I didn’t make it to abbey practise last night. I didn’t make it because Wolfgang died spectacularly whilst going 70 mph down the motorway.
And the garage didn’t call me back today. Of course. I rang twice. Oh yes, they said. We’ll ring you back.
So it was about 7:10 yesterday evening and I had turned the key in the little hole and Wolfgang had instantly sprung to life and therefore I was fine, right? I thought I was fine. At least until I turned the key in the little hole again to come home. I have been thinking that he’s a little more sluggish than he used to be—I thought this particularly yesterday evening as we hit the motorway and I put my foot down, because if the speed limit is 70, I’m going to go 70, and the slow dorks can just stay in the slow lane, thank you very much*—and he’s seventeen years old, he’s not an Olympic sprinter any more, but he can still blast down the motorway, just give him a couple of extra seconds. It was in the back of my mind that it was taking him a second or two more than usual to make the slow dorks eat our dust. And we were steaming along a mile or so later when he coughed, the red lights came on on the dashboard, flicked back off again AND THEN CAME ON AND STAYED ON AND THE ENGINE DIED. DIED. CUT FRELLING OUT AND DIED, GOING 70 MPH DOWN THE MOTORWAY.
May I just say that I found this rather alarming.
So we coasted to a halt. We were on a long gradual downhill, so I had some choice as to where we landed, and we nosed into one of the little country lanes that have been there for centuries before motorways were invented. I sat there and trembled for a minute or two, and then, as a matter of interest, turned the key. Nothing. Not even the frantic sound of a starter motor failing to connect. So I got out—the other cars on the motorway parting my hair with their slipstreams as they gonzoed by**—and opened the bonnet, since heat does have some pertinence to these situations. We hadn’t actually gone far enough for the engine to be warm yet, but you want to feel like you’re doing something, before you cravenly ring the RAC.*** This entirely beside the knowledge that it’ll be two hours before the RAC gets to you.†
So I propped the bonnet open with my (trembling) hands†† and went and sat in the supposed driver’s seat.††† This sort of situation makes me feel like a lab animal presented with a set of circumstances utterly alien to its real life while the lab coats sit around and laugh at how stupid it is.‡ So with a lab-critter sensibility I tried the key-in-the-little-hole thing again, like a confused rat pressing a lever that always used to produce a peanut. This time I got the starter-motor-spinning-wildly-and-not-connecting-with-anything noise. Hmm. I got out of the car again and stared at the enigmatic and implacable array under the bonnet. Checking, I suppose, for gremlin footprints. No. The enigma and the implacability are—to the uneducated eye at least—undisturbed.
Got back in the driver’s [sic] seat. Listened to Radio 3 for a few more minutes. (Nothing wrong with the battery.)
Turned the key in the little hole again. It had been about ten minutes since we’d rolled to a halt.
And the rat was amazed and delighted by the arrival of a peanut. Wolfgang started.
We were already facing in that direction, and this bit of motorway doesn’t have any plausible places to turn around. I drove the rest of the way to the abbey, thinking, it’s still an erratic fault, whatever the hell it is, I have no idea, I can ring the RAC just as well at 9:15 after practise, they might have less backlog then anyway. But when I got there my usual car park—which is always half empty at this time of evening on a Wednesday—was bung full. We paused at the exit and I thought about it. All the other car parks are significantly farther away. I decided it was an omen. I drove home. Wolfgang behaved impeccably.
It being nearly midsummer, when it’s twilight at about 10 pm, I spent nearly two hours in the garden, potting up the replacement petunias‡‡, potting on osteospermums who were beginning to stand on the roots poking through the pressed-compost pots, and FINALLY getting my dahlias in their permanent positions. And, of course, providing additional helpings of mealworms, because if I’m in the garden, there had better be mealworms.
I will chase the garage further tomorrow. But I spoke to Blaze at Warm Upford today‡‡‡ and despite these exciting new developments there’s still no clear, fixable diagnosis. And . . . I think I’m probably looking at a new car. I don’t want a new car. I can’t afford a new car, I don’t want the frelling hassle, and . . . I want Wolfgang. But I want a Wolfgang that runs. Which is beginning to look pretty remote. Sob.
* * *
* Unless the ME is biting and I have sufficient need to climb behind the wheel anyway. In which case I wouldn’t be on the motorway and I would be an amazingly slow dork.
** 70 mph is remarkably fast, when you’re standing by the side of the road. Ugh. I am also very grateful that there wasn’t a lot on the road at that hour of the evening. The bankers on their way to/from London in their Jags and their Mercs and their BMWs can be a pretty savage crew. And 70 mph is their idea of a slow dork.
*** Moments like these I am totally grateful for the invention of the mobile/cell phone.
† Of course I had my knitting, although I’m not sure I had enough knitting. I have been paranoid for decades about Having Enough Reading Material in case of being snowed in at an airport for six or thirty-two hours, and it’s one of life’s little ironies that I have about two dozen books on Astarte^ now that I don’t hang out in airports any more. But . . . do I now have to start worrying about having ENOUGH knitting?? Oh gods. The fearful predicaments of modern life.
^ Not all of these are really ideal snowed-in-at-the-airport reading, several being homeopathy or Japanese language lessons, but I think I told you the very first book I bought and downloaded was LOTR. Followed quickly by a good bit of Kipling and Sherlock Holmes—and the complete M R James and some Lovecraft, which probably aren’t ideal snowed-in-at-the-airport reading either. Part of this scenario, you understand, is that All Connections Are Lost. A quick download of That Book You Have Been Absolutely Meaning to Read as Soon as You Had Any Time+ is not an option.
+ Which of course you bought in hardcover the moment it came out, about two years ago.
†† And, speaking of wanting to feel like you’re doing something, just for laughs, I checked the oil. I realise that the oil light comes on as a generic RED ALERT YOUR TRANSPORTATION ACROSS A HOSTILE GALAXY IS EXPIRING but still . . . it’s the first thing on in a crisis (at least on Wolfgang) and it’s the oil light. —Oil’s fine. I’m almost sorry. Oil would at least be a diagnosis.
††† I also texted Gemma saying, if you’re going to practise, would you please offer my apologies, I am sitting by the side of the road in a dead car. Bless her, she texted back: Do you need rescuing?
‡ <insert rant here about the lab coat conclusion that horses are STUPID because they’re lousy at food-finding experiments. OF COURSE THEY’RE LOUSY AT FOOD-FINDING EXPERIMENTS. THEY EVOLVED TO EAT THE STUFF THEY WALK ON ALL THE TIME>.
‡‡ About 80% of the original ones began to recover the moment I hit ‘send’ on the replacement order.
‡‡‡ Leading off with ‘before I take the car to the garage that mended it before the Jubilee weekend and wrap it around their necks’.
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