This may be the first, and possibly only, non-equine blog post on The Rubber Curry Comb, but I think today makes an entertaining story considering I haven`t seen a horse all day.
I was due a visit home to my parents in Wales. I had two jobs while I was there. The first was to empty my bedroom as the crack in the ceiling had grown, and what seemed to be mushrooms were growing out of the ceiling. Dad planned to pull the ceiling down, investigate the problem and hopefully repair it. Unfortunately, this tricky and dirty job cannot be done surrounded by my trinkets and childhood. I spent last night wrapping up figurines, boxing up certificates won by my five year old self, throwing out cards from lesser important birthdays, bagging up clothes still in the wardrobe for the charity shops. I`m afraid there`s no hope for me as both parents are serial hoarders. I promised myself that I would be ruthless when unpacking the boxes when the ceiling is repaired.
After a good catch up with my best friend both last night and this morning, I headed off for my dentist appointment. Yes I know, I don`t live there yet I`m still registered there for the dentist. There are two reasons for this. One, it ensures I go home to visit at least once every six months (I believe this is my Mum`s scheme) and two, I`m yet to find a reasonable dentist and organise myself to get registered in Berkshire.
Off I head in my dirty but fairly reliable VW Polo. It has a tendency to terrify me as it makes a sudden rattle or squeak, but they soon disappear and my car gets me from A to B successfully. I did indeed get to the dentist, had my teeth counted and was sent away again rapidly.
Sailing down the bypass I approach the roundabout just outside town. “Oh I should get some petrol,” I think, taking my foot off the accelerator. I usually expect my car to magically get back home on a quarter of a tank of petrol, and have to stop and be robbed at a motorway service station…
Suddenly, there is a loud grinding, rattling, shuddering sound.
I take the turning into town and head towards the petrol station, hoping that the car will do its usual trick of silencing itself when I turn it off. As I turn into the petrol station forecourt the water light flashes on. Now I know this was topped up on Boxing Day morning as we hurried to the emergency doctors.
So I stop the car and turn off the engine and phone my brother. Why didn`t I phone my Dad? The mechanic extraordinaire? Firstly, I highly doubted he had his mobile on, and secondly I knew he was at work and my brother was surgically attached to his Playstation. My brother talks me through checking for holes in pipes, and seeing if the engine is hot, and then decides he will liaise with Dad. I wait impatiently, texting my best friend, and after a few minutes I get a call from Bro, saying that he is coming to bail me out. Almost instantly, I have Dad on the phone offering advice about the size of the tube that may be broken and if I should walk to go and get one while I wait for Bro.
Convinced it is a bit more serious, I sit and wait.
After what seemed like forever, the little Fiesta swung into the forecourt and out jumped Bro, complete with a rucksack of tools. He opens the bonnet and has a quick assessment, and then rings Dad for more advice. Then we decide to move my car up onto the kerb so that Bro can actually fit underneath to have a good look.
I start the engine, and am immediately told to stop. Bro listens and looks, before getting Dad to listen to the car on the phone and starts talking about alternators and water pumps.. A stranger filling his car up offers some advice.
“Don`t drive that” he says, knowledgeably, “Ring the AA.”
With the car up on the kerb, we realise that a large pool of coolant fluid has collected when my car had been parked. Bro tops it up as that`s a useful job, but we soon realise it is just trickling straight through to the pavement.
More talking on the phone, and Bro announces that we need the tow bar. Which is at home. So I ring my best friend, who`s parents is about to come into town, and ask them to call by and pick up the tow bar from Mum. Meanwhile, Bro is talking Mum through the garage, hunting for the towbar. At this point I realise that I won`t be able to get home by 4pm to teach some children and ring to cancel.
A long half an hour later, during which time Bro and I have the longest conversation between us since forever, and munch away on some wine gums. My second set of parents arrived and Dad 2 had a good look at the engine, concluding it is the water pump. Bro erects the tow bar. Dad arrives in his van from work, swirling into the forecourt. Then we realise that I don`t have a hook at the front of my car. There is some talk of me being towed backwards. Which Mum 2 is not impressed with, having a minor heart attack. I feel the same.
