Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More rats

My husband is away for 18 days this month - February is particularly bad that way. Needless to say because he is back and forth to London, the cars have started acting up. The engine warning light came on in one of them and the driver's seat broke in the other. Monday morning, I loaded all the children into the Volvo, shovelled in two book bags, two reversible school coats and a packed Lightning McQueen lunch box, handed my daughter a plastic horse, threw in a handbag and my own Barbour jacket and clambered into the front seat. I am short. My husband is tall. To get into the car when I have been driving it, he mutters something about "bloody munchkins" and ratchets the seat back. When he has been driving it, I climb in, sit down and have to pull on the metal handle under the seat which then careers forward. Not Monday though - the seat stayed where it was, way back on its haunches. I heaved on the handle some more. I attempted to bounce the seat up and down with determined vigour while heaving on the handle as the children watched with the usual rapt attention they display to anything on television or Mummy whenever she heads for the brink of sanity on skates. I started "pogo"ing on the seat in a frenzy, pulling the handle up so hard it hurt my back - nothing. I took a moment to consider whether I could grow my legs - difficult. I considered whether I could indeed reach the pedals if I perched on the edge of my seat and extended my legs to their maximum stretch and sustain it for the 10-mile round journey - did not think so. I unpacked and repacked three children and sundry deitris into the Saab, cursing and whimpering gently that my back hurt. I thought: "No wonder we are always the last into school." We drove very carefully along the lanes - the engine warning light is usually the signal the Saab intends to break down and needs to be taken to the garage. I ignored it. I figured if I did not notice the light, the car would keep working and amazingly it did. I am going to try that again.

Then last night driving home as the road dips down and cuts between a farmhouse on one side and barns on the other, clouds of dense black smoke drifted from between the old stone buildings of the farmyard, across the road and away into the fields. As we went by, I looked between the outbuildings to see a vehicle in flames, its passenger door gaping open. This is big news in Northumberland. We drove on by and I thought: "I don't want to watch the local TV news programme only to be told that some poor soul burnt to ash trying to get out the truck as happy go lucky neighbours headed for home, clucking: "That looked nasty"." As we turned round, there was a loud bang from where the small inferno was raging, the light from the fire drenching the old stone buildings surrounding it and colouring the night sky; we parked and I walked up to the farmhouse. I knocked on the back door. I began to feel slightly silly. I thought: "I am sure they know there is a car burning out in the farmyard." A woman answered the door. I introduced myself. I said: "I'm sure you know this but there is a car on fire in your yard." Her husband appeared. They said they did know and that another farmer who had been doing some contracting for them, had told them his pick-up truck had caught fire in the yard. They seemed very relaxed about it all. As I got back to the car, a fire-engine full of volunteer firemen drove up and started unwinding hoses and suddenly there was even more smoke everywhere and the fire was out.

I was told today the farmer who owned the truck, noticed a glow from behind the dashboard and three minutes later the Nissan Nevada pick-up was in flames. No one was hurt. I have a theory. I think it was the rats. They were probably sending a message: "More cheese or the tractor gets it."

12 comments:

Swearing Mother said...

Or maybe the rats had gnawed at the Nissan's wiring? Just a thought.

Sweet Irene said...

You have such a lackadaisical way of telling a story, it's wonderful. It gives it all the more value and interest, because you tell it in such an understated way. It's very British of you and I can say that, because I am Dutch and we aren't supposed to have any sense of humor at all. Oh, if only you knew how much we love the British sense of the absurd. You are the funniest people in Europe.

Expatmum said...

Isn't it amazing what happens when the husbands are away. And I don't mean that in a nudge-nudge-wink-wink way either. We are drowning in snow and ice here in Chicago to the point where I can no longer get my car out of the garage and into the grooves leading up the alley. (And this is in the city!) Even though my vehicle is 4 wheel drive and supposed to be able to cope with any tundra, I gave up trying to jump the ice mounds when my son became alarmed at the smell of burning rubber. Fotunately we can walk everywhere, but if my hubby thinks he's flying back from London tomrrow I'm afraid he's in for a surprise. O'Hare airport cancelled most of their flights today. The kids are beginning to ask if he will make it back and he's only been gone since Sunday night. They are obviously sick of me. That means they will be wanting to spend the whole weekend with dad. :-)

GoneBackSouth said...

My husband's roster seems to be getting worse, and he's now away for probably 3 weeks out of every 4. It's a year TODAY since he went to work abroad. 3 hours after dropping him at the airport, a pipe burst on the side of the house and water started spraying out all over the place. My thoughts were: "Right, my first test, you're a pioneer, think girl think, call a plumber". It took me an hour to summons the courage to go under the house where it's dark and spidery. I wasn't sure exactly where the outside water supply tap was, and the only torch in the house was a dim Bob the Builder one with an almost flat battery. But when it was all sorted out, I felt very proud of myself.

Eats Wombats said...

Ah but, it's not just British. There's much here you'd be more likely to associate with people across the water. Your average Brit wouldn't for a second consider the possibility of growing their legs longer to reach pedals. Happens all the time in old Irish literature---long before Disney cartoons.

I was surprised at first by the suggestion that the Dutch have no sense of humour. I lived there for 10 years and I hadn't been struck by that (although An Irishman's Adventures with the Dutch Language is the funniest book in Dutch I know). I was sufficiently surprised that I googled "Dutch sense of humour". It was time well spent. I now understand why a Dutch friend of mine who is very funny is so funny. His mother is Hungarian.

My favourite Dutch joke is Q. How does a German open a mussel? A. Knocking the table: OPEN UP.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Our Northumbrian Neighbours know no bounds when it comes to the laid back approach.

Crystal xx

aminah said...

I thought in Northumberland it was only GOLFERS that were warned to be wary after one of their motorised golf trolleys caused a car fire...and now its the farmers with their tractors and those rats....hah hope you get that car into the garage asap!

DogLover said...

The engine warning light staying on is a warning that all is not well with the engine. Could be a good idea to take it to your garage a.s.a.p., just to be on the safe side ...

If the light is just the red one that cars used to have, it means that the battery is not charging and you'll shortly find you can't start the car or the headlights will go dim as you drive.

All things that can make husbands a bit critical of their wives!

Mya said...

If the car seat is permanently jammed, may I suggest you keep a pair of platform boots circa 1972 (colour optional, but silver look ravishing)in the glovebox? Might help when the pedals seem an awful long way away.

Mya x

Norman said...

We are the other way round. My wife has the driving seat set well back and I am such a short-arse I need it well forward. My family say if we were Lord of the Rings characters then my wife would be Arwen the elven queen and I, Gimli the dwarf. Well, with the beard I guess I'd qualify.
That blog was a good tale. Those rats are not daft, they know how to keep warm nibbling at the odd cable or two!

lady thinker said...

With all those children surely one could have sat in the foot well and pushed whichever pedal you demanded they push - it would have made for a more intersting journey than usual.

Not much differnt to the oldies driving around Budleigh/Sidmouth/Seaton area with their partners describing what's happening on the roads because the driver is practically as blind as a bat through cataracts!

mutleythedog said...

Cars are a curse arent they? Someone stole the wing mirror covers off mine just because they are luminous green... or were. I agree with Sweet Irene by the way and I am also Dutch..