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11:51pm on Tuesday, 6th January, 2009:

In the Car


My elder daughter passed her driving test today. Yay!

That's not all that happened, though. Immediately after passing her test, she came home, we packed up the car with her stuff, and set off to Bristol to get her back to university. Our car isn't insured for her to drive, so I had to drive the whole way.

Things went well to begin with. After an hour, we reached South Mimms services on the M25 and stopped for lunch. The roundabout leading to it was pretty busy — it took us nearly 10 minutes to get round — but there were highway control officers around directing traffic and telling people to put their seatbelts on if they didn't have them done up.

After lunch, we rejoined the roundabout to get back on the M25.

Ah. The slip road back onto the M25 was closed. Apparently, there were some roadworks there that we'd seen no mention of when we left the M25 to go to the services (otherwise, we would have stayed on the motorway). We had to take the A1 instead, and head south into London to pick up another road that would get us back to the M25. This road turned out to be the A41.

Except, as we approached the A41 I had to get in lane — the right-hand lane of three. There was a barrier there to separate the carriageways, and I could see a white line a couple of feet away from it. Unfortunately, though, the sun was low in the sky and shining right in my eyes, and it wasn't exactly a white line: it was a kerb. As I slowed down for the roundabout, I scuffed it.

OK, scuffing the curb is no big deal, except I happened to scuff it exactly at the point there was a raised drain cover. It split my front, driver-side tyre in two places. I managed to pull across the other two lanes to find a place off the road to stop (which was blocking the drives of about half a dozen houses) and got out my hazard triangle. I then set about removing the tyre.

Things went well, and I got off four of the five bolts quite easily. Then came the locking bolt. The locking bolt needs a special attachment to the spanner to work, and I didn't know where it was. It wasn't in the boot or under the bonnet, but fortunately my daughter found it in the glove compartment. I removed the final bolt and hey presto! The wheel wouldn't come off.

It was stuck on with rust. I couldn't budge it. All I needed was some WD-40 and a mallet, but I don't carry them in the back of the car. After 15 minutes of trying, I got out my phone to call the AA. There was a text message there from my younger daughter asking if I'd be back in time to pick her up at 5pm from some after-school event. I texted back that I wasn't.

The AA said they'd be there in about an hour. When I queried it, they said I was lucky — it was six hours yesterday. They noticed I was Dr Bartle and asked if I was on call. Regrettably, with two suitcases on the pavement, I felt unable to sustain the lie that might get me priority treatment, so I told them I was a different kind of doctor.

About 10 minutes later, a car pulled up behind us and a guy got out. "You av trb wi tyre?" said the man. Yes, he did indeed have such an awful speech impediment it was almost impossible to understand him. I explained my problem and he went back to his car, returning seconds later with a can of WD-40 and a mallet. He sprayed on the WD-40, bashed the back of the wheel with the mallet, and it came off. Yay!

Then he went back to his car and returned with a drill that had a hexagonal spanner attachment. He screwed in our bolts on the spare wheel in a trice. Then her returned and came back with a longer manual spanner than we had, so he could tighten the bolts even more. I looked in the boot of his car: it was completely full of tools. He had more than the AA man would have had.

As he was a good Samaritan, I offered him our unopened packet of Minstrels, but he declined. "I ad cancr f the mou, I ca't eat em", he explained.

All fixed, I got out my phone to call off the AA. "Please insert SIM", it said. I hadn't taken the SIM out. Maybe standing outside in a temperature of 2 degrees Celsius caused it to seize up? I used my daughter's phone instead.

Our spare tyre is only rated for 45mph, so the remainder of the journey to Bristol took somewhat longer than we intended. The return journey (all 200 miles of it) took me four hours. It must be the only time I've ever driven that kind of distance and never got within 10mph of the speed limit.

So it is that I managed to get back here just in time to maintain my record of writing a QBlog entry every day without missing any.

And so to bed...

Referenced by What are the Chances of That?.

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).