Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Chapter Thirty Eight

It all started with the battery. My car developed a fault on Sunday. Actually, that's probably a falsehood. My car has been developing a fault for weeks. When it finally gave up the ghost on Sunday, it had developed another fault. I don't think it could cope. It all started with the battery...and it finished with the thermostat.
For some time now I have been having little niggardly problems with my car not starting. Invariably the battery has been flat. Usually I knew why. Three times I left the lights on. Not my fault!!!the little beeping sound that goes off and tells you your lights are still on... has stopped working.
Also; because there is never any need to lock your car up around here...I keep forgetting to close the door up tight.
The first time I was let down was at home. I was just leaving for work. Turned the key; not a sound at all. No clicks; no whirring; no anything. So I tried to bump start it down the hill...nothing happened. I ran back home, plugged in my extension lead and then I ran back, paying out the lead to the car. Then I had to run back to the house and run back to the car with my battery charger.
One hundred yards of cable lying on the road; one Heath Robinson affair on the ground in front of the car; no light on the battery charger. I ran back...no I didn't...I staggered back to the house and switched the plug on, then I wheezed my way back to the car.
Then I made my first mistake...
I decided to use the battery charger as a 'powered jump starter'. I leapt into the car, turned the ignition key, and blew the fuse out of the said, now useless, battery charger.
At this point I leapt up and down like an idiot for a good thirty seconds; ran around in a circle; and shouted at the heavens for a 'little bit of bloody help here please'.
God very kindly heard me and sent an 'angel of mercy' along in the guise of a frail octogenarian with a nice car and a set of jump leads. In minutes she was on her way and my car was sitting there with the engine running.
I then galloped back to the house clutching all the gear I had brought down and winding up like fury just under one hundred yards of wire. I then dashed back to the car and drove off to work; stopping on the way to carefully unwind and take my door key off the ignition key bunch so I could nip in, lock the house up, all without switching the engine off.
Since then, the battery and I have maintained an uneasy truce, which I might add, it has broken on several more occasions.
My expertise with anything to do with cars is as legendary as is my efforts in being practicable...basically its absolutely zero!!!
On that understanding I did what I usually do and ignored it. It always got sorted out in the end so I buried my head in the sand. This state of affairs lasted until last Sunday.
We decided to go and finish off 'The Saints Way' trail. This of course meant we would need both cars; one at the finish of the walk and one at the start. Trust me, it works very well. Linda and I carried out our bags; leapt into our cars; turned both keys; only Linda's started. Then I noticed I had left the passenger door ajar the night before.
Linda shook her head and sighed; then she told me I needed a new battery (she's told me that several times now); and then she jump started my car. Seven miles up the road, a red flashing light came on, on the dashboard and the 'temperature guage needle' passed out and lay prostrate pointing at 100. Steam came out from the bonnet so I pulled over.
Linda jumped out of her car and rushed over as I lifted the bonnet lid. I don't know why the blood always drains from her face when I lift up the bonnet. She goes like that when I switch on my electric drill as well...very odd.
I covered my hand in a large cloth and unscrewed the top off the radiator. It was quite amazing how far that water went when I did that. Linda looked even paler as I staggered out from the great cloud of steam and convinced her I was fine. I couldn't see her too clearly as my glasses had fogged up. It didn't matter though as I could hear her quite easily. She seemed a little cross I think.
Anyway, she did go back to the shop for a two litre bottle of water and I was able to put that in. The radiator took about an egg cupfull of water and then it was full. I did think that was odd but still...heigh ho.
Then it wouldn't start again and Linda had to jump it again.
A mile up the road the needle had reached 100 again...so I pulled over again.
Up went the bonnet again; Linda's face paled once more; and this time I told her about a trick I had seen once. I told her I had seen people squeezing the water hoses in the engine; I told her I didn't know why they did it; and I also told her it might work. With that, I plunged my hand in the engine and squeezed the top hose firmly.
The resulting scream could be heard fourteen miles away and probably featured on the local news station that evening. I leapt up and away from the bonnet of the car and I swear I saw the vastness and darkness of outer space before I landed. At all times, I was flapping my right hand like a demented bird wing as I vainly tried to cool the wretched thing down.
"Don't tell me you put your hand onto a hose containing boiling water Mully and found it a bit hot? You astonish me!!"
You will have guessed that Linda does a nice line in sarcasm.
Some years ago I had done something similar when a car exhaust fell off the vehicle in front of me. I got off my pushbike to pick the exhaust pipe up, and put it out of harms way on the side of the road. With no more thought I simply bent down and picked the pipe up. The sound of sizzling meat; the smell of scorched flesh; the pain; I was in bandages for a week.
The incident with the hose brought it all back to me. Lovely.
At this point Linda called the Automobile Association and made me beg for help. My tears of pain and the anguish in my plea resulted in a very nice AA mechanic; complete with a very smart van with flashing lights and everything; arriving in just under fifty minutes.
He gave me a lolly to suck and sat me on the side of the road. As he obviously thought of Linda as the only 'grown-up' present, he took her to one side and she explained what was wrong. I was only allowed near the vehicle to pay for the parts he installed. One brand new battery later the car roared into life. He took out the thermostat and left it on the seat of the car. With it was a note for me to hand in to a garage.
It said something about the thermostat housing being broken and that was all that needed replacing. I think it also said something about 'pay no notice of anything that the idiot bearing this note tells you. Do not let him touch anything either'.
Strangely, that part looked just like Linda's hand writing   

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