My friend's husband just broke his hip - he is a dairy farmer and was involved in a fracas with a cow and a large amount of slurry. I always suspected cows were dangerous. I buy walnut whips and pineapple chunks and set off for a visit to the sick.
I pull off the A1 onto a country road. I check I do not have the handbrake on. I check I have enough petrol. I think: "The car is going to break down" and realise I have a flat tyre. Thinking about it, it must have been flat for a good 10 minutes, maybe longer. I climb out of the car to stare at the smoking tyre. It smells bad and it is pouring with rain. I am in the middle of nowhere and have given up on mobile phones as there is never a signal or the battery is flat. I have been happier.
I think: "Right, well it can't be that hard to change a tyre." I open the boot and find a jack, screwdriver, dirty nappy, pushchair, large amount of children's clothing, two teddybears, banana skin, spacegun and underneath it all, a tyre which I cannot lift. I go back to the front of the car with the jack. My husband has always maintained that if you use a jack in the wrong place on a car, your car will break. I slide it next to the wheel. A car goes by in the rain. I leap up and wave at it frantically and a nice man stops. He lends me his mobile phone so that I can call my husband (who is of course in London) and he can call the RAC. I think: "I can't call the RAC direct because it may take too long and I do not want to keep the man waiting for his phone." I have to ask the driver what road I am on. It turns out he is another local farmer and has heard all about the broken hip. He drives off.
I go back to the car and cautiously try turning the screw in the jack while working out whether the car could kill me if it falls off the jack. I decide I am reasonably safe as I am not underneath it on a trolley but kneeling next to it in a muddy puddle. I go back to the boot and pull out a few other pieces of metal that are lying around the spare tyre. I realise that rather than lifting the rear end of the car off the ground in a bid to extract the spare tyre from the boot, it may be easier to unwind the bolt holding it in place. I feel inadequate. A car drives by and I try to attract its attention but the driver does not see me. I contemplate putting on some lipstick and undoing some buttons. I am glad I have not done this when a little red runabout draws up and a white haired old lady peers out. I say: "Hello." I do not want to frighten her. I crouch down. I say: "Do you by any chance have a mobile pohone I could borrow?" I wonder if she knows what a mobile phone is. She says No, she is driving to see her daughter and had not wanted to drive by me. I know she is wishing she had a toffee she could offer me. I say how kind of her to stop and thank you. She drives on.
I go back to the car and look at the wheel. The tyre is still flat and I am getting wetter. I look at the signpost at the junction. I am about four miles from my friends. I wonder if I shout very loudly would they hear me. Another car draws up. I think: "For the back of beyond, you get a fair amount of passing traffic" although the hands on my watch stopped going round some time ago. I say to the elderly man driving the car: "Could I borrow your phone?" He hands it to me. His elderly wife looks at me with deep suspicion. I ring my husband. He tells me the RAC will not come as I am not named on the cover for the car and the AA cannot find me. While I am trying to explain where I am to him despite the fact I have no idea, the elderly man goes over to look at the wheel and says he can fix it. I tell my husband I will ring him back. The elderly man, a caravaner, digs around his own boot. He pulls out a walking stick come zimmer frame and then a wheel brace. I wonder if he is carrying it in case the zimmer ever gets a flat. We spend some time trying to find a place for the jack to go. He is incredibly game but is now wheezing very badly. His breath is so laboured I am seriously worried he is going to have a heart attack while he changes the wheel. I suspect his wife is sitting in the car having a hissy fit. He has to give up when the jack refuses to go any further. I shake him by the hand and thank his wife for lending him to me. I do not think she likes me.
I go back and have another go. I pull the jack out and slide it further along the car and turn the screw, but the wheel remains resolutely on the ground. I am not sure I care by now as I have no idea what to do once the wheel is in the air. Another car draws up. The man (who spends half his year in Australia and used to do something with trucks), cracks on with the job in hand. It takes him about five minutes. My tyre has a lenthy gash in it. He pours scorn on my spare wheel and implies I will die horribly if I go any speed at all. He says I must go straight to a garage and get a new tyre. I have the impression it could abandon the other three wheels and roll away from the car at any moment. He drives away. I open up the walnut whips.