Ghost in the machine

*Sharp intake of breath* -Dad, is that a ghost?!

Atop the hostile peninsula at Tintagel, Cornwall, are the well-visited ruins of a castle and an ancient settlement. This site is truly spectacular, not only for its fascinating backstory and dramatic views but also the geological impact on the bridge which had once joined the two elements of the building. As a side note, there are controversial plans to install a modern footbridge where the historic bridge once existed.

The castle, built by Richard 1st Earl of Cornwall, is a combination of history and mystery, with literature linking it to the stories of King Arthur. Legend has it that King Arthur was conceived at this site under magical circumstances thanks to the wizard Merlin, whose name is lent to the cave below (reachable only at low tide).

Little wonder then, that a boy around six years old thought he’d seen a ghost when he and his father entered the Tintagel castle tunnel and caught sight of me up ahead in the semi-darkness.

That afternoon, I went for a long drive in Groggy the campervan to explore more of Cornwall’s majestic North Coast and I was not disappointed. By about 5pm, I pulled up feeling inexplicably exhausted and decided to have a power nap –I never nap –and woke up again at 10.30pm. I was very confused as to how I could’ve slept for so long, and absolutely gutted because I missed the gig of my friend, Mr Moon, as a result.

Groggy is better associated with the phrase skeletons in the closet than ghost in the machine. The more time I spend driving, sleeping, cooking, eating, writing, reading, living in that van, the quicker I realise those little issues I thought existed are, in fact, quite significant.

Since I bought this motorhome at a budget price, it went without saying that Groggy would need some money spent here and there on fixes and improvements. But there was one problem in particular which had lately become quite serious…

I had to clean the surfaces and bulkheads of my campervan more regularly than expected owing to a recurring layer of fine grey/black soot. In the past, I’d only used Groggy for long weekends so it was never really noticeable. Now that I am a permanent resident, this had become a concern.

More alarmingly, when the engine was cold or laboured (such as pulling up a steep hill), there was a strong smell of diesel exhaust filling the van. The other day, the sunlight highlighted visible fumes leaking inside from an obsolete speaker by the driver’s door. Not ideal.

Upon the recommendation of Vince from the RAC (who had to attach not one, not two, but three sets of jump leads to kick-start my flat battery), I went to see Dean Reardon. Dean searched under the bonnet and along the exhaust for signs of a leak but to no avail… until he noticed that the very end of the exhaust pipe was pointing directly at a rusted hole in the bodywork. Consequently, the exhaust fumes were being expelled with some force into the cavities of Groggy’s makeup. Once inside, the deadly fumes with a trace of grey soot made their way through every hinge, hole, vent and even disconnected speaker grilles.

Could the overwhelming tiredness I had felt the other day have been caused by carbon monoxide? If it was, I could easily have become the ghost in the machine.

Thanks to Dean’s accurate diagnosis and swift handiwork sawing and welding, the exhaust is now extended and rerouted and my lungs are all the cleaner for it. Now if I can just sort the wiring out so that the fridge doesn’t kill the battery anymore…!

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