Thursday, March 10, 2011
Pulling a wishbone
I drove through Kensington and along Boaler Street, heading towards Central Youth Club on the Phythian estate, at around 5.30pm.
As I slowly and gently rounded the bend at the back of the Olympia there was a loud clunk and the car stopped dead in its tracks, lurching over to the right. The car immediately behind me – and the one behind that, miraculously managed to stop without driving into the back of me. That was my first good fortune. If I had been travelling any faster then the cars behind me would probably have been driving faster too and might not have been able to stop without hitting me.
It was instantly clear that the car was totally immobile so I came out of the driver’s door with some degree of trepidation as to what I might see.
A woman was walking past and called over to me that fluid was pouring out onto the ground under the car and together we walked over to the pavement and gazed over the collapsed car, shaking our heads in dismay.
What could it have been? Had the gear box or the engine fallen onto the road?
After a few moments of anxiety and uncertainty about what to do next, I had the presence of mind to remember my breakdown insurance.
So I called Britannia Rescue and they answered straight away. They took a few details and then told me that they would contact Intercity Recovery Ltd to come and assist as they were the nearest.
That was probably about 5.40pm.
The car was on a bend so I stood in the road behind the car in case further traffic came, so that I could direct them away from its hidden rear end. It is a very quiet street as a rule and probably fewer than a dozen cars came as I stood there – including an ice cream van, which was astonishing given how cold it was on the street! 80% of them pulled up and wound down their windows to ask what had happened and whether they could help in any way.
While I was on the phone to the Breakdown service, one lady passed going one way, asked if she could help, whether she might phone anyone for me, and if there was more she could do, but as I was on the phone I could not properly respond. She came back in the other direction about ten minutes later and said I should come by to her house if I needed a cup of tea, a warm or a comfort break while I was waiting for the tow truck. She turned out to be the sister of Councillor James Noakes. He contacted me to say his sister had seen someone in the street she thought was me and that she wanted to reassure me that I was welcome to call in there if I needed to, lovely woman!
At 5.46pm I phoned Wendy and Liam in the advice surgery to warn them I would not be coming along, that something dramatic had happened with the car and to update them on a few cases that they might expect to visit surgery for news.
One man on foot came over to have a look and I told him what I had now noticed, that the driver’s side front wheel appeared to have broken away from the axle and the car had collapsed, down onto this wheel so that the arch (and by extension the whole car) was resting fully on the tyre. You could see inside the arch and he bent down for a quick look.
He said that the wishbone had broken away between the chassis and the wheel and that had pushed the wheel out. He then said it was a cheap and easy repair, perhaps it might cost me £30, and that he could have sorted it but he was due to go out with his partner and she would not want him getting dirty! This really made me smile and I was so relieved.
Two people stopped to ask me if I wanted a push (it was not possible to move the car which was totally immobilised) so fair play to them but there was nothing they could do.
As early as 5.55pm I saw the tow truck from my vantage point in the middle of the road but alas it turned the wrong way down Boaler Street and was heading East instead of West. But it was probably only another 5 minutes before it turned round and came back and found me.
The driver was extremely helpful and pointed out the futility of towing the car back to my house because I would be in exactly the same difficult position in the morning, with still no way of moving it. So he made a call to Britannia and to Intercity Recovery and got permission to take the car back to their compound, I am to call them in the morning when they will take it to the garage of my choice.
He didn’t want me to hang around while he jacked the car up in order to remove it onto the tow truck so I walked round to the youth club and found Wendy and Liam at the surgery which I reached by 6.20pm Imagine, all that drama and I was only 50 minutes late!
After surgery, Liam drove me home (en route telling me a fascinating little tale about him and Jack Straw’s hat, which I shall tell you about in the next day or so, something for you to look forward to…) and I was left to reflect upon my incredible fortune.
The fact that the broken piece was called a wishbone is not lost on me.
A pile-up at the moment of breakdown was miraculously avoided. Britannia Rescue were fast acting and Intercity Recovery set off immediately to rescue me. The wonderful people of the Phythian Estate were there to support me while I waited. The driver of the tow truck was great. Then there is the lucky fact that the breakdown happened only 200 yards from my destination so I could walk round there in moments once the tow truck man had finished with me, surgery had not even finished, so swiftly did all this happen, and Liam was able to bring me home easily.
Oh and while I stood in the road, freezing, directing the mercifully few cars that came along the road, so that they would not run into the back of my car, I remembered I had a warm coat in the boot that I could put on. How lucky was that?
A breakdown is never a good thing, but if it has to happen to you, I hope your ending is as happy as mine!