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  • Mel

Those Who Want to Have a Mule Without Fault, Must Walk on Foot

As some of you may know from our Instagram stories, our first delivery after a 10-month long brake was definitely one to remember. I figured it would be a great shame not to tell you the full story.

After spending almost a year at our warehouse in Poland, we decided it was time to resume doing the deliveries ourselves. Mainly because of the rising costs of transport, as well as a few incidents of attempted deliveries at 1 am at night. Knowing how important is making sure that our customers are receiving the best possible service we could provide, we have accepted the challenge - gladly!

It was not possible for us until November, when we managed to find three great people to take care of preparing the orders and other parquet-related things. Before that happened, it was only me and Maciej, preparing the orders mostly at night while Rita was asleep in her bed upstairs (thankfully, once she falls asleep, nothing can wake her up).

Do you ever get the feeling that The Universe is testing you? It most certainly was testing us in this whole new situation we were in.

We picked a date for the first trip, and started preparing for it – the orders, the papers (customs declarations, etc.), and the most difficult one of all, the van. Everything was looking good and it seemed like we were right on schedule until the day before our departure. After a final inspection of our brave, red crafter van, it turned out that the sump was leaking right next to the plug and it would be best to have it fixed. Maciej being the car fixing hero in this house crawled under it and started welding. The bloody thing wouldn’t weld! After several hours of lying on the cold driveway, it still wasn’t fixed. Maciej had finally lost his patience, went to the car parts shop down the road and got back with some sort of special glue (no idea what it was). Once again, he crawled under the car and sealed every possible source of leaks – including the plug and its surroundings. Problem solved!

The next day was the day we were leaving. Funnily enough, it was also my birthday. And my birthday gift was the fact that I had to do most of the driving, as Maciej’s eyes were not well after hours of welding the day before. Despite those minor inconveniences over the past few days, we were in great moods!

It was Saturday, and we were on the road, at last! We dropped Rita off at Maciej’s Mum’s, and promised both we’d return within 3-4 days. Well… we were terribly wrong about that.

I drove all night, feeling a bit sorry for Maciej who sat next to me with raw potato slices on his eyelids (it helped!). I wasn’t worried though, as most of the time I could hear him snoring, so I figured it wasn’t that bad 😉 he was okay, the car was okay and I was okay – what more could I ask for?

We switched places in Holland. For that moment I wasn’t ready to face the ‘crossing the border’ part. Maciej was more experienced in that area. Anyway, after running for 1100 km without any problems, the moment Maciej turned the key, the oil diode came up, and with an annoying beeping sound. He popped the hood. He checked. Nothing seemed to be wrong. Off we went! Last 100 km to Calais. The diode came up twice in the meantime, but then it disappeared. Maciej was keeping it cool (that’s just his nature), and I couldn’t stop thinking about that ‘funny’ little light. No one said it out loud, but we both knew, that something wasn’t quite right.

About a 100 km later, we finally arrived at the freight terminal. It was a late Sunday afternoon – and definitely not a lazy one! And the moment we arrived, it turned into an absolute nightmare with an ‘N’. Or an ‘F’ actually! The French border control officers… they either take their job very seriously or we just caught them on a bad day. Either way, it was no pretty picture, especially since our van was not doing well.

To cut this thread short, the French officers were horrible. They started with asking thousands of questions, and not really bothered to understand the answers. They jumped onto the back and began tossing the packs of parquet around and continued the questioning in the meantime. They brought a dog to sniff around (probably looking for drugs), and when I thought the torture was over, one of the officers ORDERED me to show him the contents of my wallet. I shit you not. He took it away from me and looked through it. Finally, we were told to go onto the scanner. It was the end of November, and it was windy as hell. It was cold, the scanner was making the most annoying sound and I just felt like dying.

Finally, they let us go. The next were the British border control – they restored my faith in humanity by treating us like human beings for a change, and not like complete criminals. They checked our passports and wished us a pleasant journey. We couldn’t believe it was over! And that we made it through alive.

It was our first time taking the freight crossing, and we thought it was the same as the passenger one. Once again, we were wrong. First of all, we were surrounded only by the huge lorries which made our van look tiny. As we rolled onto the weird looking train, I took my shoes off, covered myself with a blanket in hope of taking a nap. However, one of the staff members who came out of the blue started to gesticulate, letting us know that we need to get out, and quickly!

