More about that Song
The next few moments all happened exceptionally
quickly. So quickly that in my mind it seems as if Jonathan’s next
words instantly followed my own, although in retrospect, there must
have been a gap. Some time must have passed for the van to change
state in the way it had because his reply was not “Oh yes, that’s
very pretty”, or “indeed, check out the size of the towers on that”,
“we’re in a ditch…”
There was no question about the matter. We were
looking out of the van at about a fifty degree angle at a winter
wonderland of snow coated trees and majestic castles as the fluffy
flakes continued to pile into the scene like a really bad case of
dandruff. There was a road just to the left of us, that we probably
should have been on. It was at a funny angle, or maybe that was
Somehow the beauty of the scenery was lost.
“Erm, sorry” I said, realising
that albeit instinctive, attracting the attention of a man who’s
driving on icy mountain roads is probably a really, really stupid
thing to do.
“It wasn’t that” he said “We just slid”. I’m not
sure if he was trying to make me feel better, or albeit instinctive,
he was just embarrassed that he’d been stupid enough to look.
For a couple of seconds we just sat there, like
a pair of stupid clowns, in a stupid clown car, at a really stupid
angle. In a stupid ditch.
“I suppose we should get out and take a look” I
said, and Jonathan sort of mutely agreed as I clambered out of my
door at a fifty degree angle into the blizzard. I shut my door behind
me before remembering that the drivers side door was now pressed
against the snow bank, so I’d just shut the door in Jonathans face
as he was trying to climb across the van to get out of the passenger
In retrospect, that was probably quite funny. I
opened the door again, embarrassedly.
Looking up the road we evidently weren’t that far
from civilization. There were a few houses on either side of the
road. There was an old man clearing the snow from his driveway.
He noticed me noticing him looking at us and instantly went back
to clearing his driveway and minding his own business. Obviously
people crashing vans into ditches around here was an everyday occurrence
and not worthy of further inspection. There was a woman with a child
in a garden over the road who I presume were out playing in the
snow. On seeing us, they vanished inside. I was beginning to wonder
what horror film we had driven into. “We don’t welcome strangers
in these parts ….” Maybe we’d taken a wrong turning off the motorway
and had ended up in Transylvania. Maybe Dracula had moved to Poland
after all the bad publicity. Maybe there was a monster in that castle
up on the hill.
Jonathan climbed out of the van and we got on with
the serious details of working out exactly where we were so we could
call the recovery service and let them know. “On the road beneath
Dracula’s Castle in the village of terrified peasants” probably
wasn’t going to cut it. I was pretty sure I knew which road we were
on, but not how far down it, so I approached the old man while I
brandished the map, and tried with the usual composition of mime
and loud English to speak to him in Polish. I pointed out the place
on the map where I thought we were, and he looked at the map, and
then pointed to somewhere about two hundred miles away. At the time
I just though that he was, well, either crazy or stupid, or he had
never seen a map before. I now realise that in his combination of mime and loud Polish, he
was trying to say in English “Go here, Go here, before the demon
from the castle comes down and devours you”.
Anyway, we put in the call to be rescued, giving
what information we had, and waited for a call back from a local
garage who would call us back to arrange everything. We then realised
we were very lucky and had the opportunity to stand around and twiddle
our thumbs for the next six or seven hours.
It took about five minutes before Jonathan got
a text from one of the girls he sometimes works with in England.
It was about the two kazillionth he’d received while we’d been here
from her and he’d started to get annoyed at about the third. Up
until this point, he had remained incredibly calm after the accident.
He kinda lost it at that point. I started to explain
that he was probably more upset about the accident than he was with
her, and that it was only a text, even if it was the two kazzilionth,
and then it occurred to me that the guy just needed to let of steam
and I should get out of his way and let him get on with it, as he
slightly more calmly typed the text “just crashed van – in very
bad mood”. That was the understatement of the day.
I wandered off down the road to let him have a
little space to explode in, in comfort. As I approached the corner
I saw a lorry coming down the road towards me. I was on the inside
of the corner where it was going to turn, and as we already knew
these roads were not exactly grippy and as it headed towards me
and I stood in the road thinking, there is no way that thing is
going to stop and no way I can get over the road, and if it slides
on this corner then the chances are that I’m jam. So I jumped.
As it passed me by, and I checked out my situation,
thigh high in a ditch full of cold wet snow, it occurred to me just
how much fun this trip was.
From that point on things started to get decidedly
better. The next vehicle to come past was a huge tractor/snow plough.
It had tyres on it that were bigger than me. As we waved madly at it,
as if he could have missed the van in the ditch (although everyone
else had done a good job of ignoring it) he smiled, made the international
symbol of “I’ll just turn around” and headed off down the road.
He did indeed turn around and came straight back. As he did, the
old man came back down to have another look, obviously feeling a
little braver now there was some more local support. The plough
driver looked at the van, then constantly smiling with the confidence
of a man who knew he had the tools, nipped to his cab and pulled
out a fat cable which he attached around the tow bar. Then signaling
that someone should get in to steer the van, he proceeded to drive
off up the road. I stood by the side of the road and watched the
ease with which this huge machine pulled the van out of the ditch
and back onto the road. Then I watched with slightly less wonder,
and slightly more worry, as he continued to drive off up the road.
Where was he going? Did he realise that
I wasn’t in it. Was he driving off to a local garage leaving me
Maybe he was going to tow it up to the castle where
who knew what horrors awaited.
Fortunately, he stopped at the top of the hill
where I caught them, having just been chasing them madly up the
road. Jonathans face was a picture of relief as he stepped out of
the van. I think it was partially the fact that his van was now
out of the ditch, and partially that he was no longer being towed
backwards up an icy hill.
There was not a scratch on the van. As it had slid
into the ditch, the amount of snow in the drift must have protected
it as it fell against the hillside. Even better, the engine turned
over at the first time of asking. Not quite so good was that the
wheels went around but the van didn’t move, but that was solved
by a fair amount of shoving. Needless to say, we couldn’t thank
the plough driver enough, although we did what we could, and all
full of smiles we headed off, perhaps slightly gingerly back on