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Open Features: What To Do When You Are Bored – Part 3

Linda McLean and two friends are heading for the ferry terminal after a holiday in France when they are forced to an unwelcomed halt.

To read earlier chapters of Linda’s story, along with more of her articles, please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=linda+mclean

There was only one problem, from my point of view. As week after week went by, I was more and more uncomfortable sleeping at night - I felt as if I were falling out the bed. This was pooh-poohed by both the guys, who decided between them that I was going slightly soft in the head.

So that was all right then.

Eventually, after three weeks, it was time to make the homeward journey.

4 p.m. Saturday.

The reason why I had felt I was falling out of bed became abundantly clear – we had a flat tyre on the trailer tent. Moreover and inadvertently, we had chosen to travel on a holiday weekend. We did not have a spare wheel for the trailer. A point I had also raised earlier, to no avail.

“Let’s just use foam,” suggested Phil.

I became slightly apoplectic. “Foam will never last till we get back to Scotland!” I insisted.

“Well, we haven’t much choice – everything is shut!”

“Will you please just take a detour through the town – there must be something open?” I appealed

“Absolutely not. Our ferry leaves at 7 a.m. tomorrow. It is now 4 p.m. By the time I have driven half way up France, and we have stopped for dinner and a bit of a relaxation, we will need the overnight time to get to the ferry early.”

Getting to the ferry early was important, so that the car could be placed as near the lift as possible.

Unhappy, but resigned, I got into the car.

We had reached the Loire valley, and had a wonderful meal. The evening was mild, and there was singing and dancing taking place on the riverbank. We drank in the relaxing, happy scenes thirstily, after a long day in the car. It was so beautiful, with the lights playing on the water, and the reflection of the colours of the dancers, and the music was lovely.

Reluctantly, we all loaded up again and set off for our final stage. It was at this point that I wished everything would stop forever. Then suddenly, just after we set off again:

Pssssssssssssst!

11 pm.

The tyre gave out. It was now and this was difficult. How did you call the AA in France? Nobody except me spoke French, so the boys both looked to me to get them out of this spot. I felt like Queen Victoria, only I was seriously “not amused”.

I managed to explain our predicament to some local youngsters, who assisted me in making the phone call. I was by this time so irate, that it was not possible for me to sit beside the guys in the car. I sat on a wall beside the river, swinging my legs, and trying to regain control of my temper.

I remembered an old adage, oft quoted by a friend: “There’s no point in losing your temper, you’ve just got to find it again!”

In due course, a very helpful man arrived, who explained what I already knew – we needed a new tyre, definitely. The next town was thirty miles away. There would not be a shop open until the morning, but he gave very simple and clear directions of how to find it.

“Drive slowly,” he commanded. If you drive slowly, it might be possible….”

Sunday

However, a few kilometres later, the tyre went flat again.

“That’s it!” announced Phil, now furious. “We are not staying here. Just take the whole wheel off the trailer, and we will drive to the shop and be there when he opens.”

“It is the middle of the night and pitch dark. Are you sure you want me to attempt to get the offside wheel off just now?” I asked. “I won’t be easily seen by other drivers. We have missed our ferry anyway.”

“Yes – take it off!” was the command.

So I leapt to it.

2 am.

We drove off into the night leaving our stricken trailer tent abandoned.

A very sticky and sweaty night spent with everyone sleeping in the car. We all woke up in various stages of grumpiness, and awaited the tyre shop opening and waited…..and waited…..and waited.

9 am.

The adjoining record store opened. We asked when the tyre facility was opening, but he was unsure. The tyre place usually opened first, he said.. If he was not open now, he doubted that he would.

So, we headed into town, to Tourist Information. Tourist Information insisted that I did not need a tyre repair shop; I needed a caravan shop! I denied this vigorously, but they would not call anyone who had anything to do with tyres. It didn’t much matter at the end of the day – everything was shut for the holiday weekend.

Apparently, my face spoke volumes as I approached the car. As things had proceeded from bad to worse, I was treated with more caution. The guys very meekly asked, “Where to?”

“Take me to the Police!”

I instructed. We drove there in silence.

I had really no idea now what I needed to ask for in French, and I was so upset, that it was difficult to sort out my thoughts. On arrival at the police station there was an older man at the window who was obviously very excited and agitated about something, and giving the officer a great deal of grief, which gave me time to study the various posters on the walls, and get my brain back into French again. Suddenly, I saw it – “service
d’urgence” – emergency service.

When the older man had gone, I approached the gendarme, and as clearly as I could, while holding onto my anger very tightly, asked, ”There – must – be – an - emergency service - for – tyres – in – this – country – even – on - a public holiday!”

“But, of course!” was the defensive reply. “Just a hundred metres down the road.”

I left triumphant, that now at long last, the end was in sight, I believed.

At the garage we were asked if we wanted a new tyre or a new wheel?

“New wheel,” Phil decided. He would keep the old one as a spare.

As we had the old wheel with us, there were no problems about dimensions.

Then there was the problem about converting pounds per square inch into isobars. Fortunately, I had a book handy, and I spent some time double checking the figures: 3 isobars should do it.


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