“Lovely day in Jersey”, I said. “Old friend of my grandparents”, I said. “Nice walk on the beach”, I said. “Perfect weather”, I said.
People, you were about to get one smug bastard of a blog. You were going to get me being all sentimental about Jersey, the rock where I spent my first decade. Ahhh Jersey. The scent of the sea. The taste of the food. “Happy highways where I went.”
I went through the happy highways in a Dacia. (Don’t worry, I didn’t crash it. It’s something else.) The happy highways in Jersey are very very narrow. It’s a tiny little island. And as the old friend of my grandfather told me “There’s 50,000 more people than when you were here.” Business concluded, grave visited and flowered, and Max and I went to El Tico for “local” crab linguini. Being Max he saw a claw and said “it’s local in that it’s local to South East Asia. It’s a swimming crab.” Tasty though. We used to go to El Tico when it just sold coffee and cake and had a mynah bird out back in a cave that could swear like a sailor. The bird is long gone but they’ve made it great there. We were having so much fun. Oh such joy. But it was dark, and two hours until the flight. “May as well go to the airport early”, I said. “Then I can have a beer.”
“Oh. I think we’ve taken a wrong turn. Look it says ‘Private Road’”
“It’s too narrow to turn. We might as well go down and turn at the end.”
“No it’s a big Private sign – they obviously don’t like it. I’ll just turn here…”
Oh Al. Al Al Al. Oh oh oh Al. You fool. You mad fool. Reverse up the steep verge? Sure. Now turn the wheel. Roll down and … *bump*. A drop. Oh. Oh shit.
Max and I find ourselves looking at a little white Dacia utterly jammed between two steep verges, completely blocking the road, right in the mud front and back. Driving it is impossible. After burning the engine a bit we give it up as a hiding to nothing. We have no movement whatsoever. We need a crane. 1 hour 45 minutes to departure.
Thankfully there’s a breakdown service on the island. He’s still in the office, just. It’s almost 7pm. I describe the situation. He doesn’t have a crane but he knows a man that does. He’ll call me back.
Phone down. Assess the situation. 1 hour 40. The verge at the front is lower than the one at the back. Explore explore. Ok there’s loads of rocks. The front of the car is wedged up against a huge bit of shale embedded in the bank. *Dig dig dig* This job feels impossibly big. We’ve got no tools. Hands. Nails. Dig dig dig. We are digging into the side of a big mud bank with our fingers. I’m shaking with nerves. The car stinks of rubber. 1 hour 20. He hasn’t rung. We’ve made little visible progress. Both of our hands are bleeding. My shoulders hurt. I grab my phone. *Ring ring* “Oh hi – yeah I’ve got Damian’s number. He’s my boss. He’s got a crane.” “Can you text it to me?” “Um… no. Just … just take it down. It’s easy.” “Okay. Fine. I’ll remember it.” “Great. It’s 07855cvjxxxxxcthuluFTAGN0999.” “I think I’ve got it can you just repeat to be sure.” He repeats and then keeps talking. “Mate, you’ll have to give me that number again and then I’ll immediately hang up.” He does. I ring it. “Narrow lane you say? We’ll have nowhere to put the crane supports. I could come and tow you?” “You won’t be able…” “I’ll come anyway. Maybe I can tow you sideways. Where are you? … … Oh I’m the opposite side of the island. It’ll be a while “ 1 hour 10 to departure. Dig dig dig. Dig dig dig. Breaking shale with other rocks. Levering with sticks. Dig dig pant pant pant dig dig dig. 1 hour until flight time. “We’ve dug round it but it’s not moving. Let’s kick the rock.” Kick kick kick. Ow. Kick kick smash. “That knocked a little chunk out. Dig dig kick kick dig. 55 minutes. Pant pant pant kick kick FUCK pant pant pant kick kick dig dig MOVEMENT. “It moved it fucking moved it moved.” Digdigdigdigdigdigkickkickkickkick pant pant aaaargh KICK. Finally. Loose. No room to get it out past the front of the car though. We have to dig room for it. For God’s sake. I’m a mole with bleeding fingers. We both are. We are both covered in mud. We don’t care. We have to do this. Thank God it’s Max I’m with. We are both as stubborn as mules. Neither of us talking about what should have been done. Neither of us waiting for daddy-breakdown to fix it for us as daddy is long dead and the buck stops here. Dig dig try try dig dig try dig dig dig. We get the rock out! It’s HUGE. Weighs a ton. All my muscles are spent. Glad we ate that linguini. 45 minutes left. Tick tock. All that work for about an inch of room. Easier to point the car the way it was facing before. One inch forward. Handbrake. One inch back. Handbrake. Repeat ad nauseam with fear sweat and bleeding filthy hands on the wheel mumbling “nam myo ho renge kyo” to myself like a crazyman. Eventually eventually eventually we are back where we started. Hooray. Max gets in. We drive down the private road. No choice. There’s a turning space at the end. A man comes out of his house. “Sorry,” says Max. “We got lost.” “There’s a sign. It says private road.” says the man. Max keeps his cool: “Yes. Yes – we saw that.”
Brrrrmmmmm . 40 minutes to departure. Twelve minutes to the airport. We are there in ten, looking at the front. I take my shirt off, squirt the last of my water into it, wipe the mud off the hire car. “There’s scratches.” “Nothing we can do. Let’s go.”
They let us through security despite the mud. There’s nobody at the airport – we are the only visible passengers in security. We make the flight just as it’s boarding. All the staff are laughing at us. I wash my slashed hands. We made it.
I’m writing this on the plane. I just bought a £4.50 can of Punk IPA. My fingers hurt. I’m still shaking from sour adrenaline. I wonder what the car hire charges us for the scratches? Maybe they’ll be nice. Also I wonder what the mardy guy will think in the morning when he sees we’ve tunneled a huge hole out of his verge and thrown bits of shale all over the place.
They say that unexpected obstacles come just before breakthroughs. Max and I need a breakthrough. And after that experience, I reckon it’s a shoe-in. God. I feel sick, and thrilled that Max and I dug the car out. I rang Damian from the breakdown and told him we were out. I apologised for wasting his time. I said “You’ve got my number. If you feel I’ve wasted your time just message me. We’ll sort something out.” “Nah mate, you’ve given me a good laugh.” he said. Bastard.
Year One – It Never Rains in Southern California