eacI drove back to London from Scotland yesterday. It’s about 430 miles door to door, depending on which route I choose. My best time, achieved on a quiet, dry and sunny Boxing Day (26th December for the non British amongst you) about 20 years ago, is seven and a half hours including stops. To achieve that, the roads must be clear and pit stops must be kept to a minimum.
Yesterday’s journey was marked by being the antithesis of all of the above.
In spite of general rejoicing in weather forecasts that summer had finally arrived, there was little evidence of sun or blue sky in Scotland, so the windscreen wipers were on intermittent and the headlights were on dipped when I saw I was approaching brightly illuminated brake lights and emergency flashers on a high point just outside Ecclefechan.
It’s just north of Gretna, but I think it’s important to note its closer proximity to Ecclefechan, a name which in my family is used as a stand in for any number of comical Scottish place names, along with Auchtermuchty, Lesmahagow, and Tomintoul, in imagined football score reporting as in Ecclefechan 4, Auchtermuchty 3. (And Ecclefechan’s Wikipedia entry notes that it has two shops, one of which is no longer a Post Office.)
Anyway, this spot on the M74, the main west coast road south from Scotland, has little to recommend it; and yesterday it was positively dreech. So it was not a great place in which to be stuck in stationery traffic for over 2 hours. When I say stationery, I mean absolutely stock still, nobody going anywhere, engines off, car doors open to stretch legs, chatting in the carriageway, dogs being walked in the central reservation and one small child tightrope walking on the crash barriers holding onto his mother’s hand. Had the sun been shining I would have had hopes of an impromptu football match.
According to the local radio station which I found eventually, it was due to an overturned caravan. I couldn’t check further, as of course, in such a remote place where information is at a real premium, there was no telephone reception.
Finally, when everyone hurried back to their vehicles, and after a few faltering starts around cars that couldn’t get going without being pushed, the traffic sped fairly smoothly past a car and a caravan, each perched on a break down trailer. Fortunately it was only the caravan that looked bashed and dented, so I’m hoping no-one was hurt. But really it is just another argument for not allowing the things on the roads. They just shouldn’t be allowed. Dragging a caravan around is as socially unacceptable as drink driving in my book; they share the same self obsessed disregard for other road users, and create as much potentially fatal jeopardy.
Knowing that there would now be two hours worth of pent up need for toilet and fuel stops, I elected to go into the first services, but instead to drive on to the ones just north of Carlisle……. and, in quite a large car park, parked diagonally opposite the car that had been immediately to my right in the jam…… only to find that the service building was closed because of a fire alarm. So I ran across the bridge over the motorway to the northbound services where there was a long line at the ladies’ because only half of it was open.
It was then that I realised how much of my patience quota for the day I had expended on sitting trapped in the jam in the middle of nowhere.
I’m over it now; just don’t mention caravans.