Hectic week ahead

The fun starts, we have six days to turn Dora around.

We are ready to go back, are you Dora?

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The ferry to the UK doesn’t depart until 11.00., which will give us plenty of time within the next couple of hours to pick up some lunch from Lidl and look for some water. Dora’s tank is almost empty and we better find a tap in France. I seem to remember the UK not being a motorhome friendly country.

But we have not seen any tap around Calais and it is time to head off to the docks to check in. How we will manage without water we don’t know yet. I am sure we will come up with something. One thing we’ve learnt living in Dora for thirteen months is being particularly resourceful.

We are both pretty quiet on the way down to the docks. Personally, I have mixed feelings: excitement about changing our lives again, curious about what my new job will be like, stress about the ton of things we have to do before we go to Spain, worried about something going wrong in Dora’s MOT and service.

However, just when we thought we couldn’t get more depressed…

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We pass this Auschwitz-fence style, which we don’t remember seeing last time we were here. What is there at the other side of this fence which we have to be fiercely protected from?

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People. People like you and I. We are familiar with these images, we have been closely following the news on the BBC.

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We remember the crisis when at its highest; it was so painful watching people trying to desperately get on trucks,  hanging underneath vehicles, squeezing in engines. But as with everything you watch on TV, it felt remote.

However, now… I am speechless, a chill runs down my spine. These people have been living in these tents for months in an inhumane state, with no basic services and piles of rubbish all over. They have been treated like animals, confined to this small space, in quarantine, as if they had some sort of contagious disease.

These people are like you and me. They have the same feelings, the same needs, they want the same things as us: a house, a job and money to feed their families. The only difference between them and us is that they just happened to be born in a different country.

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Some of my friends and family talk about these people with hatred, as if they weren’t human. On these occasions, I have to remind them that I am actually one of them.

‘Noooo, your case is different. You were highly educated. You left Spain because you were ambitious, you wanted more’

They are missing (or want to miss) the point. I left Spain because it took me a year to find a job after I left university. A job which I didn’t need a degree for. I took that job because there was nothing else available. Because by then, I was so depressed of being turned down by the thousands of companies I applied to work for; I felt so guilty of being supported by my parents; I felt so embarrassed of meeting my employed friends… After one year of being unemployed, my self-esteem was at rock bottom, I felt useless.

I had a finance degree but I couldn’t speak any English, which sounds unbelievable considering I had been studying the language for fifteen years. So when I arrived in London I had to make my living working in catering, where there were the most of the low skilled jobs. Once I became fluent in English I rose rapidly and soon became an accountant. Since I qualified I have had well paid jobs which have enabled me to take this fantastic year off. Is it all down to me and my hard work? Perhaps. But I also think it is because I had opportunities. The same opportunities these people want.

Only migrants and also non-migrants who put themselves in the migrants’ shoes can understand why most people move to other countries. Leaving your home country is pretty harsh. Everything you know:  family, friends, language, relations, culture and customs disappear. You feel as if something very deep inside you has been taken away. You are an outsider in the new country; you feel insecure, unprotected, vulnerable. To leave your own country takes courage, most of the times you make this decision because you have nothing else to lose. It is hard to believe that these people come here to steal our jobs, or living off the state. They just want to have a decent life, a life that every human is entitled to.

Whether asylum seekers or economic migrants it makes no difference, these people, these humans, just want a little bit of what we have in the west. Shelter, food, education, a car, holidays, mobile phones, healthcare. The only difference, most of the ones that make the sacrifice, take the risk, are really motivated to make the effort, to earn those things we all want. These are not the feckless bone idle that live off of the state, that can’t be bothered to work, that believe they deserve all the attributes of modern life without making the effort. These are not the people that live off of the hard work of others, these migrants are the future of our country, or could be.

But there are many xenophobic views that are afraid of anything that is different. These are creating a political environment that ends up treating these people like animals. This I find really sad. The only truth ever uttered by Gordon Brown was when he called that woman ‘a bigot’, she was, and the labour party used to have a tolerant view to migrants, since then everyone has pulled down the shutters, vying to be the most intolerant of foreigners. It is sickening. I cannot believe how selfish a nation we have become, how immune to the suffering of others we are.

We in the west are in a privileged position and that privilege means we use a disproportionate amount of resource on this world. You may not want to believe it, but in the west we consume three to four times the amount in the east, Africa or South America and we are so selfish we don’t want anyone else to share that privilege. Something to be proud of! GDR

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I am not sure if these people will ever have a chance. If they do, they will never forget about the misery we have put them through.

