June 2, 2012

A Day in the Life


There’s a footnote, on Wednesday night’s blog, that the someone who had come to the door of the cottage while I was in the greenhouse locked in inadvertent mortal combat with a robin* was Penelope.  A large lorry had crunched up her car (fortunately she was not in it at the time), she was on foot, and wanted to know if she could leave some of her kit with me—she was on her way to a home visit and didn’t need the full panoply,** and it was a long walk back to her own home.  Of course, I said, and inquired after the details, which included that the lorry driver and the insurance company might not see eye to eye right away and she had a nursing-home gig on Friday that she had to get to if she had to hire Santa Claus’ sleigh—and it might come to that, since the four-day Jubilee weekend is upon us and the likelihood is that every functional vehicle*** is already booked.  I said she could borrow Wolfgang if she couldn’t do any better.  That Wolfgang had an erratic fault but that as long as you didn’t try to start him when he was warm there wasn’t a problem—and that he hadn’t misbehaved in months.

            You see where this is going.

            Thursday morning I was, as so often, late, so hellhounds and I had a as-far-as-we-can-get-out-of-town-from-the-cottage-front-door hurtle.  Upon our return I bundled hellhounds into Wolfgang and fetched my insanely large and hulking knapsack and moderately bulging briefcase from the cottage for our standard schlep down to the mews.

            Wolfgang didn’t start.  It doesn’t happen like this.  It doesn’t happen when he’s been sitting quietly overnight under his tree† at the cottage.

            Aaaaaaand he didn’t start after five minutes. 

            I got out my knitting.

            Half an hour. 

            I rearranged my Critical Daily Mass and took the briefcase back to the cottage.††  I shouldered my ludicrously heavy knapsack and we walked down to the mews.  We did not hurtle.  We walked.

            It was at about this point that the downstairs toilet at the mews stopped working.

            This may have distracted me from the main issue slightly.

            Hellhounds and I semi-hurtled back to the cottage later in the afternoon.  Wolfgang was still not in a starting mood.  I stuffed Penelope’s rather large bag into another knapsack, and we set out across town to take it to her creaking with the irony of it.

            Peter, who gets up earlier and has a better phone manner than I do†††, set to work this morning.  Our usual garage out at Warm Upford is so booked they can’t promise to get us in next week either.  And—just as I had been discussing with Penelope Wednesday evening—every car hire in the country has all its stock out on the roads already, including the golf carts, the forklifts, and the retired hearses.  Peter found somewhere in Arizona that could let us have a lunar roving vehicle but I had a paddy about the difficulties of fetching it. 

            The RAC man arrived, bless his gigantic orange van.‡

            And of course Wolfgang started immediately.

            I leaped out of the driver’s seat, rushed across the top of the cul de sac and started trying to climb Phineas’ three-storey house so I could throw myself off the roof.

            Turn it off and turn it on again, said the nice calm RAC man.

            This time Wolfgang did not start.  Modified rapture, if you follow me.

            The only good thing about any of this—and have I mentioned that I have a wedding to ring tomorrow afternoon in Sox Episcopi which is about half an hour from here?—is that the RAC man said, no, no, that’s not the starter motor—so at least I didn’t spend way too much money getting it replaced, the thought of which (money) is why I haven’t done it yet.  It’s not that I thought the Erratic Fault is going to go away, just that while it’s erratic I can’t demonstrate it to a mechanic‡‡—and if I can put something off, I will.

            Peter found another car hire place several thousand miles closer that will let me have the front half of a 1945 Jeep.  Fine.  I’ll take it. 

            The RAC man says it’s electrical, that it should be a straightforward pull out bad thingy and plug in good thingy, that there’s a garage that does emergency repairs half a mile away and he’ll give me a lift back—he’s got Wolfgang running, but he says all bets are off about whether he’ll start again.‡‡‡

            We convoyed down to the repair shop, and the RAC man and a random mechanic had one of those conversations in another language:   I’m pretty sure it’s the gusslebladder findlewhopping the zork, etc.  Apparently there is a Volkswagen specialist warehouse/whatever in Lesser Disconcerting and if they have The Part they can messenger it over this afternoon and if they don’t I’m frelled.  No, I’m catching a bus to Mauncester to pick up the front half of a sixty-seven-year-old Jeep.  The garage will ring me as soon as they know if they can get The Part or not.  I need to know by x because I need to be in Mauncester by y because the car-hire place closes at z. . . .

