Day from Hell!

Where do I start? I truly think the events I’m about to relate to you resulted in one of the worst – certainly one of the most stressful – twenty-four hours I have ever had.

Anyway, good morning. Although a few other things have happened in the fortnight since we last spoke, I will only have time to talk about this one particular day.

As most of you know, I was due to drive to Miss F’s university on Thursday, 16th of June. In the back of my tiny car was a replacement mattress for the one I’d bought her before Christmas that is now faulty. Although I left a little later than intended – due to being woken up by a murder of crows having a cawing competition right outside my bedroom window at four in the morning. They went on for over twenty minutes before a winner was declared, they all buggered off and I fell asleep again, only to wake up thirty minutes later than planned. Still, I was on the road by ten past seven, it was a gorgeous day, and I was confident of making up the time.

The trip up was smooth and uneventful, and I was driving onto the university campus at ten, thinking it should only take two or three hours to take the faulty mattress to the Dreams store in nearby Crewe, pack all Miss F’s belongings into the storage pod I’d rented nearby, have some lunch, and then be on the road going home.

 The car park was full, but there was a single space left and I began to pull into it when my car stopped. Stopped dead. Puzzled, I took it out of gear and put it back into reverse. Nothing. I turned the engine off and tried to restart it. Dead. But every single light on the dashboard came on. All of them.

Panicked, I got out of the car and banged long and loudly on the door to Miss F’s student house. No answer and the door was locked. I phoned Miss F. It went to voicemail. I left a terse message. Hung up. Tried again. This time she answered and came down to let me in.

Trying hard not to sound as concerned as I felt, I told her about the car. We went out to it, I tried again. One of Miss F’s friends, Charlie, came out and told me to pop the hood. They knew a little something about cars, so looked, but were none the wiser.

Meanwhile, I phoned my insurance company’s breakdown recovery number. A few months ago, I beefed up my breakdown insurance and was now very pleased I had. They took all my details and promised to get a recovery vehicle out within two hours. Two hours?!

Charlie saw my distress and offered the services of their car to at least take the old mattress to Dreams in Crewe and then begin the mammoth task of ferrying all Miss F’s belongings to the storage pod. Only problem? Charlie’s car was a tiny KA even smaller than my Nissan Micra.

Never mind, where there’s a will, there’s a way. With all Miss F’s flatmates now up and willing to help, we wrapped and bent the mattress in half and tied it with string as tightly as possible and somehow managed to get it in the back of Charlie’s car. Of course, the back seats had to be down.

I went with Charlie, and we found the Dreams store and lugged the mattress in. That bit was easy as my boss had prepared the way. They knew it was coming and arrangements had been made for it to be collected for recycling from their store. Then Charlie drove us to the storage company – they had done the same thing the previous year so knew where it was.

The storage company were concerned about what had happened and asked if I needed the number of a local garage, then showed us our pod, and when I said I’d left our padlock back at the university, gave us one for free.

We drove back to the university and began packing Miss F’s stuff – oh, sooooo much stuff – into Charlie’s car. Then Charlie and their girlfriend, Sara, did the first trip to the pod whilst Miss F, Mx R (Formerly Miss C), and I quickly had something to eat and drink, then carried on with the packing.

Charlie came back. We loaded up their car again – there was still quite a bit left, but we estimated one more trip after that would do it. Off to the storage pod – this time I went along – we went and piled all the boxes into it. On the drive back to the university, my mobile went, and it was Gordon, the recovery breakdown guy, who was lost and had no idea where he was. The satnav had taken him to the wrong entrance to the university. Tell him to stay put, Charlie said, I know where that is and we’re only five minutes away. We’ll come and find him, and he can follow us. I relayed this all to Gordon. Righty oh, he said, I’ll look out for you.

By now I’m a hot sweaty mess. It’s a sweltering hot day and what with that, plus stress, I was not nice to be near.

ME:  Have you ever got to the point where you can smell yourself?

CHARLIE: Yep.

We found Gordon and he followed us back to the university. I did feel for him as we drove onto the campus. There are some brutal speedbumps and unless you crawl over them, then it’s whoops, where did my suspension go?

Gordon looked at the car. He tutted and sighed.

GORDON: I think it’s the alternator.

ME: Umm, okay. Is that bad?

GORDON: Well. It’s not good.

ME: How much roughly to replace it?

GORDON: About £300.

