I Have a Plan – Departure Date for Portugal
In the words of Baldrick – that most famous and beloved of all Brits – I have a plan!
“ Baldrick: I have a plan, sir.
Edmund: Really, Baldrick? A cunning and subtle one?
Baldrick: Yes, sir.
Edmund: As cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University?
Baldrick: Yes, sir. “
(- Blackadder Season 3 Finale )
I’m not too sure if my plan will be as cunning as one that Baldrick would have dreamed up. But I have a nasty suspicion that it might end up being every bit as good. Or, as the case generally was with dear Baldrick, every bit as terrible. Regardless, today it is fourteen days since I turned to Jay with the now legendary words,
“Honey? How about we move to Portugal?”
And as of yesterday evening – we most definitely have a plan. And a date pencilled in our diaries to go with it. A date to leave the UK on Sunday 12th of July.
Would you like to hear more about our cunning plan? You would? Okay then; let’s take a closer look…
Over the last two weeks we’ve gradually worked out the major steps we need to take to relocate. And as a good plan needs good foundations – these form ours. The rough outline of the things we must complete to make all this work.
- Essential repair work and service work to Iggy – our 2002 Hymer B544 motorhome
- Equity release – get the pension fund cashed in – our first year’s income and the start up money for a piece of land.
- Make any necessary arrangements with Jay’s nursing agency for him to work a few months a year in Scotland as a non resident.
- Navigate our way through the Covid-19 border closures and quarantines to reach Portugal.
- Become resident in Portugal with all that entails:- Residency permit, Tax number, Bank accounts, Healthcare, Social Security etc.
- Vehicle importation:- the legal process of importing Iggy and having him registered as a Portuguese vehicle – exchange Jay’s UK driving licence to a Portuguese one.
- Find and buy an appropriate piece of land:- one where we can renovate an old house or ruin and set up a small, five or six pitch, camperstop. With space for fruit trees, olives, chickens, a few grape vines and a decent sized vegetable patch. And a small pool. Definitely a small pool. Portuguese summers are hot!
Right up until yesterday we were still in full on “headless chicken” mode. Things were definitely starting to get done, but putting a steady order in place was proving a bit difficult for a couple of reasons.
For one we were on a ticking clock to get everything completed before the Brexit transition period ends on December 31st of this year.
For two there was an awful lot of stuff we had to research before we could actually start doing any of it. Like how to matriculate a vehicle. What the residency application process entailed. And what was required to exchange the UK driving licence for a Portuguese one.
For three all the things on our lists seemed to need to be done all at once. We were jumping from one thing to another and back again so fast that I was getting dizzy from the spinning.
We’d already spoken to the pension company, and our start up cash was all ready to go. Just send back the equity release form when we were ready, and the money would be in our bank three weeks later.
Jay had started the ball rolling with his agency. He’s been with them a long time and they were delighted to hear he was going to “commute” from Portugal to do a few months’ work every year. There were no legal barriers from him becoming resident in Portugal. And the payroll department was going to get back to us about any tax, national insurance, bank account and workplace pension implications.
Miracle of miracles, Jay had also found us a local motorhome and caravan repair service that wasn’t closed due to Covid-19. And the owner – Scott – had agreed to meet with us on Tuesday 2nd June. We’d already ordered a new set of tyres for Iggy from Blackcircles. They were being fitted by ATS in Stirling on Tuesday morning, and afterwards we’d make the ten minute drive out of town to Throsk – where Scott had his business.
The guys at ATS Euromaster did a fast and impeccable job of fitting the tyres as always. I’d dug our spare out from the depths of Iggy’s lockers a couple of weeks previously and decided it needed changed too. It had never been used and was in impeccable condition. But… a very big “but”… it was nineteen years old. So definitely time for a replacement.
Our old tyres were only three years old, and even after forty thousand miles around Europe they still had a good few hundred miles of wear left in them. Just maybe not quite enough for the drive down to Portugal. So with four, spanking new, Michelin Agilis Camping tyres on Iggy’s wheels, one of his old ones went into the depths of the locker in place of the old spare.
Iggy was once more well shod and ready to run all the way to Portugal. Or at least his wheels were. Sadly we could not quite say the same for the rest of him. Fingers crossed and breath slightly held we set off for Throsk to see if Scott could help with our list of essential work. And at what price as well.
If you’ve read through some of our previous misadventures you might remember we had a problem with our drop down bed back in France in January. We were hightailing it down to meet my daughter and her family in the south of Spain when one of the old gas struts broke. We spoke to our repair guys back home who said if it was safely propped up we could continue driving okay. So that’s what we did.
