I am not the best packer in the world. I can admit to my failures in that discipline. When it comes to packing things in and making sure everything fits, well, I’m a genius, but when it comes to rapidly leaving the house with my life in order, I am the tortoise. Upturned and with my feet waving in the air.
Which is why it should be no surprise that on Friday, when I was heading to a friend’s house for supper near Hungerford, rather than managing to leave at the time I’d set myself of 4pm, I was still faffing at 6 o’clock. But that’s fine, so I’ll hit little more of the rush hour traffic, get a little more frustrated, and drink my first glass of wine a little faster upon my arrival, but no faster than normal, because it is normal for me to be late. I wonder if I arrived early to a place if I would drink my wine more slowly. Ah, speculation; it will never happen.
But on Friday it was different. Mainly because, after turning the key and the engine doing a single chugg, it refused to do a single one more… Out on the street, strangely bereft of other cars, and more particularly my next door neighbour and friend’s car, I wondered hard about what to do.
I was at least prepared. A car that has done 100,000 miles can be relied upon to not be entirely perfect in all circumstances, and so I upturned my packed boot and seized the jump leads, which were of course right in the bottom. But what use without a friend to help? After several frantic calls, I quickly that all my mates were more organised than me and their journeys out of town had taken them away from usefulness. Most inconsiderate! And the AA informed me that a call out at my home would cost over £100, money that would be better spent on whiskey and hookers (not their words, but I knew that was what the operator was thinking).
God was very generous in providing me with a pair of arms, so I decided to use them instead. I don’t know my neighbours on the other side of the street. A strange line to write because it implies that I do know those on my side, and yet it is true, my country upbringing meant that when I arrived there, I banged on my neighbours’ doors and introduced myself. Apparently that’s “not normal”. Anyway, a car arrived on the street, driven by a complete stranger, as is quite common in London. I knocked on her window asking for help, and being French, she didn’t immediately call the police, so all good.
She kindly spent half an hour trying to juice my batteries. Not a euphemism, my car wouldn’t start remember. But after half an hour, nothing, nada, zilch. Something was not working. I just figured her car wasn’t powerful enough, so said thank you and flagged down a neighbour with a bigger car, and the whole family inside, ready to . Lovely, lovely people, but half an hour later still nothing. Having wasted a good hour of several complete strangers’ time, I, with my enormous mechanical knowledge, decided that the problem must be the jump leads. I was wrong, but go with me.
What I have failed to mention is that not only was the car packed with my kit for the weekend, but I had my puppy with me, who was extremely excited because she had spent the day chasing the chickens around my garden. In sympathy to my chickens, I had decided to rehome them with my mother in Gloucestershire before the puppy finally succeeded in catching those two flappy squawky toys and terminated their squawky flappiness. So they were in the car also, in a cardboard box, of the variety that the puppy likes to tear apart anyway. Ah yes, a well thought through journey.
I cycled to Halfords, just round the corner, cycled straight through the door, bought the jump leads and cycled straight back out. I like a shop where they don’t mind you cycling through it.
The final chap I stopped was called Daniel, from St Lucia. Half an hour later, still nothing. Shit me! By now it was 8pm, I was an hour later than I’d said ‘d arrive, and had an hour and a half drive ahead of me. What to do? The puppy had nearly worked her way through the cardboard to the chickens, Daniel was wasting his Friday night on a stranger, and even my flatmate who’d come out to ogle and laugh at me was getting bored. Why not try to push start the thing? Well, why not! And it bloody worked! I recruited another body off the street, and with flatmate and Daniel, I really made them work for this. Because I didn’t realise that to push start, you have to jerk the clutch on and off. I pulled it out slowly, putting the weight of the car and engine onto them, but they managed it, the heroes.
By now I was guessing it was the starter, so realised that I shouldn’t stop the car, and my journey as far as Hungerford was fairly uneventful. But I still hadn’t bought any wine for the party… Ah well, the Co-op in Hungerford is up a hill, if she won’t start, I can just roll her down the hill to do so. The problem with hills though, is that they have a bottom.
I managed to recruit the guy behind the counter of the co-op to help, something he was to come to regret. He pushed me down the hill and I did my gradual lift off the clutch, so no start. But we were now right in the valley, so to push start me again, we’d have to push the car back up the hill! This being the countryside, a bystander called out offering to help, and he turned out to be a local rugby player, so for him this was useful exercise. Not so for the skinny lad from the co-op, who was already flagging. Bright red in the face, he definitely didn’t feel he would be able to do too much more. Rugby chap and I persuaded him to help push the car back up the hill, and we tried again. And again. This poor lad looked like he was about to pass out, but having committed to help he didn’t feel like he could just quit. Strange that!
Luckily, on the next go, it started, I thanked them both and arrived at 9.45 for a great supper. The chickens were put to bed in a shed, the puppy let loose to play with the puppy there. Randy little sod, mine is only 20 weeks, theirs is only 12 weeks, but spent the entire time trying to shag mine! A permanent prepubescent perpendicular penis that little randy boy. I’m only glad my little lady was bigger than it!
The following morning, I called out the AA, who confirmed the starter motor, and also showed my how to properly push start. But being Saturday, I was potentially stranded. Thinking fast (not bad with the hangover I had), I contacted several garages. Did you know that garages shut at 12 on Saturdays? I didn’t, and as it was already 9.30, getting the car fixed, not a hope – no time to get the part, let alone to do the job. However, as I was going through Swindon, I was directed to a car parts seller, who not only had the part, but had a tame garage round the corner. A piece of luck.
I bought the part and went round the corner to see Neville. His mechanic was a 17 year old girl called Sally – and she was hot. Not what I was expecting. They all fell in love with the puppy and gave me loads of advice before starting work of the motor and sending me off for a walk. And that should have been that. And it pretty much was. Except for the short drive from Swindon to home, near Cirencester. Just one mile from home, the puppy, sat on the front seat, threw up her breakfast. Poor puppy. Poor car!