ME: But it can be replaced?

GORDON: Oh, yes.

At this point, my only concern is getting us home.

GORDON: Let me put the jump leads on and let’s see what happens.

I leave him to it, surrounded by a group of interested students, and go back into the house to see if any more progress has been done on the packing front. Going up to Miss F’s room, I help organise the final bits and get them downstairs so Miss F can give her room a quick clean.

Down in the kitchen, the final boxes I had posted up to Miss F the week before had all been used. Luckily, I’d bought three more up with me, plus some soft zip-up bags for the bedding.

Gordon called me out to the car.

GORDON: I don’t think it is the alternator now.

ME: Okay. What do you think it is?

GORDON: I think your battery is completely gone and you need a new one.

ME: Oh. Umm, is that good?

GORDON: Well, it’s better than the alternator.

ME: And the cost to replace it?

GORDON: About £60.

ME: Cool!

I phone the insurance company again to explain what the verdict was. Find a local KwikFit garage, they ordered, and we’ll get the car there. We found one, I phoned it, spoke to the lovely Harry, and told him my tale of woe.

He made all the right sympathetic noises. I handed him over to Gordon who had a quick chat with him. It was arranged that Gordon would take the car, whilst Charlie and I made the final trip to the storage pod and got the last things in there.

Helped by a gaggle of obliging students, Gordon managed to get the car onto the back of his recovery vehicle and off they went. Harry promised to ring me the moment he’d had a chance to assess the vehicle. We piled all the remaining stuff into Charlie’s little car and off we went again.

There was AC in the storage facility. I wanted to stay there. I wondered if things got desperate, whether they’d let me sleep there. I was so hot by this point. A sweltering, sweaty mess of stress and angst.

We drove back to the university. At least all of Miss F’s stuff was now safely in storage until September. Back at the university, we guzzled water and piled all the stuff that was coming home to Suffolk with us in a big heap. I eyed it nervously. There was A LOT of stuff to fit into my little Nissan, plus me, Miss F, Mx R, and the little hamster, Miss Moo, who was getting a bit stressed in her small carrying case.

A long hour ticked by.

Harry from Kwikfit phoned. The battery had been replaced but due to the age of the car, they’d had to get a battery couriered over specially. Instead of being £60, it was £100. By this point, I didn’t care, I just wanted to go home. Then, my mate, Harry dropped his bombshell. There’s a problem with the gearbox, he said. In fact, it looks like it’s on its last legs.

I got into Charlie’s car again and we drove to Kwikfit.

I paid for the battery and the work, and then Harry and another mechanic who was reassuringly elderly took me out to the car.

OLD MECHANIC: The gearbox is basically knackered, and when a gearbox goes in an automatic it’s Good Night, Vienna, as far as the car is concerned.

ME: Will it get me home?

That was the million-dollar question. They looked at each other.

OLD MECHANIC: The gearbox is confused. You can’t start in park anymore, only in neutral. Reverse is now in park, and neutral is somewhere between neutral and reverse.

ME: And where is drive?

OLD MECHANIC: Oh, that’s in drive, except when it’s not.

ME: Umm, okay.

OLD MECHANIC: I wouldn’t risk it, personally, but I know you must get home. My advice would be don’t go motorway. It’s dangerous and the worst place to break down. Go back roads, I know it will take longer but at least it will be safer. And minimise the weight in the car.

Charlie and I looked at one another, both thinking of the mountains of stuff to go in my car for the return journey, the three adults plus a hamster that would add to the weight.

CHARLIE: I’m following you home so I can put all the stuff in my car, plus Miss F and Mx R.

ME: I can’t ask you to do that.

CHARLIE: You’re not asking, I’m offering.

They would not be swayed, and apart from having a stand-up fight on KwikFit forecourt – which I’m not sure I would have won anyway – there was nothing I could say to change their mind. And to be honest, I was too relieved by the offer to fight it very hard.

We left KwikFit to get petrol in both our cars for the return journey. Charlie led and I gingerly followed them. I’m not sure what I was expecting but the car handled fine. I followed Charlie to an Esso garage where we both filled up. £50 in my car and almost £60 in Charlie’s. I paid for both lots – well, it seemed only fair.

