The Yorkshire seaside town of Withernsea wasn’t our original 2021 holiday destination. No, Covid had put a stop to the planned European adventure, for the second year running. Withernsea was a very last minute, what the hell, let’s just get away somewhere near the sea booking. And to be brutally fare to this sad little town, it is very near the sea. Alarmingly near in fact. Before the newly installed sea defences were completed in December 2020 around 4 metres of Withernsea fell into the sea every year!!! In 2019 a whopping 12 metres of the Golden Sands Holiday park crashed into the sea. Which is the Holiday Park we’d chosen to stay at 😀
Our little chalet was about 80 metres from the cliff, so probably had another ten or so years of life before the North Sea eventually claimed it. And whenever that monumental day was, boy would that chintz filled chalet sink fast. Weighed down with an absolute mountain of Poundland tat, our holiday chalet would plummet to the seabed like a lead weight.
A self catering holiday is always a bit of a gamble. You never quite know just how well equipped your rented accommodation is going to be. So, for anyone tempted by a Withernsea holiday chalet, here’s what ours was equipped with…
- 145 fake butterflies – 3 metal ones outside, the others plastic and inside
- 5 fake frogs – 2 metal ones outside, the others plastic and inside
- 58 metal fish – 1 outside
- 1 metal seahorse – outside
- 1 metal ladybird – outside
- 1 metal bug – outside
- Wooden windchimes – inside (yes inside)
- 15 Minion wall stickers
- 5 robot wall stickers
- 22 Thomas the Tank Engine pictures
- 1 Noddy pillow
- 1 baby-gate, broken – for the baby we didn’t have
- 1 massive rubber dinosaur
- 5 shark wall stickers
- 1 big plastic yellow bug light
- 1 robotic dog
- 1 Mickey Mouse curtain
- 18 fake tulips
- 108 random shite stick-on words
- 3 camel statues, various height
- 3 giraffe statues
- 1 granny chair
- 1 granny table, on wheels
- 6 wooden egg cups, too small for an egg
- 1 egg-timer, minus the sand timer
- 1 ‘beer’ bell
- 1 ‘kiss me’ bell
- 2 alpaca candle holders
- 17 cushions, on our 1 sofa
- 1 iron, with no ironing-board
- 6 wooden coasters in a wooden rocking-chair holder
- 3 puke green asymmetric sunday dishes/cocktail glasses
- 5 Roy Chubby Brown dvds
- 7 puke green voile curtains, plus swag – 1 directly above the cooker
- 6 net-curtains
- 8 random sliver twirly shit hanging things
- 6 wooden chopping boards – each about the size of a Ryvita
- 26 scouring sponges
- 1 horseshoe
- 6 fake diamante t-light holders
- 3 reed diffusers
- 1 miniature ceramic fruit bowl
- 1 front-door, that leaked if it rained and scraped on the floor
The list of random chintzy tat went on and on and on. What our gloriously decorated chalet lacked was…
- A dining table
- Dining chairs
- A shower
- A hoover – which is handy if you’re having to eat every meal on your knee
- A door mat – which is handy if your front-door leaks
- A cooker extractor fan
- An oven-proof dish
- A spatula
- A cheese grater
- Any form of recycling
Within minutes of our arrival, we knew the week in Withernsea was going to be an interesting little challenge. When the clutch broke on our car after 2 days, the challenge ramped up a few notches. When the AA got involved to assist with our breakdown, the challenge all got staggeringly comical. Thankfully the two healthy car days that we did have, involved the very spectacular Spurn Point, which I’d hugely recommend and a trip up the coast to Hornsea, which is another decent place to visit.
Our car died on the drive back from Hornsea. We stubbornly limped along in 4th gear for a while, but then eventually ground to a halt just outside the village of Roos. I’ll try to keep what happened next as brief as I can. But that will be hard!
