Yesterday, we had arranged to meet Julie’s children, and their partners, for a celebratory meal in Norwich. The occasion was her oldest son’s 30th birthday. He and his girlfriend drove up from Hertfordshire with his brother, and went to visit one of his twin sisters, to see the new baby. The other twin came over from her home in Norfolk with her boyfriend, and they all spent time enjoying their new nephew. The restaurant in Norwich had been booked for 8pm, and we all arranged to meet in there.
As Julie and I set off, my car failed to start. The sudden drop in temperature to -3, had killed off the already tired battery, which failed to raise enough enthusiasm to start the vehicle. We had to quickly swap to Julie’s car, and we still made good time, arriving exactly on schedule. Once inside, all hungry, seeking the warmth and conviviality in evidence, we were told that there was no record of our booking. As there were eight of us, they could not find us any table to suit, and suggested that we had mistakenly booked a similar restaurant, another branch of the small chain. They rang them, but they had no record either. As the telephone call had only been made and booking confirmed less than two hours earlier, it was plain to us that they had made a mistake, and were refusing to admit it. However, there was little point in making a fuss. There was nowhere to sit, and we were out on a Saturday night before Christmas, with little chance of finding a suitable restaurant able to accept such a large group. Julie’s son went over the road to a different restaurant. He returned with the good news that they could take us, but that they had a large party in, so it would be noisy, and service might be slower than usual. We took the chance, and managed to have a very nice time, with some reasonable food thrown in.
Arriving back quite late, Julie and I stayed up longer than usual too, with a resulting late start today. I tried the car again. It teased me with the prospect of turning over, then died with a cackle. At 1pm, I rang the RAC. I have been a member for as long as I can recall, and pay for the full package, including help at home. I could have just taken Julie’s car, driven down to Halfords, and bought a battery to fit myself. Then there would be little point in paying into a breakdown service in the first place. The RAC control centre staff were very helpful, but advised me that because of the sudden cold weather, they were busier than usual. They said it would take around three hours to get one of their mechanics to me. I said that would be OK, and headed off with Ollie, for an earlier than normal walk, hoping to ensure that I would be around when the RAC arrived. Despite the sunny morning, as soon as we arrived at The Meadows, it began to rain. Freezing cold drops, falling at a fair rate, soon had me feeling damp, chilly, and fed up. As we were early, there were none of Ollie’s regular companions around, so I cut the walk short after seventy-five minutes, and returned home.
True to their word, the RAC rang me back. There were two calls. The first from a busy mobile mechanic, telling how he was snowed under with work, and wouldn’t be here until after 6. Not long after, the control room rang, to tell us that they would have someone there in thirty minutes, as they had brought people in from outside the area, to cope with the demand. That was good news, as there would still be some daylight. A cheerful man arrived on time. He chatted easily, and told me that he lived about an hour from here, near Thetford. Like us, he was not from Norfolk, but had moved up here from Essex, a few years ago. A quick test of battery output confirmed what I had expected. Instead of the required 300 amps, my weary device could only manage 140; this with the engine running, after being started with his special machine. A new battery was the only long-term solution, and he could fit one, then and there.
I went for the heavy-duty option. As the car isn’t used very often, it pays to get the best available. I also benefited from a five-year guarantee from the RAC, instead of the standard one-year, if I had bought one and fitted it myself. I rewarded the man with a cup of strong tea, and happily paid my £120. That may seem expensive, but it was in our own driveway, and I didn’t even have to open the bonnet myself. Plus there is that five-year peace of mind to consider. By then, it was almost dark, and I withdrew into the kitchen to finish the preparation for our evening meal of roast chicken, with all the trimmings. It will be ready soon. The heating is on, Ollie is dozing, and Homeland is on TV later. Despite a couple of setbacks, that’s not a bad ending to a reasonably good weekend.