There was a hairy moment when I had to reverse because it wasn’t in park but back in reverse, then I followed Charlie back to the university, and again the car seemed fine. Maybe, I thought, once I got home and dropped the car off at my mechanic – I had already spoken to them and arranged to do this – they could patch it up enough to do one more month. If I restricted all car journeys to home and work, then come my birthday when I had planned to draw down only 25% of my pension, I would have to take more and buy a new car.

Yes, I thought, I would do that.

Feeling happier about life, I once again drove into the university car park and the car died.

I mean, it really died, and then the gear stick came out completely in my hand.

At that point, I knew there would be no driving this car anywhere, ever again. It was officially, properly dead. RIP Basil.

With the help of the students, we managed to push it into the parking space. The steering wheel was almost impossible to turn and took all my strength to yank it down to steer. Then we regrouped in the house, and I once again phoned the insurance company.

Oh dear, they said, that’s unfortunate.

What are my options? I asked.

We will reimburse £100 per person in the car to go towards either train or bus tickets to get you home. A hotel for the night, or a rental vehicle.

We went over those options. We had a lot of stuff to get home, plus a hamster. Public transport wasn’t an option. There certainly wouldn’t be a bus and as for the train. We googled train times. We would have to travel into London, sit on a railway platform for hours, and we wouldn’t get home until 8am the following morning. Not doable.

Hotel? What use was that? We would still have to get home the next morning and I only had the sweaty clothes I stood up in. Plus, no hotel would take the hamster and we had to get her somewhere we could set up her normal habitat. She couldn’t stay in a tiny carrier all night. So, that was a no to the hotel option.

Car rental? We looked at a couple of local car rental firms. There were no vehicles of any description available.

In desperation, I phoned my brother. He would come and get us but could only fit himself and one other person in his van. By now it was almost 7pm, even if he left straight away he wouldn’t reach us until gone ten, and it still left the problem of the other person.

Then Charlie – who is now officially renamed Saint Charlie – spoke up and offered to try and get all of us into their car, plus all the stuff, and drive us all home.

We eyed the mountain – was it possible we could get it all into Charlie’s KA?

The biggest thing was Miss Moo’s habitat. Imagine a large 138L stacker box with a wire mesh lid. It had been emptied and cleaned out and things had been thrown into it. We carried the box out to the car – it would fit, but only if the back seats were down. We carried it back into the house. Take everything out, I said. We emptied it, then I turned it onto its side and began repacking it. Like a game of Tetris, I stacked that box with precision engineering. Denser things that couldn’t be damaged on the bottom. Carefully, I layered it up, leaving no inch of space wasted. We tipped it back over and tied the lid on with stout string. We carried it back out to the car. It wasn’t a square container but tapered down so the widest bit was the top. We tipped it back over and angled it into the car on its side with the top facing in, so the smallest side was against the back windscreen.

Would it go in? Yes. Would the back seats go up? Yes, but they didn’t quite click into place. Never mind.

The next biggest thing was Miss F’s large solid shell suitcase. Sara had one of those vacuum bags left. We took all Miss F’s clothes out of the case and all Mx R’s out of their bulging backpack. All the clothes went in the bag, we sucked all the air out, and then carried the stiff board of clothes out to the car. There was room for Miss F’s handbag down the side of the stacker box then the clothes went on top. The back seat headrests had to come out, we’d have to keep our heads bent slightly forward the whole way home because the clothes bag jutted out, but never mind.

Mx R got in and belted up. We piled a bag on their feet and another on their lap. Miss F squeezed into the middle – there was no belt because technically it wasn’t a seat. We put a bag on her feet and a lamp on her lap. I squeezed in and belted up. My bag went on my feet, the large cool bag went on my lap, and Miss Moo in her travel case went on top. Sara got in the front with two bags on her feet, and then Charlie got in.

The car dipped alarmingly, but we were in and off we went.

Driving up it had taken three hours, but I’d had an empty car and was able to drive very fast. Charlie’s car was smaller and so loaded down it would be dangerous to go any faster than 50mph. It was going to be a long journey.

About 45 minutes in, I suggested before we hit the motorway and before it got properly dark, that we stop for something to eat. We were all tired and hot and thirsty, and I was very aware Charlie had eaten nothing all day.

We stopped at a service station that had a nice, wooded area with picnic benches. Although still warm the fierce sweltering heat had gone from the day and it was pleasantly cool. We got McDonald’s for us and a fruit salad for Miss Moo.

She tried melon and grape for the first time and liked them both very much judging by how quickly she ate them.

