KILL ME* I AM SO FRELLING STUPID. I RAN WOLFGANG INTO THE GATE AT THE MEWS. ARRRRRRGH DOESN’T BEGIN TO COVER IT. STUPID! STUPID!!!! STUPID!!!!!!
It was totally, totally, TOTALLY my own cretinous fault but there are one or two extenuating circumstances (sort of). The drive into the mews is the long squiggly we’re-an-IMPORTANT-county-family drive to the Big Pink Blot, which used to be the local big house** and therefore has to have a grand entrance to elide gracefully with the rest of the general pretension level. The entire front wall that faces the road (from a judicious and dignified distance: this is all about impressing the crap out of anyone approaching) is still there, including the brick pillars on either side of the gateway . . . and the gates. The gates are just what you’d expect: black-painted wrought iron with a few twirly bits. They always stand open, and they open inward.
The drive is very badly lit. That’s very badly lit. There are a lot of trees—and two faint point-zero-six candlepower lights set into the brick posts—on the outside. They serve to make the entrance look like a good place to avoid—the sort of place M R James wrote stories about.*** They throw just-inside the gate into absolute darkness. When you’re on foot—perhaps flanked by two hellhounds—crossing that threshold after sunset is like walking into a wall. We do it almost every day, this time of year. Ugh.
Even during the day—or the so-called day, when it’s overcast and January—the driveway, and especially the entrance, are murky. It was overcast and January yesterday. And I was thinking about the handbells† I was on my way from the mews back to the cottage to ring. . . .
BANG. Tinkle tinkle tinkle.
It was bad enough yesterday evening. I knew I’d taken out a headlamp, and crunched the wing. I got back to the cottage and immediately rang the garage. They said Monday earliest even to get the parts. And what I haven’t told you yet is that I’m visiting a seriously-poorly friend on Tuesday—and I am visiting her, if hellhounds and I were going to have to set out tomorrow and walk all the way.
But it wasn’t till this morning after the shock-horror part had worn off a bit that I took a really good look at poor Wolfgang’s front end. Whereupon I bundled hellhounds into the back and drove out to our old village, which is where our garage still is—and peering around nervously for policepersons, since I’m pretty sure we’re illegal in this condition. Blaze took a look at the situation and sent me back to the designated body shop, which is this ominous looking industrial estate/warehouse on the edge of New Arcadia . . . which looks like the kind of place Stephen King writes stories about. There’s also no door. Having wandered whimpering in the general environs for a few minutes I eventually took a closer look at a battered, scuffed piece of detritus that wasn’t quite a match for the rest of the wall and . . . it was the door. Sign? Label? Doorknob? Anything? Ha. That would have been much too easy. I suppose this nonstandard approach to public relations does prevent them from being overwhelmed by work from a paroxysmal, inattentive public, but when you’re already feeling a bit emotionally frail it does your head in. Especially after I opened the magic portal and stepped into something out of the final battle in SUNSHINE only with more ambient dust. When some fellow loomed toward me through the twinkling, toxic clouds, I almost screamed and ran away.
Which would have been a pity, because he’s a sweetie.†† He looked at Wolfgang and went ah, hmm, and I said, the car is sixteen years old, I just want it to run, and he said fine, we can do that. And I said (pathetically), when? And he said, well, we aren’t doing anything urgent, I can get on the phone now about the parts, and . . . you can have it back Wednesday morning latest. I breathed a deep sigh of 90% relief while the remaining 10% went into high gear about Tuesday . . . And then he gave me the keys to the courtesy car. There is a god. At least a small, friendly one to do with absent-minded women who are too stupid to live. Eep, I said.†††
Windscreen wipers‡ here, he said briskly. Lights here. Everything’s pretty straightforward. Fill the petrol tank before you bring it back.
I was probably looking a little dazed. You’ll be fine, he said, patted the bonnet in a genial way, and disappeared back into the billowing whatsit‡‡.
The very first thing I had to do is back up about a hundred yards, with a brick wall six inches to my left and a long queue of semi-derelict cars to my right and the gear box on my borrowed charger is weird, with all the gears sort of bundled down at the bottom somewhere: once you’ve successfully made it into one gear the rest of them are more or less in the right place . . . but it’s like a kid’s drawing of a face, where all the features are crowded into the chin. You expect eyes to be up near the forehead, the nose to be in the middle . . . my tiny blue rescuer also has the getaway force of a lame hedgehog—makes my sixteen-year-old Golf look positively frisky. But the point is it exists. And I didn’t run into anything . . .
I now have to spoil this happy not-quite-ending with the tale of the frelling gate, but I think I’ll save that for the next chapter.‡‡‡
* * *
* I know you’re not going to kill me till after I finish PEG II.^ Still. Keep it in mind.
^ And the one theoretically next in the queue is ALBION, you know, the not-Sunshine-but-in-Sunshine’s-world. You might even want to wait after that one. And the FORTY SEVEN NEXT DAMAR NOVELS of course. And TAM LIN. And NOT THE WICKED STEPFATHER STORY. And . . .
** They may have been important, but they had no taste. And it’s some kind of listed^, so the current co-op owners can’t change much.
Don’t let English Heritage—who is in the business, after all—fool you. Being listed is—or anyway can be—a nightmare. Both the cottage and Third House are in a ‘conservation area’, which is to say the old centre of town, which is bad enough.
*** You had better know who M R James is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._R._James
† Which is the real reason^ I was a trifle preoccupied during handbells last night. Although we still got through bob major. I would be much happier about the apparent/comparative rapid development of a bob major autopilot if this hadn’t, of course, given Niall ideas. I’m supposed to learn one of the inside pairs of bells for next Tuesday.^^ The trebles and tenors—the two outside pairs of bells (1-2 and 7-8 in major)—are easier. That’s easier, cough cough cough. But an inside pair, so the 3-4 or the 5-6 . . . well, insert extreme metaphor here. It’s like expecting someone who likes to eat chocolate to buy a cocoa farm.
^ Handbells are evil. Make a note.
^^ Yes. Extra handbells next week. Supposing that my train back to Rumbelow, where the small blue charger will be sitting in the car park, doesn’t spend an hour or two sitting in a siding/field somewhere.
†† He’s even cute, if you go for the radical mechanic look. The office is fabulous. It looks like mine only with more tools^—although they have actual filing cabinets as well as the piles on every flat surface. There was a large cardboard box labelled 1994 in the middle of the floor.
^ Okay, and fewer books.
††† Actually, first I said, let me take the dogs home. I’ll be back in ten minutes.
‡ It was sheeting with rain. Just by the way.
‡‡ There were also Strange Noises. And I’m sure some of the parts lying around had nothing to do with cars.
‡‡‡ As easy blog material goes, I could have done without this particular source.^
^ And I still haven’t told you about last night’s ghastly adventure, when WordPress refused to load my photos. The NEW! CAMERA! entry almost didn’t happen. Is Mercury retrograde or anything?
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