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We don’t embrace them because we don’t need them, there are already too many people in the UK. However, if we were short of labour to sustain our welfare state, we would open our doors tomorrow.

The idea there are too many people in the UK is completely unsubstantiated. By what metric do you calculate when a country is full? Really what people are talking about is they don’t want to live next to someone with a different accent, a different skin colour, different eating habits or a different religion. What fills the country is the way we want to live, our suburbs sprawling across the landscape; low density, low height, low design and low ambition. GDR

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Sadly, we are like most people; appreciate the gravity of the situation but carry on with our lives.

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Dora is already familiar with ferry checking procedures. She has crossed the channel once with us but many times with her previous owner who used to spend her vacations in Spain.

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She is ready to be swallowed by the ferry.

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Whilst on the boat, we are not allowed to stay inside her for security reasons. That wasn’t the case in other countries. When we went from Italy to Greece, we slept in Dora and were enable to plug her in to the mains, so we enjoyed a good session of IT. This time, we had to leave her and go upstairs.

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Before we depart, we take the last few photos of France.

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It is pretty chilly and windy but still lovely to be outside.

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You get a few splashes of water if you are not careful. Gary stays out a bit longer to take some photos.

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I pop inside every now and then to warm myself up, until I find free Wi-Fi. It is then when I stop going outside. I have now the chance to send  a few whatsapps to people in the UK to let them know we are coming, although we won’t have time to meet anyone.

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After one hour, the British coast appears in the horizon.

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And the French coast disappears.

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We finally land in Calais.

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We both keep very quiet, trying to come to terms with the feelings of our arrival. I am particularly confused; am I happy to be back? am I sad that it has all ended?

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Suddenly, all looks so familiar; driving on the left hand side, houses, landscapes, weather…

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People tend to be happy in a familiar environment but we don’t know yet if we are. We feel uneasy. Have we changed that much over this year? How quickly will we adapt to a normal life? Will we ever?

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We go head directly to the MOT garage not without stopping in Staples office supplies store to pick up wrapping film and boxes to start packing this afternoon.

The garage is near Sittingbourne, Kent. The name of the place Tomsett Kent. We found it by chance after being turned down by the approved fiat garage Burgess, also in Sittingbourne, which we took Dora for her MOT last year.  Tomsett Kent is more convenient for us, as it is located on our way to Ebbsfleet (our home) and not far from Gary’s parents.

I was very annoyed with Burgess. We emailed them several weeks ago, no reply and then again a few days later, still no reply. Eventually we rang them, ‘Sorry we cannot see you until October, we probably got the email, but we aren’t sure, you see we don’t often check them’. Not even a proper apology, we won’t be using them again, and we certainly wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. What is the point of having a contact form on your website if you aren’t going to check it? GDR

The owner, Dave welcomes us warmly and deals with Dora straight away. Before we realise, she is on ramp waiting to be lifted off the ground so they can check underneath her.

Dave’s dog is looks impressed about Dora. He seems to be looking for a place to spend a penny. I wouldn’t mess with her, mate!

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Whilst Dora is having a check up, we have a quick lunch in the car park across the garage. It is not one of our most comfortable lunches but it will have to do us. We better get used to this, our life is going to be quite precarious over the next six days; with no home to live in, we will have to live in Dora whilst we clean her. It promises to be uncomfortable and chaotic.

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Hurraaah! Dora has pass her MOT, all she needed was the indicator bulbs changed (the red paint tends to peel off) and the fog light needed earthing. We also have her serviced and it appears she needs a new clutch. We suspected it may have something wrong with it. Over the past week, it has been quite heavy when selecting low gears. However, the new one does not arrive until tomorrow morning, which means we won’t be able to take our stuff to Ebbsfleet this afternoon.

Kindly, Dave offers his garden for us to stay tonight. He lives across the road. He also has a motorhome and therefore, all the facilities we need for ours: electricity and water. Perfect! that will allow us to plug in Dora and start cleaning her, with even have our small 12v vacuum cleaner which is surprisingly effective.

But first, we have to start packing.

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Sheets, clothes, books, camping and climbing stuff has to be packed by tomorrow so that we can take it to Ebbsfleet as soon as Dora is available.

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We call it a day at 19.00, it is too dark to keep going.

We need to rest, we have another busy day tomorrow.



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