Sunday, April 06, 2008

My Great Britannic Adventure, Day Four

Monday, 20 March, 1989
All Over the Midlands
Day Four

Could I go back and redo today over?

Day started out well enough. Warm and sunny; had a nice breakfast, and a bath and hairwash after. Packed up my things, paid Mrs. Payne, and was on the road by 11:00, Beethoven piano concerto tape playing away.

But not heading for York. Not yet. First we have errands in Saffron Walden. Mail the card to Mom. Mail the exposed film in to be developed as well. And see what’s wrong with the Visa.

That turned out all right: no real answer but Barclay reran the amount asked for the other day and it came through authorised. So maybe the computer just hadn’t registered the last payment.

And I called Swindon, and the Vivitar people said if I could bring the wideangle telephoto lens and paperwork in they might be able to fix it in an hour or two.

So despite the interruption in plans, I decided it’d be worth it. I got in the car and headed off down the M11 towards London, back eventually to Oxford. All sorts of fun out there going 80 mph (supposed to be 70) and passing all the truckers.

Oh, but the M25 London orbital route is really entertaining. Around the exit for Luton I was stuck in one of the biggest backups I’ve been in outside of the dead of winter. But all that was made up for by the speed-demonising generally indulged in before and after, by one and all.

The most unnerving thing was when I was in the center lane doing about 80 mph when this white minivan comes up right on my tail and starts flashing its lights at me. I couldn’t figure out what the hell he meant, my hatchback wasn’t open or anything. The left lane was no-go, doing about 60 on account of the trucks. So I moved over to the right, hoping to shake this character, and he comes over too, still tailgating, and still flashing his lights!

The only thing I could think was that this was an unmarked police car and that I was being asked to pull over and take my medicine. So just before an overpass was one of those parking inlets; I pulled off into that-- and the tailgater whizzed right on past me! And his truck was lettered with the logo of some disabled equipment concern! Jerk.

From subsequent observation I see that flashing one’s lights while tailgating means "Either speed up or move into a slower lane thank you please." But that guy had to be kidding. He could’ve taken the right lane himself and left me the hell alone. Jerk.

In contrast to the other night, I made this trip back to Coverdale* in Oxford in around 2½ hours. Picked up my paperwork, said hello to a few of the ordinands back from mission, then got the A420 down to Swindon. Losing the blue skies by now and by the time I got to Wiltshire it was starting to rain.

. . . Hindsight is 20-20, and in this case I really couldn’t’ve done anything else, but . . . it turns out my lens is a model they don’t market widely in England and so they couldn’t fix it, not having the parts. It’ll need to be sent to New Jersey. Nothing else to be done about it.

Ate the chicken and mushroom pie I bought in Saffron Walden this morning and a bit of chocolate. Then, at 4 PM with the rain beginning to pour down, I decided to try to make it to York anyway. Heavy traffic due to rush hour and highway construction most of the way to Northampton. Got gas north of Kidlington. Shell (aren’t I loyal, Mommy? [My mother from the early '70s until her retirement worked for Shell Oil]). £1.81/gal. On the Visa.

And still rain, rain, and more rain, with threats of sleet and snow to come. And people driving as if it were dry, and after dark blinding you with the brights they’ve forgotten to dim, so you can’t even follow the road.

So I gave up and decided to stay at Stamford, in Lincolnshire, and not to get cute and go driving around looking for some charming but impossibly rural and hidden bed and breakfast out of Mrs. Gundry's book. Road conditions just too lousy. So I took the first £15 place I came to, the Anchor Inn on the main street near the church here.

Another one of those decisions with unforeseen ramifications. For when I pulled into their fenced-in parking lot, the most obvious space was blocked by another car parked at right angles to it in the aisle. So I decided to try to squeeze in at the end of the row, between the inwardly-opened gate and a panel truck.

If I had written this five hours ago, at 7:30 when it happened, I wouldn’t’ve been coherent. As it is I’ve been writing myself into a stupor here so I can sleep and not think morbid thoughts about utter chaos and the uselessness of life. But at 7:30 I would’ve been more specific. Blame it on a lack of food, lack of rest, the wrong time of month, the darkness, the rain, whatever you will, but I abysmally misjudged the space I had. And when I backed up to have another go at the narrow slot I got my right passenger door hung up on the iron gate, which was wedged against the pavement and wouldn’t fold back any farther.

A more sociable person would’ve gone into the pub and found the person with the car in the way and gotten him to move it. A more alert person would’ve gotten out and closed the gate (no, that wouldn’t’ve worked. Needed the backup space initially. Well, but maybe after?). A more considerate person would’ve inquired about legal parking on the street.

But me, no! I have to put a monumental dent in the side of a hire car with only 5,000 miles on it. The people here say oh, the insurance will pay for it but I’m afraid I’ll have to forfeit my deposit as well. And that’s all I have to live on next term now.

As it turned out, the man with the intrusive car came out and pushed the gate back a little further so I could get off it. I didn’t have the cheek to inform him that if he hadn’t been in the way this would’t’ve happened. Because I would’ve found some way to do something dumb before the day was out. And it’d concern something mechanical, as with everything this trip.

The room here is basic motel (despite this looking like a 200+ year old building) with a very mushy bed. Still, I suppose if I’d stayed on the highway I would’ve had a major smash up and with my luck I would’ve been just crippled enough to be able to work only a subsistence job, but still be responsible for paying lawsuit benefits to the other injured party.

I sometimes wonder if Jesus wants me to take this trip. God, I wish I could talk to Nigel* about this! I could get hold of him in S--- if I wanted to. But I’d better content myself with praying that by some miracle he’s thinking of and praying for me. I wish I knew what God is trying to tell me in all this.

I can’t think about it now, though. It’s late, my back hurts (it’ll hurt worse in the morning, I’m sure), and I am sufficiently numb. I hope.

Quaerens me sedisti lassus
Redemisti crucem passus
Tantus labor non sit cassus!


Sandy said...

You are a better person that I. I would have said something to the lout about the way he parked. Sigh.

St. Blogwen said...

Before or after he got me loose from the gate?


St. Blogwen said...

Whoops! I just took a Google Maps satellite view of the Anchor Inn in Stamford, and that gated carpark is even smaller than I remembered it. No wonder I got stuck!

Sandy said...

Definitely after! LOL!