On the Monday afternoon, two days into our Yorkshire holiday our car died on the drive back to our chintz filled Withernsea holiday home, so we called the AA. It was 6.30pm when a recovery truck arrived. Our clutch needed replacing apparently. As we didn’t know the local area the recovery driver recommended a nearby garage. The garage was closed, but we opted to have the car delivered there in the hope it could be repaired before our holiday ended on the Saturday. So our lovely breakdown guy dropped us off in Withernsea, before heading onwards a few more miles, to dump our poorly car at the garage in Halsham. He said he was going to leave a note, explaining why our car had suddenly arrived overnight. So we were now stuck in joyless Withernsea without a car. We therefore replenished our alcohol supplies at the nearby Tesco.
On the Tuesday the garage promised to look at our poorly car as soon as they could. We were then left to explore Withernsea on foot, in the rain. A sad little crumbling seaside town. A town overrun with way too many mobility scooters, with pubs & cafes straight from the 1970’s and the usual arcade & candy floss tat that a lot of English seaside towns seem to attract. Our wet walk around grim Withernsea was fleeting. We decided against lunch at the far from sunny ‘Sunshine Caf’ (yes minus the ‘e’) We also shunned the ‘belly bits’ that were on offer at Route 1033 😯 So lunch was back in our chintz filled chalet, with more beers and the dreaded Monopoloy. Dear God we needed our car back!!!
On the Wednesday morning the garage called to say they were sadly too busy and wouldn’t be able to repair our car before Saturday. All other local garages were also too busy. Oh shit! Not an ideal start to another day in crumbling Withernsea. I then called the AA to see what our options were. I pay them a lot of money every month and technically our original breakdown on Monday hadn’t really been resolved. Eventually after a very long call I was told that we could get our vehicle recovered back to a garage in Derby on Saturday, or earlier if we wanted to end our holiday sooner. I just needed to give the AA a call a few hours before we wanted our car recovered.
During breakfast we then tried to work out the logistics of how the AA was going to get our car, ourselves and all of our luggage back to Derby. Did we need to somehow squeeze ourselves, plus luggage into a taxi and get ourselves to the garage in Halsham? Did the AA have recovery trucks big enough to carry this much luggage? When should we arrange the recovery? Could we sort a hire car for a few days? It was complicated.
This was about the point when my dad called to see how the car repair was getting along, which it clearly wasn’t. So he very kindly offered to drive up to joyless Withernsea and collect us whenever we wanted to be rescued, which was hugely generous and a massive help. So with a rescue plan arranged I decided to call the AA again, just to check if they’d recover our car without us actually being with the car.
I called and I explained the situation…
‘We can’t recover the vehicle for free, you’ll have to pay for that service…’
‘But I’ve already spoken to someone this morning and they said recovering our car wasn’t a problem.’
‘No you have to pay for that.’
‘I was told our car could be recovered back to Derby whenever we wanted it to be.
‘Well I’ll need to check on that…’
Cue the not so jolly AA hold music.
‘Hello Mrs Coley. Yes recovering your vehicle is absolutely fine. How can we help?’
It was a frustrating and somewhat tedious conversation, with the upshot being, that I had to be present at the garage when the AA recovered our car, just to officially hand over our broken vehicle. A bit of a pain, as the garage was about four miles away from Withernsea and we had no car to get there. So in the end we decided it would make a lot more sense if I actually travelled back with our car and the AA, while my dad did the rest. We also decided to cut our Withernsea adventure short by a day and leave on the Friday. A full week in Withernsea is not for the faint hearted.
On the Thursday with the sun shining, we decided to walk away from Withernsea, towards a few nearby villages. There was no real plan, we weren’t really aiming for anywhere in particular, we just wanted to avoid Withernsea. Around 45 minutes later our sunny stroll took us into the rather quaint village of Hollym, which shock horror, had a rather pleasant pub 😯 We’d not seen a single pub all week that looked friendly or welcoming and boy had we needed one. The Plough at Hollym looked beautiful but sadly due to Covid it was now closed on a Thursday. Of course it was! Somewhat crestfallen we walked instead to the coffee-shop inside the small Hollym Garden Centre, which was also closed on a Thursday! Forty five minutes later we were buying more alcohol in the Withernsea Tesco.
