"Right then, guys. Let's see what this thing can do, shall we?"
My brother had to have the garage door raised by 2 inches to fit the damned thing in and even then the lock mechanism scraped along its roof as I was backing it out. I guess I should have realised then that anything which has to be shoe horned into Kan's Lincolnshire retreat so tightly was not likely to become a favourite selection amongst our vehicular transportation options.
A 1993 white Ford Transit.
To start with, I did actually succeed in turning it around in our drive although I was quite unprepared for the amount of serious wrestling I would have to do with the steering wheel. It left me quite breathless, I can tell you.
Anyway, the Frog was really pleased to get to sit in the front at last (and face forward), Zsuzsi less so as she was wedged in the middle seat. I gingerly manoeuvred it between the gateposts and, as our house is midway between two corners about 100 yards apart and necessitates a quick getaway, I decided to turn left onto the road. So far so good.
It occured to me that I should maybe get out of first gear and, because I had taken my hand off the gear stick to heave the thing in a left-wise direction, I was now facing my first problem. Loathe to take my eyes off the road approaching the first corner, I attempted to locate the lever by touch and failed quite abysmally, my hand doing a kind of deranged St. Vitus dance and encountering only air. I asked Zsuzsi quite calmly if she'd seen a fucking gear stick anywhere around here and she, equally calmly grabbed my hand and placed it on the knob...oo, er, missus.
For those of you blissfully unaware of the physical characteristics of Ford Transit gear levers, let me enlighten you as to some of their more perverse properties. The thing is shaped like an inversion of one of those old City Council nine hole golf course putters, the head of which has been removed and replaced with a golf ball. In other words small and, in moments of greatest need, bloody difficult to find. Its length is such that any vibration (and there are plenty, believe you me) is amplified along said length until by the time it reaches the tip, as it were, said golf ball's path is along several random ellipses the outermost points of which could be contained within a circle of some 3 inches radius from its resting position.
There is a bloody great diesel motor up front the vibrations from which far exceeded my power to hold the gear stick steady which resulted in me ramming it in fourth and even, albeit momentarily, attempting to engage reverse, before I found my intended gear.
I was just about to hit the Z bends on the Sleaford road when it started siling it down. A real downpour. What with trying to find the right gears, and the lights and the windscreen wipers, I am surprised I only hit the kerb twice before we got to Revesby Hall.
I drive through a puddle and all the electrics cut out. For the first time since I have been home, I swear in English, turn the bugger around and head for the garage in East Keal...slowly...very slowly...the windscreen is doing its best impression of Niagara Falls and what I can see out of it can best be described as negligible. I did look on the bright side however, and thanked the gods it was a diesel and thus could run sans battery and they smiled on me and stopped the rain. I was driving up Keal Hill when everything suddenly cut in again. Realising that me little bit o' wire had dried out, I headed for Boston.
By the time I got there, I was beginning to enjoy meself. Okay, so the van was wider than I was used to, which did involve hitting the kerb again going through Stickford, but straying onto the oncoming lane a little was okay as people tended to get out my way rather sharpish. I was enjoying being so high off the road, I was beginning to experience that sense of proprietorship over the highway that I had long suspected drivers of bigger vehicles than mine to possess. When I arrived in Boston, it got even better. I cut a swathe through the traffic, or should I say that it seemed to part for me and we arrived at Homebase in the blink of an eye.
I sent the girls therein and I detoured into Comet where my company decided to invest in a Nikon Coolpix 4100. Rejoined the family where, to my shock, I discovered that they had actually managed to spend less than I had and we returned to the tank. We had just got the doors closed when the heavens opened again. I started the engine post haste and we started to sit it out. I am not a patient man. I decided to go for it and by avoiding the biggest puddles, made it home all in one piece. And by dint of stopping at Asda, with a fresh 24 pack of Stella in back.