We used the facilities, then reluctantly packed ourselves back into the car and we off.

I can’t describe that journey. We were squished in like sardines. We were all uncomfortable, hot, and sticking to each other with sweat. I honestly felt like I’d been born in that car – I felt like I was probably going to die in it as well. On and on we drove. It got dark. In the back, I fell into a sort of fugue state where I wasn’t asleep – that wasn’t possible – but my brain was shutting down from being on an adrenalin high all day. It seemed the drive would never end, that this was my existence now, but of course, it did, and finally, at midnight, we got home.

We tried to be quiet unpacking, but that damn great heavy box had to be lugged up the stairs. A picture got knocked off the wall, so that made a noise. Of course, Charlie and Sara were grabbing a few hours’ kip before heading back – Charlie had a hospital appointment they couldn’t miss at 11am in Hull – so they’d have to be on the road by 6:30am at the latest. I pulled out the sofa bed in the lounge which also made a thump, despite my trying to be quiet. Then there was the noise of five people trying to use one bathroom and up and down the stairs – all over the lodger’s room in the basement and yes, I can appreciate how annoying that must have been, but it does not excuse his attitude next morning.

Anyone would have been put out at being woken up at midnight, but upon learning the circumstances behind the disturbance, what a horrific, nightmarish day we’d all had, and that I was now without a car – any “normal” person would have put aside the petty inconvenience of being woken up and said “oh my goodness, that’s terrible, is everyone okay? Thank heavens you finally got home.”

Was this how my lodger reacted?

Was it hell.

He grumped and moaned about being woken up, then stomped off to work.

It is the final straw for me as far as he is concerned. Such lack of empathy is unnerving and a mouldy cherry on top of a long list of grievances I have against him. I will be giving him a month’s notice when I see him later today (Saturday) and the sooner he moves out of my house, the better.

After all, if I will now be taking all my pension I can afford to be without a lodger for a month or two. It means Miss F and Mx R can use the basement room for most of their stay – which will be so much nicer and more convenient for them, and when they have returned to university I will look at restructuring how I let the room out.

Maybe short-term lets of a month or so at a time is a better idea. Then I can arrange for the room to be empty during the longer university holidays so it can be used by my family, and we can have our home to ourselves. With only one bathroom currently in the house, it is a struggle when there are four adults all wanting to use it.

I could even look at Airbnb, although would have to explore all the angles of that from a tax point of view.

There are lots of possibilities and things to think about, but for the immediate future, I want the summer with my family to be as relaxed and enjoyable as possible. And with all the building work planned for the bathroom plus the hassle of changing the boiler, it will make it a lot easier not having to accommodate the needs of a very unpleasant and inflexible lodger.

I think that is the basic reason why I wish him gone. I don’t like him. And sharing your home with someone you don’t like is never a good plan.

So, that is what I will be doing when I have finished writing this blog. Constructing a carefully worded eviction letter. I only hope he doesn’t react as belligerently as I suspect he’s going to, although I honestly can’t believe he’s happy here. Given how untidy, anti-social and moody he is, sharing a house with someone who is the complete opposite cannot be fun for him either.

Oh well, it must be done, and I will let you know next time how well it goes.

This has been an incredibly long blog and all about a single day. I hope you didn’t find it too boring and that wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you are happy and well.

Take care everyone.

Julia Blake

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2 thoughts on “Day from Hell!

  1. What a terribly exhausting and overwhelming day. And now poor Basil has passed. There was a ray of hope, and then it was dashed. But thank goodness for kind people. Charlie is amazing. And you managed to get everything done, with others chipping in. And Charlie did save the day.
    Your lodger definitely has to go. There’s no doubt about that. You’ve not been happy with him the whole time he’s been there. That is not a pleasant way to live. You’ve had other lodgers who worked out quite nicely. I could sense he was unpleasant from things you mentioned over his stay. He will be gone in a month. You will have a good summer with your family. You are a survivor. You will find a reasonable and safe car that you won’t have to worry about. Yes, it will eat into your pension, but this is certainly something that it is there for. All will be well. But anyway you look at it, that certainly was a day from hell! 🖤🖤🖤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He moves out in four days’ time and it’s not soon enough, to be honest. Franki and Rys are desperate to move into the basement. I’ve told them I’ll need a day to air, clean and sort it before they move in.

      Like

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