            I’d been keeping a running email conversation with Oisin about whether or not I was going to look in on my way to the bus stop, and I was trying to cancel handbells only Niall was en route somewhere on his way back from Wales§.  At the point that the garage was clearly not ringing me, I told Oisin I’d see him next week, harnessed the hellhounds and set off for the garage, assuming that a hysterical woman on the ground would be harder to ignore than a hysterical woman over the phone.§§

            None of the people who had been there that morning were there now.  This didn’t seem to me to be a good sign.  Someone said he’d be with me right away, and wasn’t.  I kept reminding myself these people were doing me an enormous favour by looking at Wolfgang at all the day before a four-day holiday. . . . And when the man who wasn’t with me right away finally ambled in he said, your car’s ready.


            It wouldn’t start for us either, he said.  The mechanic found a fault, and fixed it, and now it starts.  Of course we don’t know if that’s all the problem. . . .

            The Part does not seem to figure in the story at all.  And I have no idea what this sterling piece of Good Samaritanism is going to cost me.  They’ll put the invoice in the post, airily said the man.

            I then had to wait another ten minutes while the car parked in front of Wolfgang was washed.  Why they didn’t move it and let me out first, I have no idea.  At that point I didn’t care.  I had a car.  I had Wolfgang.  I did not have the front half of a Jeep even older than Wolfgang.  Even older than me (although not by very much).  I put the hellhounds in their bed in the back seat.  I got out my knitting.

            Peter did not find a plumber for the downstairs toilet.

            The dustbin men failed to pick up my garbage.

            And the crown on the tooth immediately behind the crown on the tooth that fell out a fortnight ago . . . JUST FELL OUT.

            And have I mentioned recently that this is the beginning of the frelling Jubilee frelling four day frelling weekend?           

* * *

* I’ve been creeping out and humbly putting prehensile mealworms in the planter for her, or for the bloke who got her into this mess to bring to her.  What is the weird mechanism whereby she sinks lower over the course of the fortnight or so that’s she’s sitting on a given nest?  You can see all of her clearly to begin with.  By the time the nest is full of little fluffy things that you can’t see over the brim, you had barely been able to see her over the brim for the final few days.  It can’t just be her ridiculous pretence of weight.  This clutch must be close to hatching because I can only just see her—in fact I thought she was gone today and was pretzeling myself into hopeless contortions to try and get a better look for little fluffy things or (horrors) if after my inappropriate, imprudent and stupid interference the other day she’d deserted after all (in spite of the mealworms).  But she’s still there.  

** I long to make her a shaman and launch into a vivid description of the rattles, fetishes, capes, stones, wands, chalices and other fascinating impedimenta . . . but I’d probably better not.  The so-called anonymity of this blog is rather less use than Venus’ hair in Botticelli’s painting, and I know Niall and Colin have occasionally read these virtual pages.  Penelope is one of the range of health visitors this island nation rejoices in—the impedimenta part is true, as is the purpose and the training for healing.  And if you think I might be dissing shamanism, quite the contrary.  I studied experiential shamanism—the, er, doctrine more or less re-begun by Michael Harner^—for some time, and still use what it taught me. 

^ Whose famous book THE WAY OF THE SHAMAN I do not endorse, just by the way. 

*** Including the little red wagon Kes’ mum taught a gang of Ghastlies to pull. 

† Being extensively crapped on by pigeons.  Why don’t all the frelling neighbourhood cats catch some pigeons? 

†† As I was locking the cottage door again, a dazzlingly shiny and pristine cherry-red convertible Jaguar with equally shiny and pristine white leather interior turned up the cul de sac.  I looked at it, and its dazzling and shiny occupants, with disfavour.  It was stopped, thwarted, at the top of the hill—which put it immediately behind Wolfgang—when I caught up with it:  immediately behind beat up dented seventeen year old probably-cost-as-much-as-the-Jag’s-wing-mirrors-when-he-was-new Wolfgang.  The woman in the passenger seat got out to talk to me.  They were looking for an address that was clearly not up here.  I assume they thought I was the cleaning lady. 

††† Not to mention being British and a bloke 


‡‡ I’d had a couple of people who claimed to know something about cars who had heard Wolfgang not starting months ago say they thought it was the starter motor, so I wasn’t just plucking a plausible-sounding phrase out of the aether.  

‡‡‡ I was very amused to discover—he having sent me off to have a nice cup of tea while he worked—when he knocked on the cottage door again that he’d made a mess of getting Wolfgang out of what is admittedly the diabolical jigsaw of his parking space (it actually is worse than it looks) and had simply left him at a funny angle in the middle of the way.  The RAC man climbed straight-faced into his orange van and left me to cope. 

§ No, really.  It was a ringing outing.  But it was only towers.  He didn’t want to miss handbells.

§§ There was also a tiny issue about not knowing its name and not being able to find it in the phone book.


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