We jumped out onto the platform and there it was – a minibus full of lorry drivers. We hopped on board and then we got hit hard… with the stench of sweat, dirt and fast food mixed together, polluting the interior of a loud, cold and wobbly bus. We picked up the rest of the lucky buggers popping up like mushroom in the rain along the train platform and then the bus finally took us to the passenger cart in the front of the train. We felt like kettle, being pushed from one place to another… 40 minutes later, the train has finally arrived at the UK terminal. We’ve repeated the whole minibus routine and got in the van.

Once again, I sat behind the wheel.

I only managed to get out of the train, and as I started to drive up the ramp… the car has stopped mid-way. It refused to go any further, no matter what I did… If we were the last ones to leave the problem, it wouldn’t have been that big of an issue… But we weren’t the last ones. And behind us there was a long line of lorries, with their smelly drivers getting impatient. They started honking. I was shitting bricks at that point. Maciej got out, went around while I was pressing the brake with my shaking foot – it was definitely the time to switch!

Unfortunately, I got so scared that my brain got paralysed. I let go of the brake too soon – our van started rolling down onto a lorry behind us. In that very moment two things happened: Maciej grabbed the wheel and jumped onto the driver’s seat, putting his foot on the brake – for the win! As for me, for some reason I grabbed the door, and pulled it with all my strength in hope that I’ll be able to stop crafter from rolling down onto the lorry. I even screamed! But it all came to nothing – it didn’t help.

By some miracle, Maciej managed to make the car climb up that Mount Everest of a ramp and we found ourselves rolling out of this God-forgotten place!

It probably took us around 20 minutes (25-30?) to roll down to the Folkestone Service Station right off the M20, about 2 miles away. It seemed like an eternity!

We parked the patient at the petrol station and once again, Maciej popped the hood and after a few good minutes (again, a whole eternity to me!) returned to the car to tell me the ‘happy’ news – our turbine broke down and there was oil all over poor crafter’s system! And no, putting glue all over its intimate parts had nothing to do with that. 😉

In that moment, I thought about three things:

1. Thank God it happened in the UK, and not anywhere along the route!

2. How in the fuckety fuck are we supposed to deliver the first order which was due for delivery in less than 12 hours?!

3. It’s 1 am. How are we supposed to get home?!

Question number 3 had been answered the next moment – a white van pulled over at the pump station. With a bit of encouragement from Maciej, I went to talk to the driver of this white miracle on wheels. The miracle was pulling a trailer with a barrel-shaped sauna on it as well. I approached the guy and asked him if by any chance he was going to London. He was. With one stop near Maidstone.

We only took our suitcase, a backpack and a bag of food with us – even without our baggage we barely squeezed inside. Half an hour later we arrived at the stop that he mentioned. It was a courier dispatch centre – we helped our newly found friend from the neighbouring country (no, not Ukraine) to unload the parcels he had brought with him, and just when we were to get in the car, the friend noticed that one of the bolts on the trailer was damaged… And this meant at least two things – firstly, we were lucky to be alive, because if the other bolt went down, well… I wouldn’t be writing this story right now. Secondly, we couldn’t go until we got this fixed. Once again, Maciej got down onto his knees and after about 30 minutes, it was fixed and we were good to go.

We got to the outskirts of London, we thanked the man for rescuing us and from there, we got an Uber home. We arrived at 2.30 am, and we were greeted by my friend who’s been patiently waiting for us to show up. She even had a birthday cake for me!

The next morning was Monday. I rang the only Man and the Van in London I knew about – I got his details from one of our returning customers, who gave them to me on a completely different occasion about a month earlier :D

That M&V guy was my only hope – none of the car rental places I rang had picked up the phone (at 9 am). Anyway, I explained the situation to him and then it went very quickly – we met up with him, got in the van, drove back to the service station, had the guys transfer the ninety-something packs of wood and we drove back to London… We were only 5 hours late! Given the circumstances, not bad. The ‘boys’ unloaded the van, which meant we’ve just completed our first delivery! Yay!

On that same day we brought my car back to life, which spent the last 10 months parked outside our house, awaiting our return patiently. It only needed a new battery, some air in one tyre and an MOT. We’ve ordered the turbine on ebay that evening, and had it delivered on Tuesday afternoon, the next day. Unfortunately, the fixing wasn’t that easy – as Maciej was about to put everything back together, another part (the oil return pipe) literally fell apart in his hands. That was on a Thursday night. On Friday I rang about 20 different places, before finally managing to order it for the next day (instead of a Wednesday the following week).

