A calm Christmas followed by a terrifying tyre trauma

For our first day off together since Monday 2nd October, all we wanted to do was chill. And we succeeded brilliantly!

Christmas Eve being a Sunday helped. We shut up the shop at 4pm on the dot, and began the transformation in readiness for the Boxing Day and beyond sale to commence. Two hours later we headed to mum’s in Ombersley.

We spent a pleasant evening with her and the TV. After she went to bed, I had a relaxing bath and we Skyped Jamie and Tom, Barry’s daughter and son, in New Zealand. I so miss the simplicity of a kiwi Christmas. I hear people remarking how it must be weird having it in the summer. Or those ex-pats living there who say they’ll never get used to it. For me it was perfect. Santas on surf boards. Pohutakawa trees in vibrant bloom. Strolling to nearby friends for drinks and nibbles. Barbecues. Walks on the beach. Seriously, what’s not to like?!

I’d bought Barry a brilliant gift. One I know we’ll both enjoy for the rest of our lives. Four painted woodblocks from the amazingly talented Jan Vallance. We plan to paint the inside of Areandare once we complete our Calendar Club season, and they’ll then take pride of place. Thank you Jan. I’d recommend increasing your prices! Such an astounding artist.

Our Christmas lunch was made for us by the chefs at The Mitre Oak in Hartlebury. And very lovely it was. For £42.99 each it was well worth the stress-free element.

An afternoon of more slobbing by the TV ensued. We even watched the Queen’s Speech! I can’t remember the last time I did that. She’s looking mighty fine.

Initially we planned to drive back to the boat at Alrewas once mum was in bed. But the howling wind and driving rain didn’t appeal. I abhor driving in the dark when it’s dry and calm, driving at all here as you know I’m not keen on, so thought an early start the next day was preferable.

And it was a splendid choice. Just beginning to lighten, hardly any traffic.

Because mum’s not been so good recently, I’ve got her carer visits increased to twice a day. But they couldn’t start till today. For various reasons I was the only sister able to go to her yesterday evening. So I took Barry back to the boat once we closed at 4, got changed and put a jumper on (thankfully), and a warmer coat (phew!), and headed back to the M42.

About twenty five minutes later, on the A446 approaching the massive Kingsbury Road island to take me to junction 9 of the M42, I felt a ‘thud’ as the front right wheel hit a hole (I’m guessing here!) in the road on the outside lane. Immediately I knew the tyre was flat from the impact. You could hear the metal scraping. Fortunately there wasn’t much traffic around, and I managed to steer over to the side of the road, just past the stop lines for the traffic lights.

Thankfully I’ve always made sure mum has breakdown cover. We’re with Liverpool Victoria, and they were brilliant. They called me every twenty minutes to check I was ok. From calling them to the lovely Darren arriving, was one hour of terror.

The lady on the call advised me to leave the vehicle with its hazard warning lights flashing, and go behind the nearest barrier. It was 5.30pm, dark, very cold, and pouring with rain. The barrier was next to the car; low with about ten inches of ground then a sudden drop. I weighed up the choices. Getting wet and cold for up to an hour, standing alone, with motorists rushing by me and a chance of my phone battery dying, and the possibility of dropping down into the abyss below didn’t seem like the best one. So I said I felt it was safer to stay in the car. She suggested I put my seat belt on. I did. And I watched nervously every car and lorry that approached in my rear and side view mirrors. I tried to stay calm. I breathed deeply. I talked to the universe/my guardian angel and asked them to watch over me. I knew if a truck came hurtling round the corner wanting to turn left I’d be mincemeat.

I had to call mum to tell her I couldn’t get to her and she’d have to manage. I called Barry and chatted. I knew he was concerned bless him, and felt powerless to help. I messaged my sisters to say I couldn’t get to mum’s. And my younger daughter had WattsApp video-ed, so I called her back and chatted with my grandson. I told him that grandma was in one of those tricky situations we’d talked about when you need your hazard warning lights on (he loves pressing buttons in the car).

When the flashing lights of the breakdown vehicle from Motormobile Recovery in Walsall, eventually approached I was immensely relieved.

The reassuring sight of the breakdown truck and Darren precariously changing the tyre

All wasn’t solved however, as the ‘spacesaver’ spare tyre that was put on was also flat! Consequently the tiny Matiz was hauled up onto the back of the truck and I was safely returned to Barry and the boat to get the tyres sorted another day.

Winching the tiny Matiz on the back of the truck

My brain conjured up images f what could have happened well into the night. Especially after I’d been told how one man who’d stayed in the vehicle had had the side of his car sliced cleanly off by a lorry. He was shaken but unharmed. Apparently!

Phew! The second near miss this year …

Back to reality and I enjoyed catching the bus to Lichfield this morning with Barry for our busiest day to date. I’m feeling extremely grateful for the simplest things of my life, even more so than usual. Boxing Day was steady, today was virtually non-stop. Fantastic! The less stock we have to scan and box up to send back to Exeter on 8th January the better.

It doesn’t take much to pack our slim and long shop!

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