The LTLP is confined to the sofa with bruising, a sprained ankle and a broken leg. Despite this, she has been reasonably cheerful and positive about events, and patient with my attempts to help her. She may have had one of those head injuries that changes your personality. I will monitor this.
I drive from the Chinese Pub, a bag of delicious-smelling Chinese food on the passenger seat, the Proclaimers entertaining from the stereo. Around me, all is dark as dark can be – farmland and woodland for miles in every direction. The wipers thwip-thwap across the screen. I met no other cars on the way, I have met no other cars on my return.
There is an alarming noise!!!
The car pulls sharply, and starts dragging. Clearly a tyre has gone, quite spectacularly. The wheel rim makes an ‘eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ scream as it scrapes the rutted lane. This scream is doubly-worrying; I decide I must Do Something About It and acordingly turn up the Proclaimers. Rain blatters against the glass as my mind races.
I last changed a wheel when I was about six years old, and, thinking about it, I suspect my father was just being kind by thanking me profusely for my help. It is just not the sort of skill that I have needed to acquire. I haven’t a clue where the jacking points are, although I suspect they are underneath somewhere, and I have left my mobile telephone at home so I can’t call for help. Although I’m not sure I’d get a signal anyway. Or help. I am in the absolute middle of nowhere.
The wild night suddenly becomes quite threatening. I can see myself in the opening scene of a ‘Jaws’ spinoff, the Police Chief pausing before filling in ‘possible cause of death’ with his typewriter. D.E.E.R. A.T.T.A.C.K.
I could use the monosodium glutamate in the kung po chicken to fix the tyre!!! Except that the Chinese Pub is proudly MSG-free. Curse these multicultural liberals and their failure to integrate. I will not starve, however – but without Wikipedia to hand I can’t tell how long I can eke out my food without poisoning myself with botulistic rice. I should eat the rice first, the kung po chicken tomorrow and perhaps the duck in aromatic sauce the next day. I can burn prawn crackers for warmth.
‘eeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ goes the wheel. ‘eeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ goes Charlie Reid.
At twenty-five m.p.h. I seem to be making some form of progress. I really have no idea as to whether it’s a good idea to continue driving on the rims – the only experience I have in this technique is from ‘America’s Wildest Police Chases’, where it usually ends in prison, disgrace and a patronising lecture by a silver-haired ex-sheriff. But that programme may be selectively edited. I cannot tell. I am a bit disappointed that there are no sparks, however. There are always sparks.
But I resolve to continue. It’s not un-worrying, but the alternative seems to be my lifeless corpse daubed in sweet and sour being gnawed at by ferocious muntjac. I reach the lights of the village with relief, consider stopping at the Village Pub for assistance but decide against it as the regulars would laugh and steal my Chinese food.
I arrive home. Dinner is cold. There are complaints. Later I will discover the cost of buggering up a wheel rim like that. Today I drove to the hospital. A stone smashed my windscreen.