It wasn’t long before my back started playing up again. I suspect it is the same old bending, foraging and carrying firewood. I was having to up the dosage of morphine, particularly for three days, when the pain was at its acutest and I was a cripple. I was not able to do anything. Fortunately, I had plenty of anything I needed. Plus, of course, the regular visits from Jay, in particular. Eventually, the pain reduced to a more manageable level and I was able to function again. I got very depressed during that period, especially at the thought of perhaps having to give up my way of life and succumbing to having to live in some sort of nursing home.
One day, the weather calmed down. The wind had at last reduced to a gentle breeze. Time to deal with the damaged window. It didn’t take long. I simply broke a piece of the Perspex off, large enough to cover the hole and stuck it to the window. It’s a bit of a bodge job, but will do. I’m not worried about what it looks like. I intend to replace the window along with the rest, just as I have done the windows I’ve already replaced. While I was at it, I did a few other little jobs that needed doing. Izzy also dropped some good sized logs off.
From the time I got to Burham, it had been my intention to find a mechanic that was willing to replace the clutch on the truck. Michael had been very adamant that I was not to do the job myself. Finding a mechanic though, was proving difficult. I had spoken with Wayne. He is some-one who likely knows people. He asked about, but could only come up with a garage that had been recommended. He telephoned them. However, they wanted nearly £300 labour! I asked in the garage attached to the petrol station. He didn’t have the equipment to lift the truck. Nor did he have any suggestions as to whom I could ask.
I decided that I may as well get the clutch, then, if I have to, I could just get on with it. It was at this point that Michael said that he would get Froggy to bring Daniel over from Hastings to do the job, if necessary. I did a bit of research. The clutch that had burnt out so quickly was a Borg and Beck manufactured clutch. Once a reliable make, but clearly not with commercial vehicles. From the research, I deduced that there are two leading brands; Sachs and LuK. When it came to buying, they are of a similar price. In the end, I went for LuK as it was covered by a two year warranty. The brilliant Jay gave me use of his address.
Michael came up with a list of garages that specialise in commercial vehicles. I rang around. I went for a van specialist first. The number was no longer in use. The forth number I rang was for a DS Commercials. I explained that I was physically unable to do the job, that I have the clutch kit and so, I just needed some-one to just pop it on. He put me on hold for a moment. I was then shocked at what he said next! He came up with a cost of some £500+. I didn’t hear the whole number as I was so stunned at the 500 bit! Then there was VAT to add. I exclaimed, “How the hell do you come up with a figure like that!?!”
He said, “Well, it’s eight hours work.”
I ranted, “Eh!? Eight hours!! How? You’re in the wrong business, mate! How the fuck does it take you eight hours!? It’s a two hour job! I used to do it myself! On my back! Don’t take the piss!”
Matey laughed and said, “We’ll leave it there, then.”
I tried another number. He was astounded by what DS Commercials said. We agreed that they obviously didn’t want the job. Anyway, he was about to leave for sunnier climes for a couple of weeks, so that was no go.
I had one more number on the list - Johnson Vehicle Maintenance. I rang it. As before, I explained the situation. Again, I was put on hold for a minute. Then I heard, “That’s two and a half hours. Including VAT, that’s £163.40.”
Astounded, I simply said, “When can you do it?”
I was given a time and day and told that there is a café close by, where I would be able to get a hearty breakfast while I waited.
In preparation for taking the truck to the garage, I unhitched my caravan. The truck wouldn’t start! There was no power getting to the starter motor. I tested everything, but still couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting power to start the engine. I ‘phoned Jay. He came over to help get the truck rolling so that I could bump start the truck. I then reversed the truck back to behind my caravan. From that point, there was enough of a decline on which to allow the truck to roll under it’s own momentum. We were then stood chatting. A car came by, one of a number. This car though, hit the door mirror on the truck, shattering the glass. I was so shocked that I just stood staring with disbelief and didn’t think to clock the registration number. Later, I ordered a new mirror.
A little while later, a bloke called Steve stopped by. He and Jay obviously appeared to know each other. I had met his wife back at Kits Coty. She was one of the people who had knocked at my door concerning the roaming dogs.* Steve asked if I needed any logs. I said that I wouldn’t turn any away. Later that day, Steve turned up with a sizeable pile. They lasted a good while.
I was up in good time on the morning of the day the truck was booked in. I went straight to the address given. I parked outside the garage and went into the reception. Within minutes, the truck was on the ramp and work started. I had to rush to the mechanic to stop him before he got any further so that I could grab my wallet and book. I was given directions to the café.
A few minutes later, I was at the café. It is a very small establishment. Almost just a box room attached to the petrol station on whose forecourt it sits. The first thing I noticed was the fact that they do not take card payments. One of the two friendly ladies said that the petrol station had a post office counter that would give ‘cash-back’ without charge. I popped in and got some cash. I also noticed large bags of coal. I decided to grab one when the truck was ready. Back in the café, I ordered a breakfast. When it came, it was huge! There was enough for three. Even the bread was cut to ‘doorstep’ size. I managed to get through the breakfast, then read a book for a while. I checked the time, then ordered another cup of tea. At the point that I estimated that the mechanic would be finishing up, I paid my bill (tea was free!) and headed back.
The truck was parked outside by the time I reached the garage. I went into the reception. Tanya, the receptionist said, “Was that a good breakfast? We wondered where you had got to. The truck was ready 20 minutes ago.”
I was amazed and delighted. I was then dumbfounded when I was given a bill for £122.40! I was charged less than the quote because the mechanic completed the job in under two hours. I have never heard of such a thing before, especially in the automotive industry! Johnson Vehicle Maintenance! Absolutely brilliant! Honest! They are friendly and, most importantly, they know what they’re doing! There are three mechanics, all of a certain age; old school. I highly recommend them to anyone who finds that they have a need for a competent mechanic at a fair and reasonable rate. They are in Aylesford, which is near Maidstone and the Medway towns. In fact, the River Medway runs through Aylesford. They don’t do recovery, though. You can always mention that they sorted the clutch on my truck.
*see entry Kits Coty