A Fated Journey

Our winter escape to Spain last year had been reasonably successful so we thought we’d go for a repeat performance. Our outbound ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao was booked for midday, Wednesday 19th December. After another medical procedure (just for fun) we were ready.

One week before our departure, Wednesday 12th December was to be our last evening at our photography club. At 19:30 I pulled up outside, pushed the car into “park” which duly lit green, pulled one of those silly switches for the electronic brake [what problem were they trying to fix with those?] which duly lit red, and hit the off button. With an unerring sense of timing, BONG! went the car. What?

The first thing you have to do when there’s a BONG! of any description is to look around and see which of the displays available is explaining the reason for the BONG! This is the problem with one particular BONG!, the too-clever-for-its-own-good ”imminent collision warning” BONG! – you immediately begin scanning the displays for a reason for the BONG!, which makes you take your eyes off the road and risks you colliding with the very vehicle the BONG! was trying to warn you about in the first place.

This was not an collision warning BONG! and we were already stationary, so scanning around was safe. A message was writ large on the main control screen:

Transmission. Secure vehicle with parking brake when stationary. Have the problem checked by your Service Partner.

But, but, but the parking brake is on. Bugger, or words to that effect.

Every time I stopped and started the car the irritating BONG! recurred. I tested both the “park” position of the gear selector and the electronic parking brake on our very sloping driveway and both were holding perfectly well. This looked like being a problem with the two monitoring systems themselves rather than the systems being monitored.

We were busy on Thursday but on Friday 14th, expecting difficulties of availability on such short notice, I phoned our “Service Partner”. “Our first appointment is Thursday 20th”, said my Service Partner. “Ah, the car is booked on a ferry to Spain on Wednesday 19th”, I re-joined, impressing upon him the need for urgency. “Hang on … okay, I can squeeze you in on Tuesday – we open at 07:30”, he said helpfully. Even more helpfully, he also suggested I try BMW Emergency Assist, since the car was still under warranty, because that apparently trumps everything. We made the Tuesday booking anyway, leaving me to try the assistance avenue.

Through BMW Emergency Assist, I did get a rental car, so that was a result. I dropped our car off later that day, Friday, with our Service Partner and picked up the rental. As it turns out, the rental was the only advantage because BMW Assist didn’t appear to trump anything and the car still didn’t get into the workshop until Tuesday morning, just 24hrs before our intended departure for Portsmouth and the ferry.

Tuesday wore on and I heard nothing. I phoned a time or two reinforcing the reason for urgency – if I was going to need to cancel/rebook the ferry, I needed to do so before 17:00 when the booking agency would close.

Longer story short, I was assured the car was safe and I could pick it up. Unfortunately, when I collected the car I discovered they’d been unable to diagnose the problem and every starting or stopping of the engine was still accompanied by BONG! and the now irritatingly familiar message. We could go to Spain safely though the stress had made us question whether we were now in the right frame of mind to do so.

Sense prevailed and we did depart for Portsmouth at 06:00 on Wednesday 19th December. BONG!

Everything went swimmingly until we came to a standstill almost a mile from the Chertsey exit of the jaM25, heading anticlockwise (towards the A3). As is usual, once firmly stuck in the traffic jam, we got a traffic report about avoiding it perhaps being a good idea. Some arsehole had caused a 3-vehicle pile up some way after the Chertsey exit (we wanted the next one) closing three lanes of the jaM25 in rush hour. 8-10 miles of stationary traffic built up. We were in plenty of time but with progress being nigh on zero, time was ticking away.

I finally managed to get over to the inside lane and take the Chertsey exit. We had to turn north since the roundabout to go south was similarly gridlocked. Heading first back north and west, we eventually worked our way across country and down to Portsmouth in time for our ferry, though a 90-minute journey had take almost 4 hours. BONG!

We boarded, BONG!, and collapsed in the sanctuary of our cabin, breathing a sigh of relief.

Our cabin’s toilet refused to flush. Well, of course.

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Posted in 2018-2019 Winter

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