nvestigate the falIt’s that time of the year again; the entire world is conspiring against my serious intents to work on the commercial photography marketing for London. A friend’s upcoming performance at the Small is beautiful festival, the opportunity to ride a new surfing spot and an itchy foot, it is all it takes to promptly drop my best intentions and organise a photojournalistic road trip to Wales and the west counties instead. The Festival theme ‘Housing Justice’ is a perfect opportunity to explore the Centre for Alternative Technologies in Machynlleth. While my dear musician friend drops out, my brother Luke gets on board to join the road trip to the south of Wales, where we are planning to get radical on some Cornish waves before heading up to the festival.
But, despite our best intents and elaborate plans, life has the ultimate word upon our personal story. So, after dropping Luke in Bristol to catch the last train to London, I make my way to Pembrokeshire where few Airbnb interior photography requests are laid down to finance the project.
I am at Blackmoor farm house near Narberth, where I have just taken the pictures of two holiday static caravans. As I turn over the old firefighter transit engine, I promptly discover it is a no starter. After five hours of testing for faults, replacing parts and sipping on diesel, I conclude I have a fuel lift pump fault. It’s already 6 PM and it’s now too late to look for a replacement pump; I a, therefore, stuck on the farm.
Every time I incur in a breakdown, I investigate the possible faults before calling the nearest local garage or recovery services I find on google map. The person on the phone will always ask about the problem after ensuring they know my exact location with full postcode. If I expect there is a faulty car part, I also start ringing all local car parts dealers and break yards to check for parts availability. If is an engine fault, a Ford dealer, an authorised garage or a diesel specialists can always be another good option but often more expensive and heavily booked. So after five hours of testing for faults, replacing parts and sipping on diesel, I conclude I have a fuel lift pump fault. It’s already 6 PM and it’s now too late to look for a replacement pump; I a, therefore, stuck on the farm.
Fortunately, Marie, a horse breeder, and Nick, a dairy farmer who own the farmhouse offered me to stay in one of the holiday static caravans if I needed to. The stormy night gives up to a sunny morning that allows me to go under the old truck and change its fuel pump. Unfortunately, I soon discover that the fuel pump is not the problem and that my lack of fuel is caused by a failing cam-belt.
At the tenth attempt to find a mobile mechanic to come and take a look at the problem, I clearly hear Andrew on the phone saying: ‘no worries mate, give me the postcode and I’ll come take a look in fifteen minutes’. It’s around 1 PM when Andrews comes by. He promptly assesses and confirms my diagnosis. ‘No worries; I can come tomorrow morning and get it fixed for you. it might take few hours but you’ll be on the road by the afternoon’. Agreed on the deal, he takes me to a self-drive service where old Steeve, who moved here from South London ten years ago, gives me a brand new custom transit to get on with my interior photography visit around Pembrokeshire.
Andrew and his new apprenticeship from Edgey’s Garage in Llanteg work without break to get the job done. After changing the cambelt, water pump and bending straight the pushrods, the ’97 turbocharged diesel engine timing still misfires. But, Andrew’s skills are superb and, after trying timing 1 tooth up and two teeth down, he get’s it right.
There is nothing better and more uplifting than hearing your engine firing again after two days of despair.
Again and again, travelling with the old fire truck proves itself to be a challenging endeavour. But the long miles accompanied by the roaring engine noise along the country lanes show breathtaking views. The sweat spent under the bonnet, the frustration and despair caused by a breakdown are replaced by a renewed trust in the well-designed piece of engineering and faith in the heart of the human being.