Sunday, 2 December 2012

Relieved to be home........

Leaving work it’s sleeting heavily and some big wet flakes manage to get down the neck of my anorak and make me wince as I walk the few moments to the car. I’m shivering and rush the last few yards less than manfully, watching the lights flash as the car unlocks to let me in. Inside, hot breath hangs in the air and starts to mist the windows as I fumble keys to turn the ignition on, wincing again as previously set blowers hurl freezing cold air at me, adding further insult to injury already inflicted by the weather. The setting was fine when the engine was warm on the way to work but not welcome now so I turn it down and adjust to clear the front windscreen, wishing that the cars designers hadn’t decided that this model didn’t need heating in the front window for some small economy in price. Because of their laxity I have to sit and shiver for a few moments muttering invocations to myself to man up and not be such a wimp before I can switch on the lights and pull out to head home.

By the time I’ve skirted the edge of the small seaside town and near the road that’ll take me home the sleet is falling ferociously and the window wipers moved from intermittent to fully on, leaving icy streaks which catch the light of the few cars that meet me on the way. At the roundabout I give way to let a car pass and take a second to pour steamy breath into cupped hands to try and heat my cold fingers while I look longingly at the engine temperature gauge stuck firmly to the bottom of its range and wish I carried driving gloves in the car. Once I get moving properly the car will heat soon enough but that’s small comfort as I leave town behind, move through the gears and head into the countryside.

A mile on warmth slowly begins to permeate the car but the sleet has been replaced with snow which is getting heavier by the second and already the road edge is creeping white in the headlights. This is the first snow of the Winter but although I love snow and even don’t mind driving in it – up to a point – I’d rather the first snow wasn’t happening after a hard shift and a 10pm finish. After a day like today I’d prefer to get home quickly and not have to be giving some serious extra concentration to getting there without damaging me or anyone else. Unfortunately, judging by the way snow is swirling disorientatingly before me as I ease off the accelerator, that’s probably not going to be the case tonight and I find myself wishing that I’d listened to that little voice that had whispered about visiting the facilities before hitting the road. Typical! I know that the road home will take me inland heading across farmland towards the Lammermuir hills and that just below them the road will hit a bowl in the landscape that seems to collect bad weather and can be especially treacherous in winter. Even now I can barely see more than ten yards ahead so I switch on my rear foglights and prepare to be some time on the road.

Ten miles down the road the snow is coming from every direction – at one point bizarrely even appearing to be going up – and my speed has slowed to a crawl. The road ahead is completely white and even though it’s dual carriageway I can’t see either the side of the road or the dividing white line. Thankfully the barrier separating the two carriageways gives me a marker and I steer vaguely somewhere between it and where I think the side of the road is. There are only a few souls unlucky enough to be out in this and we have made a slow procession heading home and I’m happy enough to tuck in behind a small lorry and set my tyres in his tracks. The journey home usually takes a hair over thirty minutes but I’ve been on the road for forty minutes and to be honest I haven’t a clue where on the road I am. I’d normally call to let G know I’m going to be late but there’s no way I’m giving myself any distractions and unfortunately the car isn’t techie enough to be bluetooth’d, never mind being voice connected with the phone, so I hope she’s not worrying and keep trudging on until I realise the car is speeding up which makes me think I’m going downhill. Out of the gloom there’s the eerie amber glow of an illuminated road sign which tells me that it’s snowing. No shit Batman. The one useful thing the sign does do is tell me where I am as I know there’s only one on the road. The bad news is that I’m only halfway home and my heart sinks while my bladder gives me yet another accusing nudge that I should have gone before getting in the car. There’s no way I can risk stopping for a pee. Knowing my luck tonight I’d get run over and that’s not the kind of headline I’d like in the local rag.

I feel the car slow and recognise the incline at the edge of the bowl where the worst of the weather always is. I feel somewhat relieved that I’m out of the worst even though evidence beyond the windscreen doesn’t back that up, but miraculously, within a few hundred yards the snow eases, starts to come at me from just one direction and I see the edge of the road for the first time in quite a while. Within another half mile, the snow has changed to sleet and unbelievably the road is now just wet with sludge which my wonderful, amazing and fortuitously good buy winter tyres make short work of. I’m confident enough to get a bit of a move on and find that the decision is a good one as the road condition keeps getting better with every hundred yards until I’m fairly tramping through the last few miles to home. 

As I pass Dunbar there’s barely any sign of the weather I’ve just come through and as I pass the last roundabout I know I’m minutes from home and more importantly at this time, a loo. Soon I’m coming up the drive faster than normal and I scrape to a halt by the side door of the house. G barely gets a shouted ‘Hello!’ as I head to the downstairs toilet scrabbling desperately for my zip.

And that my friends, is where this wee story will end.

Be assured that in future I’ll be paying attention to that little nagging voice in my head. It’s not easy driving though weather like that at the best of times. With your eyes crossed it’s murder!

See you later.

Listening to 


DB Stewart said...

I've driven in a snowstorms too. You're got grit man, grit.

Alistair said...

I just write it that way I assure you dbs. lol

Rebecca S. said...

Yikes! I suppose you had to cross your eyes, because you certainly couldn't cross your legs. Glad you got home safely - it's always a good surprise when a whiteout is a temporary affliction.
I remember my husband driving us home one night, and as we climbed the long hill toward home (a 40 minute commute) we couldn't see a thing, and I had to hold the passenger door open so he would have some idea of where the side of the road was. I was begging him to turn around, but he said, to wait a minute because he was sure the situation would improve once we were at the top of the hill. To my amazement, he was right. Suddenly we emerged out of the whiteout and into some mild rain. Amazing!
Take care, and I hope you don't have to repeat that experience much this winter. Cheers!

Alistair said...

Thanks Rebecca. I hope it's not too often repeated too' Unusual for here, especially as we're by the sea which kills most of the snow quickly and certainly means it doesn't lie for long normally.

And of course I tend to dramatise a bit. {so I'm told anyway! lol}

It was a dramatic transformation though as I came up that wee hill towards Dunbar. Been the odd flurry sice then but it's come to nothing.

Take care.

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

That's why I always used to keep a large empty bottle in my never know.

Alistair said...

I know now mate! Nice to hear from you. I wondered where you'd gone. No doubt I'll find out more over at yours but hope all's well.

Morning's Minion said...

I've missed your essays and your way with words.
I've never liked driving at night or in a storm. Your description had me remembering too well the years of driving in Vermont and Wyoming where sleet and snow are serious issues.
Do you recall--as children we were always told to 'go pee' before starting on a trip?

Alistair said...

I do remember being told to go pee actually. Never helped much though - being told to do it meant it was never going to happen....

I enjoy driving no matter the conditions {almost}

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