On the Friday morning I was up early. I needed to call the AA and then make sure I was packed and at the Halsham garage by the time the recovery truck arrived. Tracy meanwhile had the unenviable task of sorting our chalet and making sure we’d not moved or damaged any of the chintz. So I once more called the AA and once more relayed the whole complicated saga to yet another AA representative.
‘So we’d like our vehicle recovering today and apparently we need to give you a couple of hours to sort this out.’
‘I’m sorry but you’d need to pay for that service. We can’t recover your vehicle for free.’
‘You can. I’ve been told by two separate AA people that this isn’t a problem.
‘No you’d definitely need to pay for us to collect your vehicle.’
‘I’ve been through all of this before. The last lady I spoke with said she’d make a note on my account, to stop this happening again.
‘But your vehicle was recovered on Monday. You would need to pay for us to recover it again.’
‘I’ve been told twice that the AA will recover our car, for free. So why don’t you talk to your supervisor.’
Cue the not so jolly AA hold music.
‘Hello Mrs Coley. Yes that’s all fine. We’ll send a recovery truck to collect your vehicle within the next two hours.’
Another annoying, frustrating and time consuming conversation with the AA. I then realised I hadn’t reminded them about me traveling back with the AA, so quickly called the now familiar number once more.
‘Hi I need to talk to someone about my vehicle recovery, you should have notes on your system about it.’
‘I haven’t. Have you broken down?’
‘It’s a long story… blah blah blah’
‘You’ll have to pay for that service.’
Cue lots of rather angry shouting and cue the not so jolly AA hold music.
‘Hello Mrs Coley. Yes that’s absolutely fine. Your recovery truck will arrive not before 10.15am’
‘Thanks. And just to confirm that I will be travelling back with the vehicle.’
‘That’s absolutely fine.’
I was rapidly losing patience with the AA, but sadly this was just the tip of a rather monumental iceberg.
Withernsea has just two taxis. Not just taxi companies, I’m talking about two actual taxis. Aaa was busy so after a bit of persuasion I managed to get Parish Taxis to collect me, but only after constant reassurances that I had a mask to wear. The joys of Covid. I then had a text from the AA to say their recovery truck was going to arrive early at 9.45am, which meant I’d be late getting there!
Clutching my half eaten breakfast and baggage I waved a goodbye to Tracy, Sawyer, the chintz filled chalet and Withernsea and climbed into the back of my taxi.
‘Can you keep your mask on.’
‘You can’t be too careful and I don’t want to be catching Covid.’
‘Have you been vaccinated?’
‘Yep, twice… What about you?’
‘Are you kidding me? I’m not having any of that injected into me…’
As we drove away from Withernsea I sat back and heard all about an imminent super-bug that would probably wipe out most of humanity, government corruption, the ‘real’ reason for Covid and God knows what else. I’d mentally stopped listening pretty early on. All I wanted was to get to the garage as soon as possible. I’d already called the garage, just to let them know that I was on my way and just to make sure the AA didn’t leave without me.
At Tower Garage, Halsham, the AA truck was indeed waiting when I climbed from my taxi.
‘Are you wanting to travel back with the vehicle?’
‘Erm, yep’ as I dumped my heavy bags onto the floor.
‘Well we’ve got a problem.’
‘This truck isn’t authorised to take passengers.’
‘I can’t take any passengers in this truck. Nobody told me there would be any passengers.’
The recovery driver then disappeared to call his supervisors and even across the garage forecourt I could hear the not so jolly AA hold music!
‘They’re going to sort you a hire car.’
‘They’re going to get you a hire car. Someone will call you.’
I then watching as our poorly car was slowly connected onto the back of the AA recovery truck. I waited for the AA to call, but nobody did.
‘Did you say that someone was going to call me?’
‘Yes,’ as he continued to secure our car to the truck.
I decided to call the AA myself, as I really needed to know what was happening.
