Day 86 of #vanlife


The Saga continues … You couldn’t make this stuff up!

So this morning we packed up after two reasonably quiet nights here at Biggar. Catherine has been doing a little bit of research as she plots our journey home and has discovered a lovely little artisan chocolate shop in Peebles. This will be a stopping point on our way to Berwick upon tweed. As you know, Catherine is partial to a bit of the old Cocoa bean and has been hitting the stuff pretty hard since the start of our Scottish “summer”. So off to Peebles we head.

Then suddenly …

We were about two or three miles into the journey when Catherine says “my brakes are feeling a bit spongy, they aren’t as responsive as they usually are!” “Oh!” Says I, because what else can i say, brake issues tend to be rather serious. I ask Catherine to pump the brakes a few times and I can hear what she is talking about, a sort of squishy sound that tells me that the hydraulic mechanism has given way. It hasn’t failed completely yet … “but let’s stop at the nearest garage and I’ll pop the bonnet and take a look!” I say, in the calmest voice possible! The next thing I know, I’m lurching forward in my seat! my safety belt keeps me in place (at least I know that works!!!!) “What the f***!!!!” I shout “Oh I was just pumping the brakes again!” She wanted to check they were actually still working, but didn’t think to warn me!“Errrr – well done, but a little more notice would help in the future” “Sorry” she sheepishly replies.

I use this time to give Catherine an advanced driving tip of using the gears to slow the van down rather than the brakes; I figure it has to be a brake fluid problem and if there is a small leak, then we dont want to exacerbate it by over pumping the brakes. I then think back to my degree in pneumatics and mechanical engineering to think about what else I can do other than top up with brake fluid when we get to a garage. I then remember, I dont have a degree in pneumatics and mechanical engineering!!!

So we pull over to the nearest garage which Catherine is quite pleased about as it has a Marks and Spencer’s food shop in it! We middle classies do love a bit of M&S food!! So as predicted i discover that the brake fluid (which was full a couple of days ago) is now running on reserve. Not to worry, I think to myself, we have some spare in the back of the van. Ray, my father-in-law would be really proud of me Im sure as I keep some spare brake fluid, engine oil, coolant, screen wash, a high vis jacket, a fluorescent triangle, emergency flairs, a Marconi radio headset and a distress beacon*. I top up the brake fluid so now its over half full. “Im just gonna pop into the shop to buy some more brake fluid just in case”. Says I. I’ve also got my mind on a melton Mowbray pork pie but remember that I have eaten the last of the English mustard. Decisions decisions, can I eat the pie without the mustard?…. I’ll just have to wait and see….

*OK, I don’t have those last three – just don’t tell Ray, he wouldn’t want me to have access to all possible help for all possible contingencies!

Anyway, the very nice young lady informed me that they didn’t have any brake fluid as this sort of shop is mainly just about petrol for refueling automobiles and M&S food for refueling humans. She tells me where I can buy some more on the way out of Peebles. Awesome.

Not so Awesome!

So I go back to close the van bonnet and Catherine asks if they have a toilet in there* and to my dismay, a rather frequent drip is now very visible coming from the back of the brake fluid receptacle. That’s not good. What’s worse is that in the five minutes that it has taken me to go into M&S and then return all of the brake fluid has trickled out and is now underneath the van! ARSE squared!

So Catherine returns from the toilet to ask me if I knew they actually sold coffee too. I share the bad news – there’s nothing else for it. We have to call the AA.

So here I sit in the van with Tommy, as I have sent Catherine into town to enjoy her hot chocolate that she has come here for originally, while I wait for the AA. The app says they “Will try to get here by 12 pm”. It’s now just gone 10 am. Hey Ho. One nice thing is that the nice lady in M&S gave me my Americano for free: every cloud they say.

*That’s one of the many differences between Catherine and me, I’m thinking “Ooo, M&S = Pork pie” while Catherine is thinking “Oo M&S = toilets..nice ones”.

Well, let’s see what miracle will occur now …

The AA man has arrived … we’ll keep you posted!

Update 12:38!!!!


11 thoughts on “Day 86 of #vanlife”

      • You said the seal has gone on the brake cylinder, I asked if that was in the slave cylinder or the master cylinder , the AA person will know, hopefully.

        • Sorry Dave, that went so far over my head as to be stratospheric! What I should have said was the seal in the brake fluid reservoir, as opposed to cylinders – sorry for any confusion or undue excitement I may have caused

  1. Bleeding brakes… I guess you
    mutter as you pad back and forward like an angry tiger? The seals are definitely unsettled … perish the thought!.. maybe should have put some spare fish in your repair kit from Buckie after all🐟🤣
    The AA will soon get you up and running …What a stroke of good fortune grinding to a halt at an M@S … just think you could still be at Rigside! Look forward to the resolution in your next post! Good luck! J

    • Yes the mechanic did mention about bleeding the brakes to make sure the air comes out once I have replaced the seals. As you say – should maybe got some of those smokeys – they may have helped!

  2. Ha! Brilliant… Seal Team to the rescue then……… although, had you thought about it, maybe the jelly from a Melton Mowbray pork pie might have done it! Oh yes… you ate it.

  3. Caths must have been pleased you didn’t do a degree in pneumatics as it wouldn’t have done you any good!!🤔 You will have an hydraulic system using fluids ( ideally brake fluid)! You probably find this hard to believe but it’s all about the transfer of energy!!! To be honest it’s far too hot down here to explain the detail but I’m sure the AA man ( person) will be slaving away to master the complexities of cylindrical interfaces!🤔 Off to find some Highland Spring water to hydrate the system. Keep us posted and hope you don’t have too long a brake in your journey. Keep posting J

    • hahaha – again you reveal my wealth of ignorance Jim. Pneumatics, hydraulics – all the one to me as I don’t understand any of them. I’m not even going to correct any of my mistakes as it all sounds funnier that I don’t know wtf I’m talking about. SO the journey has been completely broken. Now at Catherine’s friend, Shelley – first order of business catch up on sleep and learn the difference between pneumatics and hydraulics!!! Hope you find you’re highland spring!

  4. Don’t let a seal come between you and a master cylinder… Tommy will tell you it’s just a paws in the continuum of life as a D-M! 🤔! Great that you have found refuge with Shelley who I’m sure will rustle up a few romantic lines to capture the unplanned nature of becoming your interlocutor in these braking times. Take care and I’m sure that Fi will be back to full hydraulic pressure soon and will be looking forward to the fresh North Sea air of Berwick! Keep posting J


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