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Life after Marquis PDF Printable Version E-mail

Fulda Valley

7 October 2014

Dear Friends

Life after Marquis

Before Marquis we had wintered on the south coast of Sicily and enjoyed springtime in the Greek Peloponnese. We returned to the UK in June 2014 in order to exchange our VW mwb Crafter van and Lunar Quasar caravan for a 3.5 ton motorhome. In sharp contrast, Riverside Caravan Park in Worksop (Notts) became our home for the month of July while we extricated ourselves from the clutches of Marquis Motorhomes. Conned by their false advertising and their initial sales lies, we found ourselves with the motorhome we had wanted but which could not be driven.

By August we found a much better motorhome at Brownhills of Newark, spent some time equipping it, tried it out in western Scotland and then took the overnight ferry from Newcastle to Ijmuiden near Amsterdam. From then on, life has settled down into the normal but ever varying rhythms of travel.

Having now moved on from the Marquis episode, we did find some satisfaction in writing a detailed account of the events, putting the internet to one of its better uses. We remain amazed that large organisations such as Marquis ignore the exposing power of the internet and still believe they can mislead and cheat individuals with impunity. Yet their business is one in which the loss of a single sale can cost them thousands!

Barry had a working life in a Polytechnic/University with a cast of several hundred; Margaret was Branch Secretary and then Chair of the lecturers' trade union in a large technical college. We became accustomed to organisational games and how to play them; in fact, we came to enjoy them and Barry's MBA helped with the theory as well as the practice. The Marquis management consists of amateurs, mechanics in suits, playing in a small muddied pond which is slowing draining away beneath them.

Marquis already had ten branches when it bought up South Yorkshire Caravans, a bankrupt business which occupied a desolate 50-acre site along a back road into the former mining town of Dinnington. There is no sign of any phoenix arising from those sad ashes; in fact there are no signs at all around the site, except one for 'Reception' over the entrance to a single building. Inside, there are no customer facilities except the shared use of the small staff toilet and the motorhomes have to be taken elsewhere to be serviced and prepared for sale.

A large number of caravans and a small number of motorhomes occupy the otherwise empty site, with no clear indication of which, if any, are for sale. Or which, if any, are open to inspection. An advantage is that any putative customer is unlikely to be disturbed by a 'sales executive'.

All this is in marked contrast to the reincarnation of Brownhills on its Newark site, following the change of ownership and management. With easy access from the junction where the A46 crosses the A1, the site is clearly signed outside and within. There is defined parking for visitors and a warm welcome from all the staff you may meet. Brownhills deal only in motorhomes and the advantages of this specialism are immediately obvious. All the motorhomes that are for sale, used or new, are open for inspection with information to hand and the knowledgeable sales staff are immediately available but not intrusive.

Other facilities open to the public include an excellent and reasonably priced bistro/cafe, a well-stocked accessories shop, good modern toilets and a machine dispensing free drinks (tea, coffee, soup or fruit juice) inside the large indoor motorhome showroom.

Buying a motorhome at Brownhills is a pleasure, working through a competent and transparent process that is well explained and documented at every stage. Motorhomes are thoroughly prepared, serviced and repaired in one of several specially built workshops on the site and accessories can be fitted at any stage before collection.

All motorhome purchasers qualify for automatic membership of 'Club Brownhills' with the following benefits: unlimited free overnights with a hook-up and free WiFi; water-filling and toilet-dumping, use of a swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna, washing-up room, toilets and showers, TV lounge with books and games, and a coin-op washer and drier. All this plus a 10% discount at the café and the accessories shop. As long as you continue to own any Brownhills-bought motorhome!

Our VW Crafter van and Lunar caravan were taken in part exchange at very good prices compared with other offers. So we drove in with a total weight of 5 tons and a train length of 12 metres (= 40 ft), then drove out in a German-built Carado motorhome weighing 3.5 tons with a length of 7 metres (= 23 ft). That's what we call 'downsizing'.