We’d planned on getting it repaired while we were away, but Covid-19 started to spread rapidly before it got fixed. With no time to spare we decided to wait until we got back to Scotland and just headed swiftly for home. But, drama upon drama, by the time we got back and did a quarantine Scotland had gone into lockdown too. The repair centre was closed. We weren’t going anywhere. And the gas struts never got replaced.
But we couldn’t drive back down to Portugal again with the bed still propped up above the driving seat on some awning poles! And it was highly unlikely anyone would give us a new MOT certificate until we got it fixed. So replacing our old gas struts was right at the top of our list of essential repairs.
Sticking right in next to the gas struts – in equal first place on the list – was our cab door. The check strap that prevents it from swinging open too far had snapped just after we returned to the UK in March. With that, the bed struts, the alternator dying and a world changing lethal virus to contend with, our Spring 2020 tour was definitely one we would always remember!
Jay had already had a chat with Scott on the phone about the bed struts, and sent him photos of the broken door. He wasn’t quite sure how best to go about fixing it from the photos though. So after we’d got Iggy his new tyres we headed out to Scott’s workshop for him to have a look at the damage.
We were impressed with Scott pretty much as soon as we met him. He clearly knew his stuff, and despite it being a pretty tricky job he figured out a solution in minimal time. Not only that but it turned out from conversation that he had a solid knowledge of the Spanish MOT system. We knew the Spanish system was similar to the Portuguese one, and Scott was able to reassure us the work would all be carried out to a standard their inspection bodies would be happy with.
There were another couple of minor things that needed tidying up a bit, and Scott added them to his list despite being run off his feet with work. And then, as we were chatting about trying to get a service and MOT before leaving we hit true gold.
Our mechanics were closed for the lockdown, and Iggy’s MOT was due on the first of August. He also hadn’t had a service since the end of July last year. We knew we might be able to get an extension, and Iggy would need to have the Portuguese version of an MOT for the matriculation process. ( IPO Inspecção Périodica Obrigatória ) But I really was hoping to get a major service and MOT before we got back on the road. Just to tick all the boxes. And just for my own peace of mind.
Groaning over his bulging calendar of bookings Scott magnanimously admitted he was an experienced and certified MOT inspector, and a fully qualified mechanic on top of his Caravan and Motorhome repair knowledge. This man really knew motorhomes inside out and back to front. His depth of knowledge was obvious. And his calm, friendly, professional and unassuming manner spoke volumes about his character. If he could fit us in to get all the work done in time then the Gods were truly smiling on us today.
And so we left it with him. He would need to check for parts availability. Not easy for motorhomes since Covid-19 lockdowns. He would need to go through his diary and see where he could squeeze us in. And whether he could squeeze us in enough to do everything we wanted by the middle of July.
We left him to go back to his work and set off to pick up some groceries on our way back to the farm. Heading for Sainsbury’s I suddenly remembered that we’d picked up a Tesco Club Card a couple of months ago. We’d decided to get the Eurotunnel this time instead of the ferry. It would be a lot better given the virus situation, as we wouldn’t need to leave the van. But I was thinking it might be pretty expensive in July, and we could get money off with our Club Card points.
Shopping finished and back at the farm I figured I may as well have a look at the prices and see how bad they were. We always prefer to get a crossing on Sunday. The roads are much quieter at the weekend, and it takes a lot of stress out of the drive down to Folkestone from Scotland.
The mid month Sunday for July was the twelfth, and I ran a quick booking check to see how exorbitant the price was going to be. To my happy surprise there was a train out at 20:00 for only £114 – £134 with Marley. It was still a lot more than we would have paid for the ferry, but it wasn’t too bad at all.
My fingers hovered over the booking form. I was very tempted to book it straight away. But I knew it was best to wait. Borders were still closed across France, Spain and Portugal. Scott might struggle to fit us in for all the work by then. He might not get all the parts in time.
But we put it in the diary all the same. Sunday 12th July 2020. I noticed there was a train at 20:20 as well. I liked how the numbers fitted together. And reminded me of my daughter’s birthday – July 22nd. I thought of Baldrick and smiled quietly to myself. I had a plan. A cunning plan. And with a massive amount of luck we would be on the train through the Tunnel on the 12th of July.
The first three parts of our plan are all – at least partly – in hand. Now to start reading up on part four. The part over which we have absolutely no control. Border closures and quarantines. Will they let us through? Here’s hoping.
After using the quote from Blackadder at the start of this article I thought it would be good to share a video link to the episode it was from – just in case any of you have never seen this legendary British show.
Life is short my friends. When we try for our dreams we may fall flat on our faces at any point. But when the sun sets we will only care that we tried. x