Family Travel

When plans go awry

24 October, 2013

Before we left England for our trip around Europe, whenever people heard what we were about to do they’d say “Blimey, your brave!” It was a unanimous response, something about chucking all your cards in the air and tripping about with two under threes in a Campervan gave people the heeby jeebies. We didn’t really feel very bold, we just felt it was do-able. We were confident we’d all love it and that everything would pretty much work out.


I’m beginning to understand this reaction now. Because you know…. Sometimes things go wrong. Plans go awry (pronounced Ah-RY rather than OR-Ree if you were, ah, um, wondering. Just because a friend got to 29 thinking it was OR-Ree. So I just thought I’d mention it, just in case.)

And then you keep tweaking, and adapting, and changing and still things keep going wrong.


You may remember that our lovely Betty the Campervan broke down in Italy. The mechanic wanted ALOT of money to fix the clutch, which wasn’t even the source of the breakdown, so we opted to get the AA to recover it back to London where our own VW mechanic could repair her. This would be covered in our AA deal, as well as some money to carry on our holiday and get home. So we rented a car and bought a tent and camped around Croatia. It was flipping EPIC.

Meanwhile we booked a ferry from UK to Spain for the 8th October and looked on the bright side, at least we could now do Spain with the fixed up Betty.

However, when we returned to London to pick her up, we discovered that Betty hadn’t made it back. In fact, she was still in Italy- we were meant to be getting the ferry in two days!!!

We reluctantly changed the ferry date. Hung around London a bit. A week later we heard that the van was STILL in Italy! We postponed the ferry yet again. Hung around some more.

This was ridiculous. We were losing faith in the AA’s ability to get the van back. The “14 days maximum” getting back to London had doubled and we were no closer to Spain. We decided to do a DIY mission. The AA gave us the money to get the van back ourselves and we called up our friend Patrick, who runs the Forest School, in Germany, who had offered to help out. (What an AWESOME dude.)

We would stay in London while Tim goes out to Germany, drives to Italy, brings van back to Germany for repairs, drives home. We thought it’d take 5 days.

So far it’s been ten.

Oh, the plans of mice and hu-men’ *mutter sexists phrases mutter*

The flight was cancelled, the journey from Germany to Italy took an unexpected 18 hours, the mechanic was sick. Things just kind of stopped working out well.

Last night I changed the ferry for the millionth time (the boat folks must think I am absolutely off my rocker) from tomorrow to Sunday but as of just now we’re unsure if we’ll even make that.

Tonight Tim went to get the camper; he had his bags packed, a picnic ready, all prepared to pick Betty up and begin the drive home. Oh. The mechanic wasn’t there. Fortunately, someone else was and gave Tim and Patrick his home address. Sweet, a misunderstanding? They drove to his home and discovered the mechanic in bed. Refusing to come down. Swearing at his mum. Saying he was going on holiday tomorrow.

The subsequent text from Tim said “You. Are. Not. Going. To. Believe. This”

As I read the following texts about a cracker jacks mechanic my stomach curled up as if to hide from the angry old heart beating its way out of my chest.

It just seems a bit unfair. For this Trip of a Lifetime to be stalled for so many weeks. A bit like, yeah, I realise having had such a cool time already it was about time we had some rubbish luck, but THAT’S ENOUGH THANKS. If bad luck came in threes Tim would have been back on Monday. It feels like it comes in gazillions. *Mutter sweary mutter*

Then I look at Juno Bear enjoying a crumpet (yep, she be EATING!) and remember Ramona wandering around prestigious museums in her pyjamas yesterday and I GET SOME PERSPECTIVE.


We are all healthy and don’t have to go to work in the mines and will get to Spain eventually, si, si. (Do you have any suggestions for Spain? We arrive in Bilbao (probably next July, the way things are going) and are thinking of driving straight through the middle to the very bottom and then going West…. Or East. Let me know if you have any ideas for of cool projects or families or anything to visit.)

So. Send tea, cake and courage as I’m getting a little of the heeby jeebies….

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  • Laura @ Kneadwhine 24 October, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Wow, what a horrible collection of things to be happening. Fully understand the frustration and hope that Betty is with you soon and the trip is able to begin in earnest as soon as possible.

  • Katy Beale 24 October, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    It’s not Aw-Ree then? That’s how I’ve been pronouncing it forever!

    • Lucy 25 October, 2013 at 6:40 pm


  • Roger Driver-Burgess 24 October, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Hang in there, Lucy. And aint it true that the kids give us a great perspective? Beautiful photo!

