Traumatic Tuesday, a breakdown


Last Tuesday morning started badly. It started with something small. My father’s hot water bottle leaked. At 89, he likes the comfort of the warmth, as he reads the paper in bed before breakfast. By 8:30pm he was sitting on a chair, drenched in hot water, as my mother removed all the bedding and tried to dry the mattress with a hairdryer. I quickly helped her to make the bed, before we rushed off to London.

Sergio and I were due at the memorial service of a friend and colleague, Stuart Johnson. St Paul’s Knightsbridge, on that morning, was filled with every five-star hotel manager and director you care to name. The great and the good of the hospitality world were gathered to say farewell. Stuart was the quintessential British gentleman, beloved of staff and customers alike, elegant and charming, who ran Brown’s Hotel.

Back to my parents in Esher to report on proceedings, pick up our bags and then head home. Memorials are not as bad as funerals, but still leave you drained and reflective. Concentrating on the M25 and listening to the rest of the day’s events on the radio, are a needed distraction.

And then the radio stopped. And then the battery sign on the dashboard came up. And then we turned off, onto the A21.

Just after Sevenoaks, the car started losing acceleration. There was no hard shoulder. We then lost all power. Nothing. Hazard lights, indicators, nothing. We coasted along, to a verge wide enough to pull onto, stopped and climbed out of the passenger door. The hazard lights came on!

In our memorial clothes, we traipsed up a muddy bank, through the brambles and started making phone calls. It was 3pm, sunny and mild. Two hours later, John from the RAC called from the opposite carriageway. Of all the places to breakdown, he announced, this part of the A21 was the worst. He couldn’t risk pulling his van into the mud and wouldn’t be able to tow us anyway, as we were facing in the wrong direction.

John from the RAC arrives

Hearing the disappointment in my voice, his compassion kicked in, he turned off at the next junction and came to find us. He tried; did this, did that, but concluded we needed a tow truck. With commiserations, a smile and a wave, he bid us farewell.

John at work

Meanwhile, the sun had now gone down and it was getting cold. Sergio scrambled down the bank and returned with our overnight bags and some cardboard boxes that we had intended to take to the recycling.

At 9pm, Andy arrived to find us wearing three sets of clothes each, with my shawl over our heads, my dressing gown over our legs, huddled in our little cardboard house. “You climb into the warmth of the truck,” he said. “I’ll deal with this.”

Half an hour later and we were finally heading home. At 10pm I get a text marked URGENT. Our tenants in London could smell gas. He was in Italy and she was home alone and panicking. As we juddered along I texted, missing every other letter; him, her and the plumber. Between them, my parents, my sister and the RAC, my phone’s battery was now dead too. I’d really had enough of today.

And then I saw it: the Waterworks Microbrewery and Dave’s smiling face sprang to mind. As we arrived into Rye I looked up Landgate to the Brewery Yard Club and thought of Jane, its fabulous owner. I even got dewy eyed as we passed Alsford!

We got back at 11pm: to the house I mean. We actually got home, at the Waterworks and the Landgate, as we passed the Fish Market and the Strand Quay. As we bumped on, I realised how familiar everything felt and how happy I was to be back in the arms of Rye.

It had been a testing day. It was filled with sadness and stress, but equally with kindness, good fortune and the unexpected warmth of familiarity.

The next morning I was refreshed and ready to fight another day. The plumber called: “That smell of gas”, he said. “Paint!”. Wednesday was looking up…

Image Credits: Natasha Robinson , Natasha Robinson .

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  1. I am sure that these events were of significance to the author but I am struggling to understand how this article has made its way into a newspaper, albeit in the ‘Living’ section. I have always valued this publication for its news: the worrying trend over recent weeks seems to be that it is changing into something much less hard-edged and more chatty. If Rye News wishes to be taken seriously, I suggest that it puts news front and centre.


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