We had a problem with the gas supply to the fridge in the Carado whilst in Scotland (on the banks of Loch Lomond) and had to call out a mobile repairman, John Allan, from south of Glasgow. His wife Fiona came with him on her day off: she is a policewoman of arresting appearance in a very Gaelic manner. The point is that Brownhills repaid the cost quite promptly and without argument: £75 for the repair and £25 to cover the cost of a night on a nearby campsite while the work was done. All this turned a problem into a pleasure.
On the road since 1995, initially in an American Ford E350-based Four Winds motorhome, followed by a similar Chevrolet-based Fleetwood Flair (interspersed with three round-the-word journeys each taking one year), we have returned to what we do best – motorhoming. We did give the caravanning life a good run over the last three years, trying two towing-vans and three caravans through about twenty countries. Now, with a motorhome equipped with a solar panel, two leisure batteries, an inverter, a large water tank, 36 litres of refillable LPG, extra security locks, a good alarm/double immobiliser and the bikes safe and dry in the garage, we feel ready for almost anything!
Our initial focus is on regaining cycling fitness on the long-distance cycle paths of the Netherlands and Germany. Quite serious rides in the spring of 2014 in the Greek Peloponnese were followed by the fallow summer months in England, where to cycle is to risk all for very little return. We did ride the short stretch of a miserable pretence of a cycle path alongside Loch Lomond and that was enough. Compared with the long-distance cycle routes of northern Europe, the 'West Loch Lomond Cycle Path' was a travesty.

How sad it is that most people in the UK have no idea what can be achieved for and by citizens in countries with social-democratic values. Instead, too many subjects of Her Majesty live passive, inactive and sheltered lives behind walls of state and capitalist propaganda. One might say 'screened from reality'. No surprise that Scotland tried to make its propaganda more effective by enlisting stories from a history that never was.

This is the third time in as many years that we have ridden the cycle paths that parallel the great rivers of Germany: the Rhine, Danube, Mosel, Weser, Fulda, Werra, Main, Lahn, Tauber, Neckar, Saale and Spree. During September in 23 day-rides we have built up our distance to 45/50 miles (72/80 km): not what we used to do but then we are not what we used to be! What still weaves its magic for us is the combination of the motorhome as a movable base, carrying the bicycles to ride on long-distance traffic-free paths.

Cycling helps to avoid simply being 'tourists'; we avoid tourist objects and we are too often bored by the accounts of other motorhomers hopping from one Rough Planet 'must-see' to another, seeking only a free place for the night. We also aim to give our journeys a theme and this time we are accompanied by the Professor Richard J Evans trilogy: 'The Coming of the Third Reich', 'The Third Reich in Power' and 'The Third Reich at War'. It is only in such detail that one can begin to contemplate how this great and industrious nation at the heart of Europe could descend into such dreadful barbarity, and how it still struggles to find itself a place in contemporary Europe.

Barry's search for understanding builds on a childhood of night-time German air raids, of months sleeping in a back-garden air-raid shelter and of a 6-month evacuation to safety from Britain's second-heaviest bombed city: Hull.

Margaret's interest comes from her knowledge of the German language and literature that she studied at degree level, a love of the country, its traditions and folklore, mixed with bewilderment at its 20th century history.

Moving on from Germany in due course, our overall aim will be to travel through mainland Europe in a Great Circle, the size of which will depend on our speed, its radius and the centrifugal forces which we encounter. As far north and east as we can, then south through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria into Turkey and/or Greece.

It would then be good to return to the UK in springtime, island hopping via Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and so into Genoa and over the Alps. Other things being equal (to what?), we can be out through the winter, free of the Nanny State and the all-pervasive unforgiving eyes of its countless cameras. One thing the Germans have learned after years of the SS, the Gestapo, the Stasi and all their informants, is to eschew all forms of surveillance. So there are very few cameras here and Edward Snowden is their hero. Compare and contrast!

Go well.

Barry and Margaret