Jonathan: A change of car today! My blue Vauxhall Astra steadily deteriorated over the last 8 years it’s been here in Uist: the salt air and the sand will certainly have played their part but lots of short trips (mainly to the croft just 3.5 miles away) will have taken their toll on the engine. But that said for a 14 years old it could have been worse, and anyway we were prepared to put up with doors that didn’t lock, turning lamp lenses missing, back hatch that didn’t shut properly … After all the alloy wheels still looked great, the silver sheen set off nicely against the deep ochre of rusty wheel arches. When the engine oil started to foam about 6 months ago, I started to suspect that the cylinder head gasket was not all it should be, but when during the last week I found I had to top up the coolant with about 2 or 3 litres every other day, it was clear we’d hit the end of the road! At Laing’s garage they estimated it would cost £500 or so to get the car back on the road and through an MOT: Seaumus suggested we consider a 7-year old Astra for £2000. My reaction was – we don’t have that kind of money! But on reflection it was clear we could easily end up spending far more trying to keep the old one on the road. This afternoon I went to drive to Lochboisdale to return with the ‘new’ – and the old Astra wouldn’t start: cylinders flooded with coolant! Laing’s had to send round a mechanic to get it started: a tow-start in gear drove the water out of the cylinders and then thankfully the engine burst fitfully into life – for its last drive to the garage for breaking up.
Today I sold our motorhome. A few weeks ago, as I was walking up to the van, someone stopped me to ask if I was thinking of selling it, as he’d noticed it a few times and thought it would suit him and his family. At the time I was so surprised all I could say was that as I would no longer really need it from end of October, I’d let him know, and took his contact details. Back at home a fortnight ago Denise and I talked it over and agreed we would not really have a need for the van; it would just sit outside rusting away and we needed the cash more. So a few days ago I got in touch with Paul and his wife Donna, and yes they were still interested, and this morning I gave it the most thorough clean it’s had for at least a year. This afternoon they came round to look and a test drive. And yes they loved it and we agreed a price, and a hand-over on Saturday morning 30th October – less than a fortnight away. I’ve now got to fix up my journey home, and in particular the problem of getting all my goods and chattels over to Uist!
A few days ago I checked out prices for other Autosleeper Clubmans – £12k-£14k. That’s from a dealer, in average condition and mileage for age, and our van has done 85000 miles not 55000, and has quite a lot of rust spots on the cab and other blemishes, and a few defects – none too serious or too expensive to put right – inside. So the price agreed was, shalll we say, very substantially less than that average! But considering that for the past couple couple of years Denise and I have reconciled ourselves to the likelihood that we’d end up having to scrap the van, and possibly even having to pay for it to be taken away, we feel ourselves well off indeed.I really liked the people who are buying it: it’s nice to feel the van will be making a real difference in their lives, just as it has for Denise and I over the past nine years.
The photo here was actually taken in 2003 when I first started using the van for working on the mainland. If we’d never bought the van, back in October 2001, I would never have volunteered for that secondment to work in Scotland (loads of overtime to help pay for it!); I would never have seen the Outer Hebrides for the first time from Skye; we would never have gone to the islands for an extended holiday; and – having moved to the islands – we could never have afforded the costs of accommodation when working away from home. What a god-send it’s been!