|Newcastle New Car
When travelling the language barrier can sometimes be a difficult thing, especially for monolingual Australians. One time in Morocco Sue and I ordered an espresso each. The waiter bought us and all the children an espresso. When we were shopping for Ruby's birthday candles we searched several shops but could not find any on display so we had to ask a shop keeper. We tried several different ways to explain birthday candle but received no understanding. I then used my best charades skills to mime putting candles in a cake, lighting the candles and blowing out the candles. The shop keeper smiled and nodded and we all smiled and nodded because the barrier had been broken and understanding had been achieved. The shop keeper shuffled around under the counter and emerged with a pair of nail clippers. Spain was just as tricky, as I explained in my last post, so language was part of the reason why we were looking forward to flying to England. We took the cheapest flights ($26 each) from Barcelona into England which were not to London but to Newcastle, in the north. I know some of you are smiling already.
When we arrived we discovered Newcastle is home of the Geordies, whose accent is impenetratable. What's more the Geordies seem to find our accent just as difficult. Basic everyday actions such as buying bread were like long distance phone calls. Someone speaks, there is an uncomfortable delay, the other person asks for the statement to be repeated, another delay, and so on. But we weren't here to buy bread, we were here to buy a car. The language of engines and catalytic converters and tappets and valves is just as foreign to me as Arabic, so the whole experience was quite painstaking. Never-the-less after four days of searching we found a car with enough space for ourselves and all of our luggage (a 2001 Renault Espace). Budget and budgeting have been a big part of this trip so Sue and I were sweating and shaking as we handed over a large wad of cash, hoping that our gamble to resell the car at the end of the trip, would pay off.
As part of the deal we got a few bits of mechanical work done which took a while. We had moved out of the hotel and piled our stuff into the car as were anxious to get out of the city. We had seen all there was to see ie. We had to spend 40minutes looking at a disused water feature full of plastic cups and cigarette butts, outside some non descript building because the children found it fascinating that it had ice in it (it was-6 degrees) The children then cried and complained when we wanted to look at the Barry McGee exhibition at the Baltic Contemporary Artspace. We took a look at Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North - very impressive.
Finally the car was ready and we were on the road and into a new chapter. We headed north. I missed my round about turn off and accidentally went through a red light about 200m out of the car yard. We arrived at Shillbottle village farm in the dark, on a Saturday night to find smoke pouring from the engine and the ill-fated smell of burning oil lingering in the air. Our hearts sank as we thought of all the mechanical bills ahead and the gut wrenching feeling that we had gambled big and lost big. I'm not mechanical but I am a bloke so I was obliged to look under the bonnet and act like I knew what I was looking at. I saw oil everywhere and then to my amazement I saw the problem. When the mechanic had done the oil change he had forgotten to put the fill cap back on. So in true MacGyver style I used a rubber glove and a lacky band to make a makeshift cap. The caryard couriered up the proper cap the following Monday and the car was as good as new(ish).
We drove up to Alnwick to see the castle where Harry Potter was filmed, but it was closed for the winter. Alnwick gardens were open, so we payed $40 and looked at leafless trees and 188 different varieties of pruned rose bushes. Although all the plants were in winter mode, there were many water features to look at........
small children - water features - sub zero temperatures - how could we not see it was going to end in tears.
Our plan was to keep heading North, up to Scotland, but the extremely cold weather has scared us off and we're heading south again.