Eventually got going just before 2pm, filled up with diesel (£72), stopped off at John Lewis to buy a guest towel and a birthday card for Ian.  Once we had posted that we felt that we could start our holiday.  It was raining…

The M25 was horrendous and the traffic slowed down to a crawl long before the Dartford Tunnel.  Surprisingly, there was no surcharge for Bessie – just the normal £1.50 – and we headed off for the A12.  I had a bit of a snooze and hadn’t long woken up when Peter noticed that he couldn’t change gear!  Somehow he managed to pull into a convenient lay-by next to a railway line and we took stock of the situation.  Try as he might he couldn’t get Bessie into gear and the clutch pedal seemed stuck halfway up.  He pumped it down to the floor and back but it wouldn’t come back up to the normal level.  We didn’t have much idea of where exactly we were but the sat nav said the A14 to Felxistowe was coming up shortly.  It was ten past four.

What to do?  Rung Johns Cross and spoke to someone called Glen in the workshop.  He had no words of wisdom but offered to get a recovery truck to us as soon as he could.  Meanwhile the lorries thundered past and the trains screamed their way through on our other side.  It was agreed that they would send up a replacement motorhome on the recovery truck so that we could continue with our holiday, as Bessie wouldn’t be looked at until Monday morning.  They would then bring her back to us as soon as she had been cured of her clutch problem.

So, there we were, being buffeted on both sides, drinking coffee and playing UNO to while away the time.  We got a spasmodic commentary on the Murray semi-final with Tsonga on Five Live on the laptop but eventually the signal gave out, leaving us frustratingly not knowing whether Andy had been successful or not.  Luckily, the traffic slowed up at times to a crawl, so we didn’t feel quite as vulnerable but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.  It was so depressing knowing that we would have to remove all our belongings and fit them into a different vehicle.  Would it have a microwave and what were the beds like?  Peter stoically got all our stuff out of the cupboards and we sat amongst the bulging carrier bags feeling miserable.  He rang the campsite (Bailiff’s Cottage) to let them know and then we waited… and waited…

Just before 8pm the rescue truck turned up, nearly overshooting the lay-by – apparently we weren’t quite as far on as we thought we were.  Carl, a big friendly chap, came to take a look at the clutch and, with one giant yank, managed to pull it up to its normal position.  He explained that he had seen this sort of problem before – something to do with the slave cylinder apparently.  Vehicles that hadn’t been driven for some time and then subjected to stop-start driving as we had experienced on the M25 and beyond sometimes had this problem.  Once it had occurred it often never happened again.

He couldn’t promise us that it wouldn’t of course and indeed was duty bound to recommend that we took the replacement motorhome but, off the record, felt that we would probably be ok to carry on with Bessie.  What a dilemma.  To carry on and risk total breakdown or move everything into the interloper – no microwave and no wardrobe.  It didn’t take long to decide – we would give Bessie a second chance and risk it.  We signed a disclaimer and Carl kindly followed us for a few miles to make sure we were ok.  Bessie steamed along happily and we reached the campsite at about 9.30pm.  It was still light and we were greeted very pleasantly by Sandy and Graham.  We parked Bessie beside the rather continental looking wooden chalet which housed the loo and shower, under a tree and overlooking a meadow.  Perfect.

We emptied all the carrier bags and soon got our belongings back where they had been so carefully stashed when we started our journey seven and a half hours before.  No internet connection was possible but at least we got the TV working on the laptop after a delicious meal of packet chilli and rice and a big slug of red wine.

Set the beds up and fell into them gratefully.  Not a bad night’s sleep although it will take a little getting used to.

Oh, and Andy had won his match and is set to be the first British man in 74 years to play in a Wimbledon final on Sunday.  Not only that but an Englishman by the name of Jonny Marray (?) has got through to the men’s doubles final, playing with a Dane, Frederik Nielsen, after beating the famous Bryan brothers.  So, all’s well that ends well – for now anyway.