Friday, December 22nd, 2006
This is nice.
I'm sat with a cup of tea in the bright, airy garden room of a National Trust holiday cottage in the far south west of Cornwall, free from most of the cares of normal life and about as far as you can get from the barrage of Christmas commercialism. Hopefully we'll make it back to the Smoke in time for me to meet Ali before she returns to LA, but apart from that – goodbye world!
We're frequent visitors here and know the area well so Beloved Other Half has gone out exploring, to reacquaint herself with the coastal footpaths and sights here. I haven't joined her – instead I'm having a lazy few hours recovering from the aches and stiffness caused by nearly eight hours in the car yesterday getting here.
We're gloriously fog-free here at the moment – you can see for miles from our hill-top retreat – but most of yesterday was spent crawling through thick, freezing banks of the stuff, all the way from London to Bodmin. There we abruptly broke out of it and, in the space of a couple of yards, went from zero visibility to being able to see the Milky Way with the clarity of a planetarium display.
At one point, somewhere beyond Salisbury, we spent some 90 minutes in static traffic backed up from what appears to have been a very nasty accident about a mile ahead. We were on a dual carriageway, and we saw a procession of emergency vehicles come up the opposite site past us then, about five minutes later, force their way up from behind us through the immobile traffic on our side of the road.
Two fire engines came first, followed by a pair of ambulances a couple of minutes later. The police turned up maybe five minutes later, by which time the two lanes of traffic on our side of the road had long since arranged itself neatly on the verge and against the central reservation to create a clear lane between them.
While all this was going on, some of the cars stuck in the traffic jam were doing three-point turns and driving back against the traffic flow down the clear lane, braving evil looks from the rest of us, then diving down a side road to villages with names suspiciously like Royston Vasey. On at least one occasion, a car found itself nose-to-nose with an emergency vehicle. Serves the impatient bastard right, we all thought.
Finally, an hour later, five flatbed rescue trucks came through to clear away the wreckage, followed by one last police car, which made a big – and completely unnecessary – show of flashing its lights to clear a path that was already clear. We figured the driver was just throwing his weight around to cover up the fact that his role was going to be nothing more than standing there in a tall hat, directing traffic. The traffic started moving again and by the time we got to the accident scene most of the emergency vehicles had gone, leaving just a line of wrecks by the side of the road, some appallingly bent and some just slightly dented and two of them on the back of flatbeds, plus a couple of depressed-looking policemen waving us past.
We finally arrived at the cottage at a time not unadjacent to midnight, lit a fire in the new stove, and sank into the lumpy armchairs with a glass of wine.