Steam Trains, Dodgy Garages & Wonky Wheels

The past week has been a bit of a weird one.

Last week, we received our car tax reminder, so I went online to buy another 6m assuming we won’t be re-registering it in France anytime soon. No can do, MOT needs doing before I can buy tax disc. As the car is buried in the underground car park which requires use of a very tricky & temperamental car lift to get out there is no way I could sort it during the week. (The car only just fits in the lift & given we have only 1 week ago fixed the dents/scratches I did last year when driving whilst pregnant there is no way I am trying my chances against that car lift). So I found a garage in the East End which would do the MOT on Saturday am.

We found the place down a dodgy lane at 8.30am and took our car in, now I’ve never been in somewhere like this before, only ever taken our cars for service at the service centre of the manufacturer and it was an eye-opening experience. A bit like being on Eastenders, very rough & ready.

We dropped the car off and agreed to come back in an hour (so the typically East End bloke could finish his McDo breakfast). With the girls in the pushchair we ‘treated’ ourselves to a McDo…why do their breakfasts never taste anywhere near as good as you remember them to be?

On our return to the garage, the car wasn’t ready so we stood outside the gates waiting for 10mins whilst they did the paperwork. In this time a shiny expensive new Jaguar pulled up and a young lad jumped out in his flip flops. 1 of the 3 lads lazing about in the garage came out with a stuffed brown envelope (I’m guessing which was filled with cash) and handed it over in return for a VW log book which the receiving lad looked through seemingly muttering in an Eastern European language and checking for something before wandering back into the garage.

Next another shiny new 4x4 pulled up with another young Eastern European lad who shook hands in the usual ‘respect’ kind of way and after some discussion drove off again (I didn’t see any envelopes this time).

I was beginning to feel like I was in Eastenders or a Polish version of it and I have to say I was glad to get the MOT certificate & get out of there! Not surprisingly it passed (even though nothing in the boot had been moved -spare tyre checked via x-ray vision and the seatbelts were checked without undoing the girls car seats!

Anyway with MOT certificate in the bag we set off for Tenterdon Steam Railway in the ‘Garden of England’ - Kent to see Thomas the Tank Engine. It was a good day out with the kids & Jasmine particularly enjoyed the Carousel and the Train ride on Thomas. I was pleased to see that the small restaurant served local produce including organic bread & kent speciality sausages at reasonable prices (a refreshing change where normally captive audiences mean rubbish food at ludicrous prices).

We are determined to enjoy our weekends in England whilst we can & I have to say driving through the lovely Kent villages seeing the thatched roofs & pretty cottage gardens was a treat, especially as it was all less than 1 hour from Central London so easily doable for a proper English country Sunday pub lunch next weekend. Although I don’t want to repeat the dodgy EastEnd Garage scene again!

All too soon the week came round & having been out most of the weekend I needed to get out to do a few jobs. I’ve been busy selling English speaking DVD series & other random objects we don’t need on Ebay - so far made over £100 although to be honest I have already spent this on Catimini bargains for the girls via Ebay much to my husband’s dismay who told me I could have bought a tap or half a tap with that…nevermind, cute dresses are far more appealing than a shiny tap.

So I set off to the Post Office with all my latest sales only to get over the bridge at South Quay with the pushchair wobbling in a funny way. I discovered the tyre had come off the rim. The tyres are like small bike tyres and I always carry a repair kit, spare inner tube & pump (after last incident!) but I confess I don’t really know how to fix it. As it wobbled I considered whether my RAC cover would work on a pushchair but then realised I really needed to fix it before it damaged the wheel so there I sat in the middle of Canary Wharf on my bottom trying to put the tyre back on.

During this time, Jasmine wanted to help (as she does with Daddy, by passing me tools out of the toolkit and calling me sweetheart, bless) and about 100 people walked past me some suited and booted but others in casual dress. Not one offered to help until after half an hour of me struggling to pump up the tyre (I’d got it back on the rim finally) a chef stopped and asked if I was ok advising me there were at least 30 construction workers stood behind me watching (great!). I replied politely ‘not really, but I’ll manage’ and off he went apologising about his outfit & not being able to help.

In fact he did help because he went over and hassled the construction workers until a site supervisor came over to help. He didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak Polish but through a combination of sign & child like English (I felt a bit stupid) he managed to get the tyre reinflated. I now know I have to flick some silly switch on the pump to make it inflate as opposed to deflate, oh I wish I’d been watching when my hubby fixed it last time instead of checking out the toy section in John Lewis. I’m sure my 2 year old knows how to fix it but she couldn’t say…

With 3 inflated tyres we were off again & I vowed to myself that my girls need to learn how to do such tasks & not be quite as useless as Mummy!

Finally, an update on our Carte Vitale fiasco - I received a letter from Assurance Maladie asking for my birth certificate regarding our carte vitales. Now I am totally confused about this as our request for Carte Vitales went to RSI in Paris so why on earth have Assurance Maladie in Montpellier sent us a letter asking for this? Even more bizarre was that they sent it to our old address in the UK (where we haven’t lived for over 2 years but as our parents receive our post we luckily received it). I’m not going to reply until we get back to France again next week and I see if RSI have sent us anything back home then I’ll try calling to find out what is going on. I knew it was too good to be true thinking that RSI phone call would resolve everything!

On a positive note, our visits to England may be coming to an end and we may get the end of the summer at home in France again…fingers crossed.