Of course that was never the plan, but that is what happened. We had selected a mighty show team of seven to take to the South of England Show in West Sussex. It was a show that we had never been to and flying solo once more, I had the tent, the barbecue and the coolbox on board as well as the rest of the show paraphenalia. Luckily I had also strapped 8 hurdles to the side of the trailer, a premonition perhaps?
So to the details, a relaxed load up and departure and a gentle drive in the sunshine heading east. As I coasted along in heavy traffic between junction ten and nine I was suddenly aware that I was slowing down, a dab on the accelerator proved fruitless as I continued to slow down. I looked at the temperature gauge which showed the needle at the top of the red. I immediately pulled over onto the hard shoulder. Popping the bonnet I was engulfed in steam accompanied by a very loud hissing noise.
I immediately became aware that the one place I didn't want to be was on the hard shoulder of the busy M25 with a trailer of very precious, in all senses of the word, alpacas. Images of some moron ploughing into the back of the trailer caused me to move and think with seemingly superhuman speed. I chucked 2 litres of mineral water into the system and luckily the engine started, it was a mile to Cobham services and we made it by the skin of our teeth before the engine management system shut the system down again. A large sigh of relief all round. Jeepers creepers that was a scary place to be.
When I passed my driving test 31 years ago my parents bought me a years membership of the AA and I have been covered ever since, it was a day like this that made it all worthwhile. Not only that but it had been recommended to me a year or so ago that I take out a policy with Equestrian Rescue Services to cover the trailer and more importantly the alpacas. The AA will not recover trailers under their policies, a lot of people don't know that.
So, the AA were finally mobilised and on their way. I have to say the AA patrol people are fantastic but the call centre is a very frustrating place to communicate with, there may have been some shouting as they changed the arrangements for my recovery three times. Ooops.
To cut a long story short, the Discovery (I hadn't realised how filthy it was!) was taken home by the AA whilst I waited for ERS (who were absolutely brilliant by the way, in every respect) to arrive. Whilst waiting for the AA I had deployed the hurdles and the team had a munch on some lovely grass on the roadside. That slowed the traffic down I can tell you!
I have to tell you about one of the recovery wagon drivers ( I had three altogether due to 'call centre confusion'). The AA called out a local garage to try and fix me and get me back on the road. A gentleman, I think called Chris, turned up with a big tow truck and having seen the huge 4 inch gash in the top hose stated that I would need recovering. I hadn't mobilised ERS at this point as I really wanted to get patched up and continue onwards to the show. I pointed out that I would need to get ERS out for the trailer but Chris would have non of it, if he could, he would take us all home. He was an interesting character and about as far from 'jobsworth' as possible. Ex Royal Navy, ex dolphin and killer whale trainer and heavy duty biker he did everything in his power to make it so. Sadly, he didn't have the right kit to hitch up the trailer and had to admit defeat. There should be more people out there like him, the world would be a better place!
The situation now is that the trailer and the car are outside, I can move neither, the alpacas are grazing happily and I am looking at a bill anywhere between small and huge. I should have been sitting covered in rosettes and ribbons by the way! The car is being collected tomorrow and will be pressure tested to see if the head gasket has blown. Luckily the next show is Devon County so I have a little time to get sorted out.
All in a days 'work!'