Hello again y’all. Here I am, just returned from an unseasonally snowy sojourn in
Iceland England, to a similarly snowy reception in this bit of France. But it is very different. Owing to a lack of wellies and a warm coat, I was pretty much house-bound during my stay in Derby – along with my son who couldn’t even get his car out of his driveway to get to work. But here – oh joy – I have hats and gloves and thick socks and all manner of cold-weather gear, and even though I also have to go outside because of the animally things that need to be done, and my fingers still get a bit chilly-to-the-point-of-screaming-agony, it is generally a pleasure to do so. Like someone (probably famous and definitely smug) once said… “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.”
And, in the light of the shenanigans I witnessed on the icy road outside my son’s house, I think that little saying should be extended to include vehicular transport. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong car. Lucky, smuggy us! We have a trusty Land Rover. Exactly what you need for this sort of weather.
So why, you might be forgiven for asking, did my chauffeur (aka Simon) turn up at the airport to meet me last night in our recently acquired other car – the cheap-n-cheerful old Saxo? A five-plus hour return journey across the frozen wastes of mid-France in a car that wasn’t wearing any boots. And the hard-to-believe reason is this. The Land Rover doesn’t like cold weather. A little bit of the minus-somethings and the oh-so-clever air suspension on this all-terrain, all-weather vehicle STOPS WORKING. That car is just such a diva! Ask it to go out in the snow and it’s like “Oh No… I just can’t, it’s simply too cold for me, my joints get all frozen in this sort of weather.” Like earlier in the year when we asked it to tow the digger home on a trailer. It was all “Oh gosh, this is SO heavy and these hills are SO steep, my heart can’t take much more of it – look, see my warning light?… my gear box is getting too hot!”
But it was okay, Simon assured me, because the main roads were pretty much clear. Which would have been fine if we were actually driving on the afore-mentioned main roads. However, since we desperately needed petrol, and since Simon had internet-searched out the location of a petrol station in Limoges that had petrol for hardly-anything per litre, we had to take a little detour before we could actually get back to the welcoming (if somewhat illusory) safety of the main roads. And since the satnav just loves to play ‘let me take you by the hand, and lead you through the (tiniest back)streets of
London Limoges’, we found ourselves driving through slippy, bendy, hilly suburban streets full of snow, and people standing around cars stopped at strange angles across junctions, taking each other’s insurance details.
But it was okay, Simon assured me, because he hadn’t yet managed to get the car to lock up its brakes and skid, even though he had been trying to get it to do that, because after so long driving cars with ABS, he wondered if he might need a little refresher course in how to handle a skidding-off-the-road-into-oblivion scenario. WHAT? Only Simon could be actively trying to skid, when all about him were doing their damnedest not to. Whilst simultaneously reprogramming the satnav to find the quickest route back to the motorway, I might add.
But it was okay, Simon assured me, because even if we broke down or got stuck in the snow, he had put his boots and his thick warm coat and hat, and a sandwich and some drinks in the car. “Did you happen to put my boots and coat in too?” I asked, innocently.
“Ummm….” he replied.
I ate the sandwich, and looked out of the window. Except I didn’t, because the wiper is bolloxed on the passenger side of the screen, so instead I looked at a load of smeary grey slush, fetchingly backlit by the glaring lights from oncoming vehicles, and wondered idly how long I had to live.
Fortuitously, we somehow made it safely to the motorway. “See… the road’s clear now.” Simon pointed out, in what I think he hoped was a reassuring tone, as he put his foot down in an attempt to reach the obligatory speed limit. At least he had stopped fiddling with the satnav. Argh! Now he was fiddling with his little gadgety thing that plays podcasts, through the one working speaker. Loudly.
I am a terrible passenger. I know this. I know that (most of) my fears are irrational and out-of-proportion. But this doesn’t stop me screaming inside every time Simon leaves it to the last minute to pull out to overtake a looming lorry, or overtakes on a bendy bit where I can clearly see the remnants of icy-snowy booby traps, lurking menacingly in the sub-zero darkness, waiting to provide Simon with an opportunity to practise his rusty skid-control skills.
“What?” Simon asked loudly, above the loudness of Mark Kermode imitating a plane taking off, instead of reviewing films like what he’s supposed to.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Did you tut?”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, I may have tutted, just a little. Inadvertently. It may have just slipped out.”
(You’re lucky you can’t hear the scream that’s going on inside my head.)
“Is something wrong?”
“Um… no. I’m just… you know… SCARED! And the radio thing is hurting my ears.”
Simon turns off the gadgety thing. “It’s just so boring, driving in the dark. Unless someone in the car is going to make interesting, witty conversation.”
Well, it’s hard to think of interesting and amusing things to say when you are stifling a scream and praying to every god there is to get you through the next two and a half hours safely, and without a heart attack induced by the ever-rising sense of barely controllable panic.
“I hate night-time driving too.” That was the best foray into the social world of companionable car conversation that I could manage.
“Well, here’s your choice – I can drive slower so you’re not so scared, and take much longer to get home, or I can drive faster, so the horribleness of the experience ends sooner? Which would you prefer?”
And this, dear readers, is why I love him SO MUCH.