On the dangerously rare occasions I look at the dashboard of our car I see a little screen within a screen that usually says “you have 2 new messages.” These are messages from the engine to the driver and include “check transmission”, “right rear passenger door open”, and “tailgate open”. Other than closing the car doors I ignore them. My reasoning being that the accompanying triangular light on the screen has always been orange and I will only panic when it is red. Anyway last Sunday morning, we were on the M50. My careful husband was driving and said in a panicked voice, “there’s a new message here!”
My husband cycles to work. This means when he uses the car at the weekend he savours every single second in the driving seat.
“Could you take your glasses off the console? he asks,
“Will someone put this bottle of water in their footwell?”
We are barely on the road before he lifts both hands off the wheel and notes “feel that wobble?” And of course his favourite bit is when we hit the M50, he hits the superboost.
So this was nothing new, we were superboosting along in the fast lane and he was reading the dashboard. “ABS needs service” he reads. Did you notice that yesterday?” I couldn’t remember.
“There’s another one!” he yelped, sounding more worried.
“For Gods sake just ignore them.” I snapped and at the same time something else also snapped and there was a “thunk” from the engine. Every light on the dashboard lit up (all in red) and my husband, who was still in the fast lane said in a voice of quiet doom “everything has stopped working.” All the needles were at zero and as he indicated to move over to the hard shoulder he added “including the indicator”. Here I should have looked over my shoulder to guide him but instead stared straight ahead like a skittle in an unhelpful state of shock. Behind me the baby gurgled and shouted, sucking at an old mobile phone and kicking the air.
It was a Sunday so he got us to the slow lane alive and then over to the hard shoulder. So there we were, sitting at the side of the motorway, speechless. It was almost a relief when the baby started crying and we had to break the shocked silence and do something. I found a phone, he found a number and I got through to the breakdown people whose first question was “registration please?” which, not surprisingly I couldn’t answer and very surprisingly neither could my husband. I was on the safer side of the car so got out to check and for the hundredth time promised myself to learn the bloody number off for once and for all.
Following the sensible advice of the breakdown people we got out of the car and climbed over the guard rail. As we scrambled up the brambly, rocky hill I took comfort from the fact that due to the speed of the passing traffic we were unrecognisable and if anyone thought they knew us it wasn’t possible to slow down to have a good look. Between us we carried the baby, a buggy for him to recline in and hopefully find amusement in the traffic thundering by, a booster seat for me to sit on and a Lego board for my husband to do the same. It was a June morning in
and there was a cold wind. But we had a hat and blanket for bubs who after a couple of brave attempts to be allowed play in the brambles, fell asleep. We talked about all the cars we test drove before picking this one and both admitted being seduced by the leather seats. We thought of business ideas to present at Dragons Den, we tried to remember the Scouts motto (always be prepared), the Brownie one (lend a hand and play the game) and the Cubs one (neither of us knew). A single magpie landed a few feet away on a branch and we waited for him to be joined by a pal to change our fortune from sorrow to joy but no, he stayed resolutely alone. Dublin
And then he came. A kind, smiley rescue man who lent us his battery pack and comfortingly drove behind us all the way home sweet home. I really must stop counting magpies.