Breaking dawn (down) on the M62.
Sitting on the M62, at its highest point, with flat tyres and a lack of a back-up plan, I thought our dream was over.
“It’s a good job that I bought some travel insurance for the journey, isn’t it?”
She sat there in her firmament and I sat in my old Renault with flat tyres.
“Have you been saving that bacon just for me?” I asked. “Does this mean that we can get it fixed?”
“I think so,” she replied without a hint of the smugness that I would have applied liberally.
She already had the documents out and was reading through the small-print as a squally-spit of rain loomed in from the north. It’s easy to tell directions on the M62 without the aid of the sun (which is never apparent on that particular section). The motorway runs from East to West or West to East, depending on your starting point. That being the case, if you are travelling from East to West, North is to your right.
“There’s just one problem.” Here it comes! “I am the only diver who is covered.”
We changed positions before anybody, including a group of inquisitive sheep who were out for a morning stroll, could see us.
Until recently, our longer journeys have been punctuated with frequent setbacks. These setbacks have themselves been accompanied by robust arguments. A few years ago, our robust and generally heated exchanges were reaching such a point of predicted regularity that we made a collective decision to stop them in their tracks. That was when the Cuckoo came a calling.
Cuckoo was our saviour. It arrived at the moment that something was going to snap. It would land on one of our tongues before taking flight into the madness of our motor-vehicle. At the sound of its sweet siren, we would be forced to cease hostilities and return to the human-beings that we previously were.
“Cuckoo. Cuckoo,” was the call and we both heard it, stopped the rapid fire and let knowing smiles creep across our consciences.
“Oh, Cuckoo, how I do love thee.”
Back then we had no cuckoo, but we did keep it together until the breakdown truck, with a treacly-accented Lancastrian with three days growth, oily hair and clothes, and more than a whiff of personal body-odour, rode to our rescue. Were towed off to a local garage, tyres were replaced, my wiser half signed the paperwork, and we escaped without paying a hefty bill.
“All hail to thee, Macbeth, who shall be in Spain hereafter.”
We commenced our journey with new tyres and renewed optimism. The motorway was waking itself up to the early traffic, but he sun was coming out. Claude, our ageing Renault, managed to maintain a steady seventy smoothly, and our conversation headed towards Spain and what it may have to offer. The sun continued to shine and the miles went by. We arrived on the outskirts of Plymouth, booked into a campsite, spent a chilly night in our tent, before queuing for and then boarding the ferry for Santander (in those days it was a city in Cantabria and not a high street bank). The weather was kind and we were able to relax before spending an uncomfortably long night sleeping on the floor rather than in the luxury reclining seats that had last been used during the English Reformation.
The long night was eventually brought to a slow halt with the arrival of the port city on the horizon. We were on deck at this point, stretching the tiredness out of our aching limbs. The sea air was doing its best to reinvigorate us, but the sight of the Spanish city did more.
A new day had arrived and had brought with it a fresh adventure.
We didn’t stop to sample the delights of this Spanish citadel, but continued apace towards the south of the country. I had been offered a job at an English language school in Granada and it would be a long, hot journey before we reached there.
The countryside surprised me. It was green and lush and not at all like the arid place I had envisioned it to be. Later, we were to discover that the north of Spain is a very verdant place indeed and that it is frequent rainfall that keeps it thus. Nevertheless, the temperature had spiked beyond anything that we had experienced throughout our English summer. So, I turned on the cool air, turned up the radio which, in turn, turned out its rhythmical rendition of talk and song. We were in Spain. I was moronic in my glee whilst my wife-to-be remained less taken by the moment.
In truth: we were homeless, jobless, next to penniless, lacking in insurance, lacking in language skills, lacking true direction, driving a car that would, definitely WOULD, break down sooner or later, and flying by the seat of our pants. I had never been so happy as I was then. My fellow traveller was watching and listening to Claude who had started to make uncomfortable groaning noises that even the increased volume of the radio could not cover. At last, we pulled over at a roadside cafeteria and let the motor idle.
“Turn the radio off please.”
“But I like this song.”
“It’s the first time that you’ve heard it. How can you like it?”
That was astute. The question could have also related to my love of Spain to which I had only ever previously been to as a holiday-maker.
“I’ll turn it off then,” she insisted, leaning over before I could stop her. “Leave the engine running.”
I did as I was bid to do.
“Can you hear that?”
I listened with an air of intensity.
“That bloody noise.”
She was talking about the noise that I had spent our whole morning’s travel trying to avoid with the radio. She had a point. There was a noise.
Now wasn’t that just typical of French cars?