Monday, 8 February 2016

Spanish News for the English (8)

The 'Spanish News for the English' 2016 is a sometimes tongue in cheek service, in support of European Multiculturalism for English Pensionistas (pensioners) Pensionistas who are considering a different type of winter break. This time as an alternative to the more usual break of an ankle, leg or arm due to the inclement UK weather.

Today its a tale of woe and a reminder to keep your wits about you.

We met up with another couple of Brits who like us are travelling south through France and Spain. The driver regaled me with a story that should be a heads up for others thinking of travelling by motor home through France and Spain. Like us he prefers travelling on the Autopista (Motorway) to munch the miles. For us having the motor home set on cruise control to match the speeds (58mph) of the commercial vehicles, makes for a easy and much more relaxing day of driving. But I digress.

Our motor home acquaintance had checked the route map and noted that there was a section of good coastal road to the south of Barcelona. Which was only passing through a few smaller towns along the way. A road which would allow him to come off the Autopista early (Save a few Euro's in tolls) and to drive through to their overnight destination and also shortening the journey by a few miles. He was stood at some traffic lights in one of the small towns when there was a knock on the side of the vehicle. There were a couple of men stood alongside their vehicle. One of the men said in broken English that the motor home had a flat tyre. (the UK number plates are a give away)

He got out of the vehicle, closely followed by his wife. He went to the near side, which is away from the UK vans side door. Sure enough he had a flat tyre,. The two men seemed to be of eastern European origin as they did not speak much if any Spanish. One of the men engaged them both in conversation. Explaining in broken English that there was a tyre repair centre behind the row of building where they were now parked. On returning to the vehicle they noticed that the cab door was open. His wife discovered that her bag was missing along with an amount of money and a number of important documents. It looked like an opportunist thief had been in the van and helped themselves.

They limped the van off the main road round the corner to the tyre centre. At the repair centre the tyre fitter informed them that the tyre had actually been stabbed through the side wall. Then the penny tumbled, they had been stood in traffic for only a few moments when the 'Flat Tyre' occurred. They then realised that they had been set up and robbed by being distracted by the 'helpful people'. They were feeling a little bit foolish that in a moment, they had been taken in.

We have heard similar stories in the past about other travellers being accosted in various ways This started me thinking about what we can do to make our journey a bit safer. Often when such stories are retold. Mobile homes are travelling or parked up on their own. There is an old saying about their being safety in numbers. Often we see other motor homes heading in the same general direction as ourselves. Now we tend to create a small convoy by tacking on behind. We sometimes meet up with others owners who have stopped for comfort breaks. We always tend to park close to their vehicle. This also gives the impression that the vehicles are in convoy.

Now we have changed our habits even further. We have hidden documents and money in separate places inside the vehicle. When we are driving through towns and coming up to any traffic lights which are at red. I slow down early and creep forward in the hope that the light will change before we arrive. We now only drive with all the vehicle doors locked. If I need to get out for any reason, I lock up the vehicle and take the keys with me every time. Even if its only to pay for fuel in a garage.

This is currently our third trip driving through France and Spain. A few days ago, we were tooted at by a vehicle on the Autopista. The first job is to note the registration number of the other vehicle. You could also take a picture on your mobile phone. We have a forward and rearward video camera which start recording our journey whenever the ignition comes on. We also have a small note book which is kept in the glove compartment. Where we note down things, like amounts of fuel purchased or reg numbers of any odd behaviour by other vehicles.

The passenger in the passing vehicle was indicating that something was wrong at the back. (We carry a couple of cycles on a bike rack at the rear) A quick check through the back and we could see that the cover had come loose at one side and was flapping about. We gave the thumbs up to the passenger, but only slowed our vehicle down. We kept moving, to give the vehicle chance to leave us behind. I checked the mirrors for any other following vehicles. When we were sure that there was no one following behind. We pulled over onto one of the emergency stopping points where there is an emergency phone available. Where I was able to secure the cover in a few moments. Only one of us went out – the other secured the vehicle from the inside.

Caveat: Due to language difficulties and the unavailability of translation services. There may be one or two small inaccuracies in the news provided.

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