(You thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you?)
“Midnight? Midnight? It’s Christmas Eve for goodness sake.” It was just as well it wasn’t me on the phone to the AA as it was at this point I suffered a sense of humour blackout. “There are a lot of people having a far worse Christmas than this” I kept muttering to myself.
“Very sorry sir, but there are some people who’ve already been waiting almost 8 hours.”
“We’ve already been waiting 8 hours. You want us to wait another 8?”
I buy more coffee and some peanuts, the only gluten-free food available. Despite the fact that we’ve been almost the only customers all day, the lady in the cafe still doesn’t acknowledge us. Meanwhile GPD phones our best hope of rescue, but they’re already in Blackpool for Christmas. Or Bolton or somewhere starting with a B off the M6. We knew it was a long shot.
We debate trying to get the car back onto the motorway, to bump ourselves back up the priority list. Unfortunately, though, we figure that might result in a priority ride to A&E so abandon that plan.
Harthill’s only saving grace is the free WiFi. You’d think I could have written several blog posts in the time we there, but somehow it was difficult to concentrate. Instead, we played cards and sent out SOS messages via Facebook. Sympathy but no knights came back in reply; the locals clearly had better things to do on Christmas Eve than sit on Facebook. GPD, however, did manage to finish and email off a report he was working on, definitely a plus as he would have been busy with it over the holidays. See, there’s always a silver lining if you look hard enough.
To compound things, I had cavalierly lent our other car to our neighbours. Theirs had broken down just before Christmas. “Don’t worry!” I said. “You fix my computer” (which had gone into meltdown just before Christmas) “and you can have our car while we’re away. We won’t need it.” I felt such a heel, phoning to say we were coming back and would, after all, need it. If we did get rescued any time in the next week, we were heading home to Christmas Day with an empty – but very clean – fridge and a pile of presents in Somerset. But just remember, there were a lot of people having a far worse Christmas than we were. Really.
Then Robert the AA man phones. He hasn’t been reading Facebook (too busy rescuing stranded motorists) but he’s on his way. Much cheering! But will he be diverted to another job? Sometime after 5pm he arrives, hoists up the car and takes us home. He tells us he’s been trying to get to us all day but kept getting taken off for other jobs. In fact, as he’s putting the car on the truck, a call comes through telling him to leave us and rescue someone far more deserving. He ignores it. Our hero! And he did point out that they thought we were 4 adults; there are times, apparently, when teenagers can, and clearly still should, count as children.
So we left the house at 0730 and arrived back where we started at 1830.
We went to the pub for dinner.
GPD dashed off to put petrol in The Other Car, suddenly realising there wouldn’t be too many service stations open on Christmas morning.
We went to bed, just after the children (not teenagers at this point) but not before Santa Claus managed to wriggle down the chimney. GP1 admitted a few days later that he’d opened his stash straight after his bedroom door had creaked open and shut. Then he’d gone to sleep. He didn’t need to be grown up on Christmas Eve.
We drove to Somerset on Christmas morning, through silent roads and a real winter wonderland. I will have an enduring image of a huge, ghostly heron standing stock still in the snow on the central reservation somewhere on a silent M74. We drove into another world, a green world devoid of snow, south of Manchester and arrived in time for a family Christmas dinner and presents round the tree.
And it may have been frozen diesel – the thermometer did, after all, read -11 Celsius when we broke down – but we no longer have that car. But I haven’t yet written to the AA.