I do not recommend the Ford Puma for anyone taller than, say, three foot, who wishes to spend a night in a car, particularly if you want to be able to move again in the morning. Though ‘wishes’ may be somewhat misleading here… Nor can I say I am impressed with the venue; a motorway service station overnight on a rainy Friday appears to be the place for loud and possibly less than sober idiots to congregate in fast cars, and the assumption that a woman alone is fair game to be harassed is not one of which I approve. It was an uncomfortable night. Made far worse by the fact that after 500 miles I was stranded a mere forty miles from home.
I had set off Thursday for the north… we had a meeting planned to discuss next week’s Silent Eye event in Glastonbury…but first I was meeting up with Stuart in Sheffield. We had a book to publish and Doomsday: The Ætheling Thing is now live in paperback and for Kindle! Not a bad start to a quick, one night trip!
I could, of course, have got there earlier, but as I wasn’t meeting Stu till after he’d finished work I had called in at a church on the way. I have a fair bit of research to do on that place yet, but it was well worth the stop, I have to say!
Then, however, I got a bit sidetracked. It was inevitable. It is Lammas and the heather is in flower… So, while I could potentially have been in Sheffield two hours early, I arrived a scant ten minutes before our appointed time.
“Do you want to see the pictures of what I found?”
“You found Nothing…” Want to bet? Oh I had found stuff alright…. An eyebrow even went up at the David window… but of course I had found nothing…not even the Eagle Stone. Which may be why I had failed to stop and find a Bakewell Tart on the way….
We found traffic though all the way to the meeting once we had left Snake Pass behind. Although we had left very early, we were a few minutes late at the rendezvous. We found further traffic on the way to the coast where I was dropping my companion for the weekend. I found even more of it down the motorway… being the start of the holiday season… and hit Birmingham as the darkness closed in.
Now, the twenty miles of road around that city is lit, so it wasn’t until I had left it behind that my niggling fears were confirmed. I had no headlights. They had been fine earlier in the driving rain and spray, but now… zilch. Only parking lights.
Not wanting to park on the side of the motorway lightless I cosied up behind a slow moving lorry for the next 20 miles, using his headlights till the first services where I gratefully exited, knuckles white as I parked up to investigate. I carry spare bulbs, but apparently to change a bulb in the Puma you have to dismantle the front end of the car, pretty much. Not having the requisite tools, I called for assistance and settled down to wait the interminable time they quoted before they could get there, closing my eyes and trying to doze.
It was midnight by the time someone tapped on the window. The shaven headed youth in combat shorts grinned up close through the window. I wasn’t happy. Okay, I was scared stiff. It was dark and lonely there.
On the other hand, a quick glance around showed me a mechanic’s van parked close and he shouted through that he’d come to fix my lights… sigh of relief. Bigger sigh that I had someone on the other end of text messages so I wasn’t entirely alone, so to speak, though the phone was almost dead.
Half an hour later the nice young man had done all he could, sucking in air as he explained about the burned out wiring and the risks, disabling the lights to make them safe. The last forty miles would have to wait while morning and pray for good weather.
I dozed fitfully till a rainy dawn, waited till the weather broke and made a run for home. It had been a bad night, and the local, shall we say ‘wildlife’ had made it uncomfortable. A four hour journey took twelve.
On the other hand, I am home, safe, and the car is now in the hands of the local garage.
The real irony is that I had been tunelessly belting out driving songs to stay awake…