  • ali 25 October, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Ah, my father is buddhist and he says that you will always have 83 problems (not you personally, any indidvidual!). But it sounds like most of yours relate to camper vans and mechanics!

    Also, Will you now be pronoucing awry ‘oh-ree’ from now on, which is what I seem to do when I hear a mis-pronouced word. My friend was convinced escalopes was pronouced ‘esc-cal-loop-ees’ – which is now exactly how we pronounce it now. And my niece ‘sounded out’ champagne as ‘Chomp-pag-nee’ – again a new word in my house.

    PS were not so posh as to have escalopes and champagne floating around the house all the time…but when we do, rest assured we say it wrong!

    • Lucy 25 October, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      Love this! The parable is brilliant, so cool 🙂

    • Dayna 26 October, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Your story is as good as any book!

  • LondonHeather 25 October, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Ugh! I knew from the blog there had been delays but had no idea Betty still wasn’t back (or how teeth-grindingly annoying/ridiculous the AA/mechanic had been). So sorry!

    I fervently hope things fall into place with this next leg and you find yourselves on the ferry, wind in hair, on Sunday. I know a great community in Portugal…which I realise isn’t Spain, and also realise isn’t hugely close despite being next to each other on a map. But! If you did find yourselves fancying a foray into Portugal, my friend Barbara and her wife Emma run Mount of Oaks – a community in the hills halfway between Porto and Lisbon. We stayed there for a week a few years ago and it was wonderful.

    Anyway. All the best for the next few days. Ooh, and love the pic of Juno. We’ve just started BLW too – so much fun!

  • Claire Rendle 25 October, 2013 at 2:44 am

    How horrible for you! I really hope Betty is back soon and you can get to spain asap! Juno is too cute! blw is fun did it with my youngest 2 and they are much less fussy than my eldest! Good luck and best wishes sent your way x

  • Bettina @ Books, Bikes, and Food 25 October, 2013 at 5:51 am

    Oh man, that sucks! 🙁
    But you’ll love Spain. Be sure to hang around the Basque Country for a bit when you get there. The fishing villages between Bilbao and San Sebastián (Basque: Donostia) are absolutely beautiful. San Sebastián is also lovely. Also you may want to pay a visit to the Urkiola national park. Eat pintxos (Basque version of tapas) in the Plaza Nueva in Bilbao or in San Sebastián. Enjoy!!

  • mascara & mud 25 October, 2013 at 9:30 am

    aaah,no! gutted for you! but fingers (and everything else!) crossed that you all get some luck and can carry on with your adventures!

  • Dayna 25 October, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    You are amazing!

    • Lucy 25 October, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      Thank you for all these lovely comments 😀

  • Xanthe 25 October, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    I’m 29… I say Or-ree!

    • Lucy 25 October, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      *massive high fives* only the coolest do!

      • Xanthe 26 October, 2013 at 1:23 pm

        Nick thinks not :/
        Now he is laughing at me for eternity!
        Aw-ree, A-wry, Uh-rye, the English language is too complicated…

  • Jessique 27 October, 2013 at 1:09 am

    The universe just gave us a free hour and I spent its entirety reading your blogs/admiring your beautiful family. Yippee!
    Thank you for being such an inspiration to a young woman (yet to become a mother) who is constantly struggling to work in an industry and live in a society that dictates what is the ‘right’ way to educate and care for children. Sending so much love to the wonderful AitkenReads and an extra dose of squidges for Ramona and Juno. Glad to hear that your troubles have passed- happy adventuring! xxx

    • Lucy 28 October, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Oh thank you lovely Jessique!

  • Mammasaurus 28 October, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Argh I am frustrated for you, but it will be all be worth it in the end – and HOW cute is Ramona yamming on that crumpet?!

  • Jo Latif 28 October, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    Oh Lucy! I feel for you guys man what a headache! Hope it gets sorted soon. What a jerkface mechanic 🙁

  • Crystal 8 November, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Wow, what an awful run of luck. I really hope you guys get it all sorted out soon. We are planning on doing something similar spring next year, I just have to pop this sprog first 🙂 I would really love to pick your brains about how it all worked for you guys, what went well, what you would do differently if you have time next year. Good luck with the rest of your trip, I hope it is beautiful for you all.

  • Laura Dogsmom 12 November, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Is it OK that I am smiling and my head is nodding in agreement (been there, done that) as I read this? (For me it was tent camping with a little one and a St Bernard. )
    Now that I know you survived and all are doing well, that is.