Monday, 24 January 2011

Day Out - Blow Out


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.)

Monday, 10 January 2011

Anniversary - and my almost despicable deed


"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". Listening to the radio yesterday morning, I realised it's 400 years since the King James bible was first published (1611). These words in Genesis 1:1 still reverberate in my mind, as do so many verses and phrases in the bible, even though I am no longer a religious person (but that's another story). I can remember reading endless psalms in Church as a teenager, when the vicar's sermons were particularly tedious and boring. Much of the beautiful and stirring language has remained with me through the years, particularly stories from the Old Testament.

title page from a recent acquisition

It was my great-grandfather (Henry Guppy, 1861 to 1948) who instilled in me a love of books and words. He became librarian of the John Rylands Library in Manchester in 1899 until his death aged 86. He procured for me books for my birthdays and at Christmas throughout the second world war, when they were hard to come by. Natural history and poetry, mainly, all rather too advanced for my then young years, but still a source of joy even now. I suddenly remembered that his speciality was history of the bible and somewhere I still have a copy of his treatise on the classics scholar, Miles Coverdale, who was instrumental in producing the first complete printed English Bible in the 1500s. But I digress; it was the radio programme that brought HG back to mind, and he would be horrified I am sure to know that I now buy old books to rip apart for collage!


an early 1900s bible, bought for 're-purposing', sitting atop my 'junk-journal' on my writing/art desk; on the top is a candle-holder bought in the gift shop at Tewkesbury Abbey. Book and Candle, it only wants the Bell to symbolise ex-communication.

I cannot resist second-hand bookshops and have been collecting 'remainders' or interesting-looking books for as long as I can remember, but only recently to take apart for collage. On holiday in the Welsh Marches a couple of months ago, I walked into a shop the like of which I have never seen before. It was vast, with rooms and racks of shelves from floor to ceiling, and boxes spilling out all over the floor; difficult to step around them. I rummaged about, and then found this old bible, minus covers, stained and somewhat tattered. A little searching on the floor revealed the covers. £10.00 was rather more than I intended to pay, but it seemed perfect for the new journaling challenge I had set myself. I could not find anyone to pay and was on the point of returning the book to the box where I had found it when I spotted a notice - "please pay at the gift shop down the street". Obviously honest folk in this little Welsh town.

But I felt like a thief and not wanting to be accused of actually being one (having numerous bags about my person into which I could have stuffed it), I marched along the pavement with the book held out in front of me as if I was on the way to the stake. Paid, and delighted, I looked for the first quote that I would use on the journal page. And then I had qualms, felt guilty; should I really rip up a bible? It seemed somehow sacrilegious. Should I in fact be tearing apart books that could be re-purposed again and again if I adopted a different procedure? So this is what I now do: I carefully slice the pages apart and scan them, then crop and print the part I want to use on 45gsm layout paper. In a way, my conscience is clear; I have the book (and the scans) to use again and again. Maybe my great-grandfather need not turn in his grave after all. And don't you love the bible's inscription: "Sarah Price, her book. Aged 11, December 1913". Amen.