The day began so well; up early at 5.30am whilst still dark for the 3-hour drive to Ludlow to take the motorhome for servicing; my husband driving with me following behind - for we had been asked to leave the vehicle for a few days for some major 'under warranty' work. Rather than drive straight back in the car, we ventured into town - so historic, so many places we love to visit. For us, Ludlow is the gateway to escape, but on this occasion, we would visit the market, the bookshop, the tourist information centre and find somewhere for lunch, before heading home. It was cold and crisp, but just the sort of day-off that allows me to 'refill the well', buy a sketching pen, collect the latest literature on Marcher Country, and eat a leisurely meal together in our latest find - The Olive Tree (pictured above) whilst I write and sketch. A perfect Friday.
A call from the motorhome people, the warranty work means that the vehicle must go back to the manufacturers and so we need to collect it and take it home for the moment. (Had we known, we need not have taken the car!) Not their fault; and I elect to drive on ahead so that I can visit our computer specialist in Tewkesbury on the way home, and also shop for the weekend. Raymond will follow, and proceed onwards ahead of me. How beautiful is the afternoon light as I drive up and over the Bromyard Downs, woods and hilly fields all bathed in the golden light of afternoon, a blue haze in the distance. On through a part of Herefordshire with small cider orchards, somehow reminiscent of northern Normandy in France.
The M5 south from Worcester is busy, but not overly so; my laptop is fixed in less than 5 minutes, I buy treats for supper and provisions for the weekend. Off now towards the Cotswold hills and home, a route I have driven on many an occasion. I have no premonition of what lies ahead. Dusk gradually falls and I start to climb Fish Hill, winding up the steep escarpment. I have the radio on, a sublime Brahms piano concerto, I am thinking .... BANG - the car will not steer around the sharp corner, weaves about from one lane to another; lights behind me in a stream as I regain control, slow down with a clanking noise I cannot diagnose. I switch of the radio, the better to hear what is going on; try to think what I should do as the car still weaves about. The road is now level but narrow and dark with trees on either side; not a safe place to stop. Eventually, three miles further on and emerging from the trees, the road widens; I pull into the side (and what I think is a wheel departs into the hedge). Switch on the emergency flashers, leave on the sidelights; it is -3 degrees C and I am shaking as I step out of the car to discover that the rear offside wheel is still there, but no tyre. The tyre had blown - that must have been what the bang was and the metal sound must have been the wheel trim and wheel grating along the road.
I ring Raymond who luckily has reached home and actually answers the phone. Poor man, he has to set out again in the m'home to rescue me, retracing the miles - 15 at least. A police car draws up and then another, two officers cone off the road yet cannot release the spare wheel. At least they have torches. Our son calls me on my mobile to commission some writing from me ("not a good time to talk!" I tell him). Half an hour later and my beloved husband appears, berating me for doing what he says will be damage of £1.500.00 for driving on a flat tyre. I am more afeared of that than the fact I might have hit some other vehicle, or written off the car; maybe I have, maybe I have twisted the back-axle. There is a tap on my shoulder and an elderly man, more shaky than I am, offers us all hot coffee - he has walked up from his house down in the hollow, in the freezing cold, with a basket of mugs, thermos and biscuits. So kind. The wheel is changed and Raymond instructs me to drive at only 15mph or less. By now, every sound and creak and lurch makes me think our 2007 car will disintegrate! I do not sleep for worrying, and for causing my husband such displeasure. I wish I could convey in images just how my mind is still swirling the colours of dusk and dark trees, blue police lights and the cold, cold roadside and why I made the wrong decision to drive on and not stop instantly on the steep hill on a bend.
That was Friday. One day maybe I will be able to paint what is in my head. But the car is OK, the new tyre cost less than £60.00 and new wheel trim (from a breaker's yard) £10.00 for four - so we have spares for next time. I am now afraid to drive; do not know why the tyre blew. It's like continually re-running a cine-film, as I meditate on how the brain makes decisions, thoughts running through one's head on what one SHOULD do in a given situation, whilst mechanically trying to remember how to drive. In almost fifty years of motoring, nothing like this has ever happened to me, and it was oh, so scary. More scary still that in weighing up a situtation, I opted for the wrong move. And just that little niggle at the back of my mind: was I over-tired (been on the go for 12 hours?) Was I properly concentrating? Was the clang something lying in the road that I did not see? Why was the car - to Raymond - more important than my desire not to stop in a place that would inconvenience others? Well maybe in writing all this down and boring readers to death I have exorcised something; though I won't really know until I next take the wheel, or until I am next driving at speed down a motorway.
(Meanwhile, I apologise that I have not been blog-visiting; so many deadlines and then this - plus the tumbler drying giving up the ghost and the kitchen roof leaking.)