‘Hi. Can someone please tell me what is happening with my breakdown recovery. I should have been travelling back with my vehicle, but apparently I’m now getting a hire car.’
‘Yes we’re sorting this out for you. We’ll give you a call back in a few minutes.
I continued to wait and nobody called me back. Our poorly car was now fully loaded onto the recovery truck and the AA guy was ready to leave. I was still utterly clueless as to what was happening. I was also a little worried that I was soon to be stranded at Tower Garage Halsham, without any means of getting home.
‘Hi. Nobody has called me and you’re about to leave with my car. I’m a wee bit worried.’
‘I’ll call them again and I won’t leave until it’s sorted.’
Cue a lot more waiting and a lot more of the not so jolly AA hold music wafting across the garage forecourt.
At 10.30 I received a mysterious text from a company called CMAC, stating that my transport was on its way. The text also had a weblink which didn’t work. Who were CMAC? What transport? What the hell was happening? The AA recovery driver told me that a taxi was on its way and that this would take me to get a hire car.
‘You’re all sorted now.’
And with that he drove off in his bright yellow, non passenger carrying AA van, with our poorly car being towed behind. I was then left to sit on a pavement with my bags, waiting for a mystery vehicle to arrive, with still no real clue what was happening. Where would I get the hire car from? What sort of hire car would it be? Did we still need my dad to drive to Withernsea?
I called Tracy to relay the bizarre events. I called my dad who was already on his way and was still keen to drive to Yorkshire. I also called our Derby garage, to relay the bizarre events and to let them know that I would now be arriving after the AA and our poorly car.
At 11.20 I received a phone-call from a taxi company, explaining that my taxi was running a little late. Apparently instead of the estimated 11.10 arrival, it would now be about 11.40.
‘Sorry, who even are you? And where is this taxi taking me?’
‘The AA contacted us. We’ll take you wherever you want to go love. But we are running a bit late.’
‘Ok… So you’re going to take me back to Derby?’
‘If that’s where you want to go. The AA just asked us to pick you up.’
So where was the promised hire car? What the hell was happening?
While I continued to sit and wait on the pavement in Halsham I decided to call the AA again. Why not, I hadn’t anything else to do. I’d still not received a single call from anyone at the AA and whatever patience I still had left was wearing extremely thin. So I dialled the now all too familiar number and this was the moment I encountered the rudest, least helpful and least compassionate AA representative I’d had the misfortune of talking with all day. Sat on a pavement 100 miles from home, with practically zero clue what was happening, all I wanted was a few answers and possibly a simple sorry for this absolute shambolic mess. Frustratingly I got none of this. Nothing even close. I was abruptly told that the recovery was being dealt with and it wasn’t the AA’s fault that my taxi hadn’t yet arrived.
‘But why am I getting a taxi? Where is the taxi taking me? Am I getting a hire car? What on earth is happening and why hasn’t a single person from the AA thought to contact me or tell me anything?’
‘The taxi will take you to the garage in Derby. It’s not our fault they haven’t contacted you.’
‘They have. The AA hasn’t.’
‘We’ve sorted the recovery. You’ll be collected by a taxi now.’
‘So why didn’t you ring to tell me anything? I’ve been sat on a pavement 100 miles from home, for over an hour, with no clue what was going on.’
‘I’ll call the taxi firm again.’
‘WHY DIDN’T THE AA CALL ME?’
I’ve just said that I’ll contact the taxi firm.’
‘I have zero issue with the taxi firm. They’ve contacted me, I’ve spoken with them. My issue is with the AA.’
‘But we’ve sorted the recovery.
My patience utterly worn away I simply ended the call without another word. Instead I decided to mentally write my enormous complaint letter, while continuing to wait for my taxi on a Halsham pavement. I later found out that apparently after I’d ended this recent conversation, someone from the AA (most probably the inhospitable girl I’d just battled with) called the taxi company to complain about the delay. An AA rep also called our Derby garage and demanded to know when they would be repairing our car (a car they didn’t have and a car they hadn’t even seen yet). All utterly staggering.
