It started with the inevitable call and I knew; if Number 1 son was calling it was not to say he loved me or how was I, and most definitely not to offer to do the shopping in order to cook the tea. Although technically I was working I was between jobs. I had just finished one and was driving towards the other who also had a crisis.
I answered the phone, on my hands free and was not disappointed.
There was a problem.
His car would not start and they could not get the jump leads to help. What they expected me to do I did not know but I brought the calm voice of reason and had the lads push me in his car into a parking space. I discovered on this tiny journey, the extent of his car’s complete lethargy; the power assisted steering was not working and it took all my strength to pull the car into a space. I touched the brakes and realised as I limped past the painted line that there was no power to the brakes either. Panic as the car continued forward had me jumping on the footbrake and hauling the hand version on at the same time.
Vacating the driver’s seat with the alacrity and speed of someone sitting in a pool of iced water I carefully locked his door. As if anyone else was going to try and jump start it before stealing it!
With an authoritive and commanding air I walked into the shop and found the manager explaining the situation and I would be sorting it out but may take longer than the allotted 90 minutes I was permitted to park.
Returning to the car I was unsure of the next step; do I call the AA, do I call the garage direct and get them to collect it or do I just toss the keys into the skip being used in the car park for some building works and walk away.
No 1 Son now seriously delayed in his daily plans was agitated and keen to get off but was stranded and stroppy having not had a good week with the car. He did agree to drop me at home so I could collect my fun weekend car and then he was gone.
By the time my thoughts returned to the car crisis that evening Sexy Sporty Dad was home and we drove down in his new, as in we had owned for a matter of weeks, executive car. No 1 Son’s car had not moved, and we set about positioning the new car to start it with the leads. Bravely digging under a deposit of teenage debris and malodorous discarded gym wear I desperately searched the car for the leads.
The jump leads were not in the car; that at least was as evident, as the fact we were not going to get it to start.
Sexy Sporty Dad offered me the chance to tow or be towed. Thankfully a jolting reminder and a still stiff arm from having to pull the steering wheel into position assured me that I did not want to be in the towed car. If anyone was going to drive into the back of his brand new car it was going to be him not me.
Digging deep into the recesses of his mind he tied several remembered sailing knots before settling on the one that would suffice and we hitched the two cars together.
Slowly, slowly, slowly I pulled away, a heart wrenching clunk and tug as the rope tightened and I felt the resistance from the car behind. It began to pull and through my mirror I could see my husband’s face but more importantly his hand gestures. Two cars in tandem moved onto the high street and headed for home.
Watching the road, the heavy early evening traffic and aware of the load I was towing it took a while to realise he wanted me to turn off the road. He was signalling for me to take the next road up a hill to the school. The no through road!
Bewildered I obeyed, and following his instructions through the mirror I hauled the car up the hill and pulled off into the school where he directed me to stop. I slowed carefully as he braked in unison. Glad of the respite but aware of the journey still to go I breathed, possibly for the first time since we had started out.
He had the idea that before we venture down the most precarious part of the trip; down the steep hill to traffic lights, he wanted to have a go at jump starting the engine. We disconnected and set him at the entrance to the school and waited.
Apart from school times nobody used the road except to reach the leisure centre and it must have been changeover time for the various courses as there was a steady flow of cars coming up the hill followed by a steady flow going down the hill. I waited to direct him on to the road, he might be lucky enough to get a little push as he passed but I was not running down the road pushing the car; those days are way beyond me now.
The gap arrived and with it my arm gestured wildly to go go go. The car free wheeled out of the school gates, onto the road and off down the hill. I ran, or rather strolled back to the waiting car wishing the other to start. I turned the car round and headed myself back through the school gates.
Once back on the road I could see the car at the bottom of the hill. He was already out of it and setting the tow rope back in position by the time I reached him.
Knowing the route to come I felt sick with terror; it was a main road, cars, kids, bikes all rushing around. We needed to descend the hill down to traffic lights that always switch to red, regardless of anyone wanting to come on to the road or cross. He had unusable brakes and I was so closely in front driving his precious new car. Admittedly it was a miracle at all for me to be permitted to drive it. I focused on that thought for a moment.
That clunk and tug told me we were engaged and I pulled back to the high street, and then to the roundabout onto the main road. It was still busy, and although he gestured through our mirror communicator, I could see what was coming on to the roundabout he could not. I needed to be sure I could engage, ease and enter the traffic flow with both cars before I launched.
A clearing in traffic, a deep breath; it may have to last all the way home and I pulled, clunk and tug and we were off again. With my hazards flashing madly, nobody could read my directional plans so thankfully people kept back, or went wide to nip past. We reached the brow, not just the hill it was the sudden stop at the lights that would prove to be the challenge.
We were over I kept the speed low, we descended the hill slowly. I realised I could smell burning through the open window. Should I stop and how can I indicate that to the car behind. Realisation it was not my car that was burning it was the brakes of the towed car. I continued one eye on my mirror expecting guidance. We reached the lights glowering red at me. Touching my brakes gently to flash brake lights behind, I touched again and again as we slowed even more. We had not even stopped when with a wink of wit the lights began their sequence of amber to green. I kept going.
Back onto the flat, the burning smell eased slightly and I could feel the pull behind, one more set of lights before we turned off; they were on the flat. It is funny how I had never really thought about the contours of the route to town before. We reached the lights and came to a stop, now in the home neighbourhood, people came out to wave, children laughing at the car being towed. A break in oncoming traffic allowed me to pull forward; the lights changed. I was already committed and in so doing the car behind was also committed. A now familiar pull, clunk and tug and we were headed for home, kerplunk over the slow-down humps in the road, and a slowing to turn into our narrow road. We squeezed past the cars parked on both sides and came to a welcome halt outside the house.
Leaping from the car I succumbed slightly to push the other to the side and then graciouslessly left hubby to park his car while I put the kettle on for a much needed strong tea. The phone was ringing as I got inside.
No 1 Son replying to my earlier irate message left on his phone about the jump leads.
“I didn’t want to leave them in case they were stolen so I put them in your car”
“and where is my car now?”
“I have it with me, I am about 20 miles away and will be back in the morning”
At least I wasn’t driving the old car, the brakes albeit worn are still intact, a new battery will be on the weekend’s shopping list. And a strong cup of tea does wonders for the nerves.