8 January 2011

Triumph and Disaster

Its funny how life comes at you.  Most of the time I count myself as really blessed.  But yesterday wasn't one of those lucky days - or was it?  I took a friend to the Red Kite Feeding Centre in Mid Wales.  It had snowed overnight but was forecast to thaw so I thought the roads would be safe enough to make a journey in pursuit of wild kite/snow pictures - especially as it was a Friday and the centre would not be crowded with weekend trippers.  The spectacle was tremendous but not a great photographic opportunity owing to the low light and fog.  The two hour journey to the centre always makes the trip rather a gamble.  However, the pleasure of seeing the kites and knowing that my friend enjoyed it made it all worthwhile - as was an amazingly entertaining standoff between a sheep and a heron!!  The sheep prevailed, but only after the heron had stolen some of the meat intended for the kites.  As we were leaving, I noticed a slightly different engine sound.  We stopped and listened with the window down - strange - it sounded like the cooling fan was on - not likely as the car had been standing in snow for two hours.  The instrument panel seemed OK except that the radio LCD wasn't on - oh well - it must be a fuse - WRONG!  I don't know why, after all these years, I haven't learned to trust my instincts but two miles out of town, the whole car shut down - at 40 mph!!!  No lights, wipers, steering, brakes, nothing!!!  And as we slowly cruised to a halt on the curbside of the A44, an ominous wisp of smoke (not steam) appeared from under the bonnet.  Adrenaline does very unhelpful things in those circumstances.  The only instinctive and helpful thing I did was to jump out of the car, squealing at my friend to do the same.  Unhelpfully, I left the ignition on, and, on opening the boot, could not stop shaking to get the mobile phone out.   Thankfully, I could find my AA card, the phone was charged, and the smoke didn't get any worse.  BUT - having to listen to 4 recorded messages then be put in a queue while the lines were busy was not helpful either - especially as one message was about how to stay safe (not what I wanted to wait for when I thought the car was on fire).  Then when I did get through, the AA control room could not locate my position, even though I described where we were to the nearest mile and spelled the name of the village that I could see on the road sign just 100m away!!  It was called Gaufron but might as well have been Gallifrey!  The frustration was excruciating, although I managed not to lose it because the smoke began to subside.  I had already worked out that I was going to throw the camera out into the snow if the car showed any sign of blowing up!!!
Well - many people have had traumatic breakdowns that would make great soap operas so I won't go on.  But only to remark on how kind people can be in this country.  While we waited in the rain and gloom, so many cars stopped to check that we were going to be all right - I'm sure that is a very British thing.  We were rescued after 45 minutes by a local garage - who HAD heard of the village.  The starter motor had failed to disengage and was now burnt out (the smell was the giveaway).  Amazingly, once it was disconnected, we were able to bump start the car and I drove it home for the next two hours - it performed immaculately as if nothing was wrong - how weird..  The car seemed back to normal but I didn't stop shaking for hours!!!
Anyway, the garage is going sort it out this week and I am reflecting that if all I lose is a bit of money (let's hope it's only a bit!!!), then I am very lucky indeed.
Then today, I hear that I am shortlisted for the Weakest Link.  I'm not sure if yesterday's trauma has affected my judgement, but I can't actually decide if a round or two with Anne Robinson is lucky or not!!!  But pleased at least to have another adventure to look forward to...

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