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It was a dark and stormy night

February 26, 2014

… and we were driving home from visiting a friend in deepest rural Suffolk.

Hope was grumbling in the back of the car, she’d wanted to play Pooh Sticks from the little bridge just one more time and then was deeply irritated that she’d had to say good bye to her new friend Bessie the dog. Granby was reflecting on how good it had been to spend time with an almost life long friend and on the gooeyness of the amazing squelchy chocolate cake she’d made us. I was driving and we were listening to Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions band singing about the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.

I took a wrong turning, right then left instead of left then right … the road got narrower, the night got darker, the wind blew harder and in the back the small person became increasingly vocal. Another mistaken turn … no sat nav reception, no map in the car, no mobile phone signal, we decided to follow our noses and aim for the patch of light pollution ahead presuming it to be the town next to the motorway that headed our way.

The car seemed to be handling a little oddly, there were potholes everywhere and the road surface was very uneven and there were twigs and pebbles being buffeted around in the lane, I put the oddness down to the conditions and slowed down but kept on keeping on.

We came to a junction, someone flew up behind us and forced me to turn before I’d had the chance to look at the signpost … we carried on, it felt that we were heading deeper into the middle of nowhere and then there was a horrible scraping noise from underneath the car. A flat tyre I presumed and pulled over at the first turning, a tiny little fork in the road.

I put the hazard lights on and got out. The front tyre was totally deflated, the rim of the wheel on the ground.

I got back into the car to discuss the predicament with Granby. We couldn’t make ourselves heard over the shouts from Hope in the back, “hungry, sausages, noodles, hungry” “Hopey dropped book, book gone” and so on all accompanied by the best howling her small lungs could muster. I got out again to walk over the road where it was a bit higher incase I could pick up a phone signal. A car light wove its way down the tiny lane I was pretty much blocking the top of, my heart sank as I crossed back over and prepared to face the wrath of a tired end of day commuter trying to get home on a back lane.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

He was a tired end of day commuter trying to get home on a back lane, BUT he stopped, put his own flashers on and got out and asked what was wrong. I told him I had my elderly mother and my baby daughter in the car and that the tyre was flat. He came and peered down at it … “good thing you stopped”. Another car going along the bigger road pulled over and stopped … that meant that two roads were now pretty much impassable. A helicopter engineer got out and came over … the two of them were utterly bloody brilliant.

Calm, proficient and cheerful as they wrestled with the very tight wheel nuts, tolerated me flustering around with my pathetic mobile phone torch and the howls and yells from inside the car. It took both of their strength to get the wheel off … the tyre was in ribbons which made the offer of that spray stuff to go inside it to keep me going totally futile. 

I had to empty the boot of the car. Never the tidiest person on the planet, since I had a baby and moved in with my mother, my life (and most of Hope’s spare nappies / wellies / gloves etc) exists in the boot of the car … along with the baby travel cot. All of that had to be emptied out into a small mountain behind the car before they could get to the safety tyre. Good job it was dark, I was mortified as the bottom fell out of a box of tampons which rolled under the car.

Our heroic supermen were covered in car grime by this time and still battling with tyres, the safety wheel turned out to be fairly flat so had to be pumped up, again thank goodness one of them had a pump.

A bus came and tried to get past, several other cars narrowly avoided bumping into us and a light drizzle started. We were nearly done when the car lurched backwards … apparently something to do with the torque (good word) on the wheel nuts … who knew? but scary as one the guys narrowly avoided getting a finger severed when the jack fell over and the car sunk down … thankfully the wheel was sufficiently pumped up by then but when it rolled back it nearly got the other guy.

Back in the car Hope was finally calmed by listening to Australian Play School and I found a can of fizz in the boot which soothed Granby who was close to tears.

The helpful helpful helpers drove very slowly infront and behind us all the way to the motorway so nothing untoward could happen and we wouldn’t get lost again. It said all over the safety tyre not to drive over 50mph … so we pottered slowly along the A14 which once I’d got used to it really was quite soothing after all the stress.

Hope was by now back on form and singing Der Glumph and Row Row Row but Granby was still shaking, poor thing was very upset by the experience. I however felt quite punch drunk with relief, we’d been helped very quickly and by two of the most wonderful people you could ever hope to meet on a dark road with a shredded tyre, the rain and mainly held off, Hope’s nappy hadn’t exploded, we hadn’t had to wait for hours and were having a very smooth journey home.

When we got back I fed my weary crew up on pasta pesto and led them both to bed before sitting down with a large drink … we were SO lucky … things could have been very very different if the tyre had gone anywhere else.

I feel a bit less euphoric now; no new wheel needed but new tyres and a new safety wheel all of which came to well over £200 … very annoying but hey it’s only money … she said … and better safe than sorry.

All in all a difficult evening, oh and I never mentioned that the night before we’d been in A&E til 2am, Hope and I, after she had slid down slightly harder than she normally does from the round and round ride in the park about 6 inches onto the ground. She must have knocked her right arm as she then decided not to use it for the next few hours. X ray showed no damage and we were eventually sent home with a diagnosis of pulled elbow …

she’s fine now, back to Sleeping Bunnies and reaching up and clambering up and down the furniture, Granby has polished off the last bit of sherry and is back to her normal happy self, and I’m just about recovered!!! Today was, needless to say, a quiet day, lots of books, lots of milky moments and a happy run around in the park while Stuart at the garage mended our tyres.

Just on the off chance that they ever read this, huge thanks again to Kenton from the Bury St Edmunds car dealership and the helicopter engineer and his friend … you were indeed the shiniest of knights in shining armour.

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