Bro calmly sorts out the Dads, and looks in the manual to find out where the bracket is hiding and pretty soon my car is all hitched up. I really must stop thinking of Bro as the five year old toy-chainsaw wielding monkey, and remember he is in his third year of uni, studying engineering, and impressing companies left, right and centre, and has actually grown up.
“Do you want to drive my car home and I`ll go with Dad?” asks Bro. Very chivalrous … what has happened?! Then he mentions the M-word.
I`m not going to pay my brother to sit in the garage for me, so I agree to drive my car.
Dad 2 shouts some instructions. “Have the ignition on. Do some steering, indicate when nececssary, and don`t brake. Touch the brakes so the lights flash, but the van does all the work.”
Nervous, I nod and get into my car. Dad has already slammed his door shut and pulls off.
I wasn`t ready! Trying to remember my instructions, I turn the ignition and pull on my seat belt. We`re pulling out of the forecourt and my car beeps. The handbrake is still on.
Once the handbrake is off I try to acclimatise to the close proximity of Dad`s white van. Have you ever been driving along and suddenly realised you`re a bit too close to the car in front? Well that`s the feeling I had for the whole journey!
The first time Dad applied the brakes I touched mine, but my all-or-nothing brake pedal caused both vehicles to judder and lurch. I expect Dad swore at my from his van!
Thankfully, I`m used to his habit of “ironing out the bends” as we sail along the country roads, squeezing past a tractor and trailer over a humpback bridge. A few roundabouts later, we pulled in to the industrial estate. I hoped the automatic swinging gate wouldn`t close between the van and my car!
Once we were unhitched, the bonnet was lifted and Dad`s car-fanatic friend diagnosed a broken water pump. He rings for some parts, and despite being 3pm, he manages to get them delivered to the garage within half an hour. While we wait, Dad and I start taking the wheel off and unscrewing the necessary nuts, which are of course, seized. When the old water pump is revealed, we realise how close I came to writing my car off. All the ball bearings had fallen out and the belt was very slack. Had it jumped off the piston would have smashed into the engine, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. Scary stuff!
After some sweating and grumbling, Car Fanatic starts to fit the water pump. And then we discover that it is the wrong part.
I`m devastated, tomorrow is a really busy day for me and I need to be back home tonight. I don`t really want to spend another night sleeping in a room full of mushrooms, and I want to have my car back!
It`s coming up to 5pm, and we can`t get the correct water pump until mid morning tomorrow. Dad understands my dilemma as he is self-employed too.
With a bit of coercion, and sweet talking Mum, I manage to get insured on her car for four days so I can go home and work for the next couple of days whilst my car is being repaired. I`ve driven the Rav before, having used it for my trailer test, and manoeuvring it with the trailer around the yard. If I have to drive the two hour journey home in the dark then I want to do it in a car I`m familiar with! The insurance company is very helpful, and reasonably priced, so by 5pm I`m insured on Mum`s car.
Luckily for me, Mum had some dinner on the table when Dad and I got home in the van, so I ate and packed the car before having the privilege of watching Dad pull down my bedroom ceiling to reveal centuries worth of dust and dirt, which has got heavy with water and put a lot of pressure onto the plasterboard. I think this will be another story …
At 7.20 I finally managed to leave my parents, in luxury. I found the journey very smooth and quick. Being higher up, the lights of oncoming cars didn’t dazzle me, and the tinted rear view mirror meant I wasn’t dazzled from behind. This is usually my nightmare when driving at night. I enjoyed having CD controls on the steering wheel, but couldn’t believe that with all the technology on the dashboard, the wing mirrors have to be manually adjusted!
I finally pulled into the drive at 9.30pm, tired, but glad to be home. My extended family was really supportive and helpful today so I owe them a big thank you! At least tomorrow normal activities can resume. Although I wonder what Mum would say if I asked to make the car swap permanent?