supervisory role. Without them, I don’t know where I would be. I cannot thank them or praise them enough! We didn’t finish work until about 1am. It had taken twelve hours to complete the operation. Froggy had to get on as he was at work the next morning. He was due in at 8:00! Michael and I had one last brew and a well-earned bifter before getting our heads down.
The next morning, Freddy Ripley failed to appear. In fact, I’m still waiting! He never bothered to telephone, either.
Michael took a photograph of us in the car park.
I contacted a scrap metal dealer to collect the scrap axle, A-frame and jockey wheel. In fact, I ended up asking three times for the scrap to be cleared! In the end, on bumping into the man who looks after the toilet block, it was finally removed. It turned out that he knew some-one who would collect it.
I had to make a platform to create steps using the caravan steps I already had, in order for me to reach the front door.
*see entry The cost of saving my home
** night-time photos courtesy of Froggy