Vanlife, the second week. Day 12: Wednesday

Day 12: Wednesday

I’m up with the dawn as ever, and I gratefully utilise my mum’s kitchen for some tea and toast. I’d had a vague idea of stopping briefly at my brother’s again on the way back, but a bit of a check of Google Maps route planning nixes that idea. I have things to do back in Stretham – mainly posting eBay sales – and the stop would put me slap in the middle of the dreaded A10 rush hour, where traffic sits impatiently still while waiting for its occasional turn to move forward two metres at 2mph.

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So I resolve to head off fairly soon, and end up leaving at 10:30. “Are you sure you’ll be all right in the wind?” my mum asks. Of course, I airily reply, remembering the winds of the other night buffeting the sedentary van from side to side. They’d died down hadn’t they, how bad could it be?

Bad, as it turns out. I gain a new respect for truckers as I wrestle the steering wheel to keep the slab sided vehicle in the same lane, or indeed on the road at all. It’s bad enough with the steady pressure of the wind, but occasional massively powerful gusts grab the machine in a powerful barometric hand from time to time, requiring a sudden desperate wrench to stay on course. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, bloody scary.

To be fair, I’ve encountered scary driving in high winds before – there’s nothing to accentuate the inherent instability of a Morris Marina like a mild gust. But I’ve never encountered it in anything of this size. I’m half tempted to pull over until it subsides, but who knows how long that will take, and I still have to get back in time to get things done.

So I press on grimly, spying even bigger slabsided trucks wrestling with the same gusts as me. Halfway up the M5, the Google Maps voice informs me that there’s now a delay, due to a “crash on the M42”. Not “incident” or “accident” – “crash”. Way to break it gently, Google.

Fortunately, the lady in the box has an alternative. I can take the A46, and arrive back at about the same time as the original route would have done. What it doesn’t account for is the general chaos caused by the unrelenting wind on a single carriageway road. At Evesham I slow to a crawl to avoid the traffic in the opposite lane, as it swerves to dodge a downed tree blocking half the road. That could have been nasty.

After a teeth-clenchingly tense four and a half hours, I somehow make it back to Stretham and safety. Ever seen that old French movie The Wages of Fear, where four truckers have to navigate a truck full of dynamite over a rotting, unstable bridge? It was like four and a half hours of that, and that movie’s only two hours long.

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One consolation is that the driver’s seat of a minibus turns out to be a surprisingly comfortable perch for all that time. I was expecting to get out with aching back and legs after several hours driving what’s basically a commercial vehicle, but actually I feel fine. I’ve had more aches and pains after a two hour drive in my old Mazda MX5.

I take the opportunity of a brief sojourn at home base to have some food and get my eBay packages ready; but at the post office they inform me it’s early closing on Wednesdays for paperwork. So I needn’t have rushed home after all – damn. Still, at least I got to post the blogs up to this one…

I’m not there long, as it’s back to work tomorrow and I need to be in Cambridge for that. So I head back to town, and surprisingly end up grabbing the exact same parking spot I was in last week. Well, it seemed to cause no problem then, but I don’t want to take the piss so I resolve to move it when I can.

There’s just time for a couple of drinks with Layla at the Royal Standard, and we’re joined by my old mate Zillah, who’s celebrating becoming an auntie for the first time. Layla has some experience of this already, with her marvellously named nephew William Oliver Whitworth (look at the initials), so much baby talk is had, but thankfully it’s not the only topic of conversation. I don’t have much to contribute to that one…

They don’t stay long though, as both are tired. So, it turns out, am I. That drivers seat may be comfy, but apparently hours of wrestling with the steering wheel to stay on the road has taken it out of me. So I retire early too – after all, not only do I have work tomorrow, I also have a date! With a bloke I met on Scruff, one of the seemingly endless variety of hookup apps that now appear to be the only way to meet a potential partner since every gay bar in Cambridge closed down. I’m not sure I’ve ever been on anything that could reasonably have been called a “date” before – this could be interesting.

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