Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A Warm Embrace.

“Must you go gallivanting at every given opportunity?”, enquired Hubby beseechingly.
“Must we have this conversation every time we have a holiday?”, I retorted.
“Some of us are not on holiday”, he replied. I sighed. Here we go again. Hubby had better get used to the holiday situation if I pass this teaching course and find myself, every six weeks or so with a week or so off.
“The petrol will cost a fortune to Wiltshire you know”, Hubby added.
“I understand that, but once there I will spend a lot less on the kids as they’ll be happy to run amok in the garden with the other children and the free range chickens, the trampoline and the Avon and Kennet canal.” Hubby raised one eyebrow.
“For heaven’s sake I was using hyperbole for dramatic effect. They will not be going anywhere near the canal unless they are tethered to me. Ok?” For one fleeting moment I’m sure I saw a faraway look in Hubby’s eye that seemed to suggest, rather murderously “What if?”
“Ahem”. Hubby pulled himself together. “And I have no plans for mid winter bathing”.
The following day, I packed the Passat. Hubby was not best pleased about that either as it meant that I was leaving him with the clapped out, leaking like a sieve, Fiat.
“I’ll be bloody lucky if the car make sit as far as work.”
“Well it’s not going to make it to Wiltshire then is it?”. This was met with silence.
“Just take it easy Alice ok? Driving fast is not economically efficient regarding fuel consumption, nor is it responsible. I don’t want a phone call to say you’ve dented the ruddy thing because you drove into the back of another car. Remember, ‘two chevrons apart’”.
Prophetic words indeed. Driving along the M5, approaching Weston-Super-Mare, the car suddenly issued a directive from the warning light panel to STOP, STOP, STOP – it being German, it would have felt more comfortable to yell, HALT!, HALT!, HALT, but it was no less intimidating in English. Driving at 75mph and singing away to Buddy Holly, I was cut short in my tracks.
“Bloody hell”, I yelled.
“What’s wrong mummy?”.
“It says to stop because we are out of oil”. My mind raced, what to do for the best? Pull over on the hard shoulder and stand by the side of a terrifyingly busy M5 with two little girls and a dog or, continue until we were safe? I chose the latter. Soon, we were in the petrol station of a Morrison’s supermarket. I bought a container of oil, opened the car bonnet and looked at the engine. Hmm. Which one of these screw lids was the correct one, I pondered. As is often the case in these situations, the age of chivalry is proven to be far from dead. A chap appeared as by magic, gallantly rolled up his sleeves, unscrewed the oil cap, poured fresh oil into the thingy, checked my dipstick a couple of times and wiped it off with his hanky, before slamming my boot shut and checking all was well before leaving me to it.
The girls were impressed, “Who was that man mummy?”, the Red-Head asked.
“I don’t know, but he was very kind”.
“But if he was a stranger you shouldn’t have spoken to him. He could have kidnapped us.”
“Listen sweetheart, it would take a special sort of man to want to kidnap a middle aged woman, two little girls, a large hairy dog and a crappy car. Just ask your father.” We continued our journey, but on the M4 just before the Bath exit, the car, rather alarmingly started to squeak and make kangaroo jumps. I swore out loud.
“What is it now mummy?” asked the 9 year old.
“Bloody, bloody car”. The next services weren’t for miles and miles, I had no choice this time, but to pull over onto the hard shoulder. If I’d thought the M5 was busy, then by comparison to this race-track it was a drive in the countryside. We piled out of the car. Ensuring the girls were safe, whilst at the same time retrieving a golden retriever from the boot was hair raising. We clambered over the crash barrier and in the rain and wind, huddled together on tiny strip of grass verge. The lorries shook us as they trundled past in their droves. I called the AA.
“One of our patrol cars will be with you very shortly Mrs Band. Try not to worry”. Worry? I was terrified. The Red-Head was crying and clinging to me, both shivering from the cold. The dog was trembling and whimpering. Suddenly, the elder one started to sing, ‘These are a Few of my Favourite Things’. We picked up the refrain and by the time we’d worked through the whole of the Sound of Music and were about to embark on Doh- a-Deer again, the comforting, flashing, orange lights of an AA van hove into view.
My reaction on greeting ‘Mark’ was perhaps a little too welcoming. It was as though he had returned from war.
“Oh thank God”, I said, over and over, hugging him, “Thank God you are here. It is so wonderful to see you”. It must be a rewarding job. He bundled the girls into his van and towed me and the dog back to Bristol, waited until all the admin had been sorted and a hire car had been allocated before leaving us.
The garage ran a diagnostic test on the car. The prognosis was terminal. It was a write-off.
Hesitantly I dialled Hubby’s number. “You there safely?” he asked.
“Not quite. Remember you said you didn’t want me to ring saying I’d dented the car? Well…” He took the news as well as any man. As well as any man who has been told his ‘good’ car is now a worthless piece of scrap.

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