Eventually at 12.30, two hours after our poorly car had been towed away, a taxi appeared. This is when the taxi’s delay and the AA’s comical incompetence really got explained. I climbed into the back of Fred’s taxi and eventually began my journey home. It had been a monumental morning.
So apparently when my rather panicked AA recovery driver called his supervisor at about 10.00am, the AA decided to rectify their blunder by contacting and paying for a taxi company to ferry me home. The taxi company they called was Fred’s Private Hire, a one taxi, one driver, one operator firm based in Immingham. The tiny village of Immingham lies on the opposite side of the Humber and about 45 miles from Halsham. Fred was sat at home sipping his morning coffee when the AA called him. Which does rather explain why it took so long for the taxi to cross the Humber and crawl through Hull, before eventually reaching the sad bored individual who’d spent most of her morning sat on a pavement in Halsham.
I was then driven roughly a hundred miles south to our Derby garage. Fred kept me entertained along the way, as he also answered endless calls from Immingham locals demanding a lift.
‘I’m on my way to Derby love, sorry.’
The calls kept coming and I continued to hear more of Fred’s life story as we travelled further south.
At 2.30pm I grabbed my bag from the boot of the taxi and said my farewells. Fred now had another seventy five mile drive back to Immingham. Absolutely barmy! Our poorly car was apparently already being looked at, as there was no sign of it on the garage forecourt. So I waltzed into the reception and waited to get the keys to the courtesy car we’d arranged with the garage.
‘Hiya. Well it looks like you’ve beaten your car here.’
‘Your car hasn’t arrived yet.’
‘What? It left at 10.30, that’s two hours before I did!’
‘Well it’s not here. We did get a call from someone from the AA, demanding to know if we’d fixed it yet.’
Another call to the AA and another dose of the not so jolly AA hold music…
‘Where’s my car?’ I thought I’d get straight to the point and skip any niceties.
‘I’m sorry, have you broken down?’
‘So what seems to be the problem?’
‘Well… Where to begin? My broken car was recovered from near Withernsea at about 10.30 this morning. The AA messed up and send a recovery truck that couldn’t carry passengers. So while my car was being towed away, I was left to sit on a pavement for the next two hours. At 12.30 you paid for a taxi to get me to a garage in Derby, which is where I am right now.’
‘Oh I see.’
‘Only our car isn’t here.’
‘Oh… Can I just pop you on hold for a moment.’
By now I had this shockingly shite hold music etched into my bloody brain.
‘Hello Mrs Coley. We’ve just traced your vehicle and it’s currently at an M1 service station.’
Our conversation continued for a while longer, but I’ll summarise. Technically I should have stayed and waited for our poorly car at the Derby garage, to sign paperwork when the AA truck arrived (whenever that might be?) Thankfully the AA rep seemed to appreciate what a shockingly piss poor day I’d had. She also seemed to sense my absolute hatred for her employers right now, so she wisely suggested that I accept the garage courtesy car and to get myself back home as soon as possible, which I did.
A truly shocking, comical and baffling tail of events!
Now if anyone from the AA is reading through this post, I’d dearly love to hear a few answers…
- Why did I have to repeat the whole breakdown story every time I called?
- Why didn’t anyone ever call me?
- Why didn’t you send the correct recover truck?
- Why did it take almost 6 hours for the recovery truck to drive a hundred miles with our car?
- Why didn’t anyone from the AA ever apologise to me?
- And why oh why oh why would you use such a tiny far away taxi firm to get me home?
On our daily walks into sad little Withernsea, we used to walk past a mobility scooter hire shop and one day we joked about hiring a few of these to get us home. Oh how we laughed. I’ve since worked out that Fred drove a whopping two hundred and eight miles to rescue me, from Immingham, to Halsham, to Derby and back to Immingham again. According to Uber a taxi journey of that distance would cost roughly £400, which makes the mobility scooters look a lot less laughable.