It all started off so well, the car was loaded early in the morning, although the addition of a top box to my beloved Saab was offending my eye and forcing me to realise that I am a middle aged family man.
We left the house on time and were making great progress, across the border in just over an hour and M hadn’t even asked to go to the toilet or utter that immortal phrase, “are we there yet“. We stopped for lunch at Knutsford service station where M decided to take a header off a chair and cut his nose.
Back on the M6 and I decided to take the toll just to keep up the good time we had made. I turned to L and said “at this rate we will be in Canterbury for around 7 pm” and in time to catch the repeat of the final episode of Dr Who we had missed the previous weekend and then just as we rejoined the M6 we encountered a traffic jam, M6 at a standstill due to a breakdown. At this point I was still in good spirits as we had made good time, a short delay wasn’t going to make that much of a difference.
After being stationary for half an hour my outlook was beginning to get slightly less rosy and I was starting to get a bit concerned about the kids being cooped up for so long.
And then it happened . . .
a loud POP, followed by everything flashing on the dash, a reading saying engine malfunction and then nothing, the Saab was no more. Fucking Great! I think were the words I muttered under my breath at the time.
So there we were stuck on the outside lane of the M6 and just as luck would have it the traffic started to move, cars behind us started pressing horns and gesticulating.
At this point I was still reasonably calm and decided to phone the AA, who would come to our rescue, right? Wrong. I was informed by a very pleasant operator that they could not assist us until we were out of the traffic and on the hard shoulder. I would need to contact the police and get them to tow me to the side and then phone back!
After around half an hour, the traffic officers turned up and with the assistance of one of them I managed to push the car across the 3 lanes and onto the hard shoulder. At which point I called the AA back to be informed that all of their operatives in the area were busy and it would be an hour or two before they would be able to get a contractor to come and tow us off the motorway.
By now my mood was beginning to darken, the boys were starting to get restless and L was trying to put a positive slant on things which made my mood even worse. I was beginning to wish that I still smoked.
I am in a company scheme due to the amount of driving I do which is supposed to help in these sort of circumstances and so I called fleet services to inform them of the situation so they could make arrangements for a hire car as I had a feeling that the car was not going to be repaired that day and the next being Saturday not then either. I was then told in possibly the most condescending voice that I have ever heard that it wasn’t that simple, I would have to wait for the mechanic to do a diagnostic and they would take it from there.
After an hour an a half the mechanic found us and stated “your not going to France in that, mate” which I had already surmised. So I phoned the unhelpful helpline to inform them of the prognosis for the vehicle to be informed that it was after 5:30 on a Friday and it would not be possible to get a hire car as all of the offices were now closed and I could phone the Barcelona office who may be able to help me get a car from Birmingham airport.
I don’t have the vocabulary to describe how this information made me feel but if you follow this link you will get the gist of it.
To cut a long story short, after a further couple of hours of phone calls, being towed to the HQ of the recovery firm, arranging for a taxi big enough to transport the four of us and all or our gear, well all the gear that we would be able to fit in a Peugeot 207 SW, as that is the largest vehicle that the hire company had which had an E103, essential for driving on the continent, we found ourselves at Birmingham Airport trying to cram everything in the car and carry on with our journey.
We eventually made Canterbury at 01:45 hrs.
The rest of the journey was completed without any further drama, however we were a little cramped but the car did have mp3 connectivity which was a bonus.
Some day I may be able to look back at this and laugh but I don’t expect it to be anytime soon.
I’m sorry to bore you with all of that crap but I did, indeed find it rather cathartic.
One Dove – Breakdown (William Orbit Stereo Odyssey)