We picked it up from the Volkswagen (in Maidstone, I think 😉 ), and I drove Maciej to perform the final surgery. Of course, it was windy as hell, again – we were just thankful that it wasn’t snowing (just like it was in Poland at that time). Maciej came prepared. He’d put on two pairs of pants, two jumpers and three pairs of socks. He was ready.

And the Great Man that he is, Maciej told me to go to Folkestone so I wouldn’t freeze to death. And so I did!

And I’m telling you, I went proper crazy at the shopping centre there. I visited Timpson’s and had the batteries in the car key fobs replaced. Oh! I also got myself some shoe laces 😉

After the shopping madness I walked past a pub, and heard The Beatles song playing – at first, I thought it was a recording. I went past it and then turned around at the end of the alley. I walked past again, and again – I’ve heard one of The Beatles songs. This time I realised it was live music… and since I still had plenty of time on my hands, I walked in, ordered a half pint of beer and sat down by the bar. I was sat exactly opposite the band, and naturally – given the fact I grew up listening to that music – I began singing. One after another, I knew all of it. And I even made a friend! A lovely elderly man in a Christmas jumper – later on, he actually rescued me from being hit on, so I’m eternally grateful!!

Anyway, at some point, the leader of the band said to the audience: “(…) and even if we forget the words, all we gotta do is to look at that gal sitting by the bar, as she seems to know all the lyrics!”

I turned crimson red, of course! During the pause, I went to tell the band that they’re doing an amazing job, and we started talking about my knowledge of The Beatles songs etc… It was great to talk to all four of them – it was like visiting the Wonderland, almost 😉 And then the leader asked if I wanted to sing one song with them! On that one, from red I turned brown :P I wasn’t sure about that, since I haven’t done it in quite a while (6 years?!), but in the end we did it… after the pause I joined the band and we sang ‘I should have known better’ (it was a safe bet 😉 ).

So that was my little adventure, which I absolutely loved… it took me back to the times of my family’s performances – it was my Mom, my Dad, and my Big Brother Milo*.

Nearer to the end of the concert, I went back to the car and drove back to Maciej – I was a bit worried, since I haven’t heard from him for most of the day. When I got there, he was almost finished! After that, we drove back (in TWO cars, this time), I went to do one delivery with my car and Maciej went back home. Thankfully, the rest were just a few smaller orders, so that was easy to sort out…

The next day (on Sunday) we packed the van with some stuff from around the house we could use at the warehouse, and on Monday morning off we went…

Not without adventures, either – but that’s a story for another time. To sum it all up, instead of 3-4 days, it took us 9 days to return and pick Rita up from her Nana’s. Thankfully, everyone made it through alive. 😉

I actually never mentioned what make was the van that saved us! I kept the best part for the finale of this story 😉 Yes, that’s right – it was a twin of our van, a white vw crafter! The difference was, it had over 1 million km on its odometer!!! Miracles do happen. And as for our van, we appreciate it being so reliable despite everything that happened. It lasted long enough to get us through the Channel! It (He) carried on until we found the safe haven (the service station). This machine is definitely devoted to its mission of delivering the reclaimed parquet to the wonderful people of the UK 😊

The moral of this story is: no matter what happens, we always do everything in our power to deliver on time. I hope this is a commonly known fact about us, and if it isn’t yet, we’d like you to know that we’re here for you, no matter the circumstances (within common sense, of course 😉 )

Oh, and here’s another one: every event has its dark and bright sides – and here we have only the bright sides, I think. To this day we’re keeping in touch with the guy who took as to London on that horrible night. Actually, we’re also keeping in touch with the London Man&Van – if anyone here needs a reliable service like that, do let me know 😉

And finally, the last moral of the story is: no matter how prepared we might think we are for the road, and no matter how well checked and prepared our brave van is, there’s always room for all sorts of things to happen. But as the title of this story indicates – nothing or no one is perfect. And despite any technical issues that we may incur in the future, there’s absolutely no way that we’re going to walk on foot with all this wood 😉 so you have no choice but to stay positive! For us, and for the reclaimed wood :D

Mel xxx

*If you’re up for listening to a one skilled musician, you can go on YouTube and listen to my talented big brother here:

He's my absolute hero, and thanks to him, I know English so well <3

(he might tell me off for posting this here, but as they say; YOLO! ;)

** I’d like to thank my friend Claire for giving me the inspiration for writing this story the way it was written.

*** After many, many hours of repair work and care, Crafter is feeling well and it sends its love to all of you out there! Mel, Maciej and Rita xxx

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