And here we see me wearing my best Been Waiting For An Hour By The Side Of The M4 In Freezing Weather face. For last night (Saturday) was one of those nights which at the very least gives you something to write about. The car broke down.
I've managed not to find the time to write quite a lot about my car in the last month. Did I, for example, mention that only three weeks ago it got broken into and someone stole the SatNav? Well, they did, and since then I've been using my new Garmin, having waved goodbye to Tom Tom. (Tom Tom won't give you Live Traffic unless you buy a device that costs over £200, whereas Garmin give you the same for just £100. Plusses with Garmin: it tells you what lane to get into, has much clearer diagrams when you're coming up to an exit, and gives much more detailed warnings of traffic problems ahead; Minusses with Garmin: it has a poorer Search facility, won't let you navigate to a vague area like a Town Centre, demanding you know the name of the road you want, and doesn't warn you about toll roads (you either have them pre-approved or not, whereas Tom Tom used to give you the choice when one loomed). Oh first world problems, eh?)
Here's how they broke into my car...
So apart from the car break in (I currently have a gaffer-taped doorlock) and the popped tyre (did I not mention I bought a brand new tyre and within a week it popped so I had to buy a new one? Well I did and it did so I did) and the latest speeding ticket (49 miles an hour on the M5. I know), what have I not written about the car? Oh yes, this week Halfords nearly set my car on fire.
I got a new headlight bulb fitted at Halfords, which is a simple enough job, and one they do well and quickly. Then I drove back to the office and, as chance would have it, opened the bonnet to put oil in. And it's a good job I did, as what I found was, as you can see, the nozzle from my windscreen washer, lying across my engine, melting! Had I not flipped the bonnet and seen it, it would have carried on melting until, somewhere along the motorway, my car would have burst into flames.
Ha ha, I joked on Facebook. I might have broken down on the M4, I joked. Ha ha.
So, three days later, I broke down on the M4. And here's where the fun started.
So on Friday I drove to Bolton and back, without a complaint from the car, and thank heavens it didn't choose that journey during which to break down. Instead it was considerate enough to wait until I had a simple day job, on Saturday, doing a comic art class in Kingston On Thames. En route to work I could hear some small whining noises from the engine, a bit like a fan belt slipping, but with no driving problems, and no engine warning lights on. In my head, as I drove along, I made my plans to book the car in for a service after the weekend.
En route back from Kingston the whining noise returned, and seemed to be louder and quiter depending on the speed of the car. I drove with supernatural caution, still with no engine warning light coming on, or any loss of power, making my plans to ring the garage first thing and prepare for some repair bills.
Then, just as I approached exit 14 for Hungerford, the car stopped. Suddenly the gears stopped working as gears, a clunking noise started clunking, and I found myself in a car that was freewheeling but was no longer driving anywhere. With the greatest of luck I was able to roll to the exit ramp, finally running out of steam clear of the busy motorway (which has, along that stretch, no hard shoulder thanks to roadworks, so would have been a very dangerous place to be stopped) and pulled into the verge.
It was 7.15, and so began a series of long waits, and pleasant helpful people. AA Man number 1 (you will forgive me for not getting anyone's name in the course of the night) arrived at 8.30 (during which time I'd taken the selfie at the top of the page, and frozen my feet to the bone, watching the ice form on the leaves on which I stood). He had a towtruck, but was under instructions just to tow me to the next safe refuge, not to get under the bonnet and diagnose my problem. So, even though it was obvious to us both that the car was undriveable, and that this was a "tow job", he dropped me off at Membury services to await AA person number two. It was about 8.45.
At about 9.30 AA Man number 2 arrived, in his small van, and diagnosed that the car was undriveable and that this was a tow job. However he couldn't tow me as his shift was about to end, so I had to wait for the next AA person, due to arrive at 10.15.
When AA Man number 3 arrived at 10.30 he apologised that, though he was able to load me up onto the truck, he would then be obliged to take his 45 minute break before he was allowed to drive off. The trucks are tracked throughout their journeys and can't deviate from them so, once he'd got me loaded and logged in, I then had to wait from 11pm till 11.45 before we could drive off. They got to know me quite well at the Welcome Break cafe in Membury.
The drive to Templegate Peugeot in Bristol was a pleasant one, chatting with my AA Man about coming from Uganda to Wolverhampton in 1972, and how much easier it used to be to repair a Ford Cortina back in the day, and we got to the garage at just before 1 in the morning. Gareth the security guard, as well as being the only person whose name I bothered to get all night (I am a bad and antisocial man), was very helpful in helping me drop my keys off with the garage and waiting in the warm until my taxi arrived. For the record, you'll be delighted to learn that Templegate Peugot's saleroom leaves the piped music running around the clock, even though no-one can hear it (something that would go very nicely in a spooky story sometime), and that I had taught at a school in the very town that Gareth comes from, Beaufort in Gwent, just last month, what were the chances?
Finally the taxi ride from Templegate to Clevedon, and I was home not long after 1.30am. That's not bad is it? Kingston to Clevedon, a two hour journey according to SatNav, and I'd done it in a little over 8 and a half hours.
And tomorrow I fly to Edinburgh, but that's a story for another day. In the meantime, as a happy souvenir of my travels, here's something I took away with me from Friday night's caricaturing gig in Bolton.
UPDATE Monday morning: It must be a good week for it. On the good side of things, I had forgotten to pre-book my airport parking for today's 7am flight to Edinburgh for a meeting. So I was able to go ahead and book a 5.30 taxi without incurring any extra cost.
So imagine my surprise when, at 5.40, I get a phone call from the taxi company to say that he's broken down! Cue lots of frantic phoning of taxi companies, who are not full of phone-answering elves at that hour of the morning, until eventually I get a taxi and get to the airport at 6.25, for a flight whose gates ostensibly close at 6.30.
Never have I run so fast from taxi to gate, only to be told that, in order to get to my flight in time, I have to pay an extra £5 to "Fast Track" myself (I remember once when this was a matter of "certainly sir" and they'd simply open the gate for you) and you have to go back to a machine to buy an extra ticket to make this happen.
Never have I gone through security so quickly, only to have to go back through security again because I was going so fast I'd forgotten to take my phone and change out of my pocket. Then they obviously had to scan me over with the body scanner thing, because a man whose flight closed five minutes ago is the sort of man who wants that sort of extra hold up most.
Never have I run from security to my exit gate faster, with my shoes untied all the way cos I couldn't afford a second to do them up. After which, apart from being parched and gasping, and sweaty like a pig, I was on the plane and the rest of the day has gone fine (so far, I'm still at Edinburgh airport en route home. By this week's standards, it's early days yet.)
PPS: Oh, and Halfords have phoned up. They'd got that replacement nozzle for me. Which is good.
PPPS: ...except that the garage phoned up before them to say that the damage to my car will cost more to repair than the car is now worth (new gear box and possibly new clutch). I am shopping for new cars.
UPDATE Tuesday: Just bought a new car.