I join the throng of traders trooping off to retrieve their vehicles and the subsequent queue of cars and vans waiting to get back in through the gate. I head over to where the trailer has lain in various states of repair all weekend and haul it over to hitch it up to the car. Something doesn’t seem right.
One of the tyres is completely flat! The same wheel as before. It is Sunday evening, everyone is leaving. Not good! I manhandle it out of the way again and drive over to the tent to resume packing.
Wonderful Chap No. 2 is also packing up opposite. I mention the flat tyre in passing, already resigned to abandoning the trailer and reverting to Plan B, namely, off-loading everything we can, stuffing the car to the rafters and just getting home as best we can. It strikes me that the Universe is probably trying to tell me something about this trailer and I really should have listened the first time.
WC#2 has other ideas though and is determined to see us on the road, bless his kind and generous heart. It’s only 40 minutes each way, he says, and off he goes to fetch another Mini wheel. He has 3 old Minis in various states of (dis)repair, it seems, and thus lots of Mini wheels. I’m not taking any chances, though, and verify that the other Wonderful People are still OK to take some of our stuff. We crack on with packing up as it begins to rain. Oh Joy! Wet canvas is just what we need right now.
Fortunately, the rain is not heavy and the canvas is brand new and freshly waterproofed. It will need to be dried, but not much. WP#1 is ready to leave so we go into overdrive to pack the tent up so he can take it and get going. We stuff the car until there is just a small pile of odds and sods left on the ground and tell the children that they’ll have to hang on to the roof bars because there is clearly no room for them inside. They are used to us saying this kind of thing and remainstoically unimpressed.
We help WP#2 pack up and load her van and she departs with the children as passengers. They take up less space than the remaining gear and we figure that they’ll have a more comfortable journey not wedged in our car like Tetris blocks. We mill around aimlessly for a while. Most people have left and those remaining do not need our help.
WC#2 returns and in no time a new wheel is fitted. The old one was apparently a bit of a dud and fell apart. This does not inspire confidence. It is now about 8.30pm so we throw the small pile of stuff in the trailer, thank WC#2 heartily for his kindness and effort and hit the road.He lends us his heavy-duty socket in case we need to change the wheel back to the old good one. I secretly visualise what use I will put this tool to if that should happen.
The trailer feels sluggish and awkward, though I am not sure to what extent my nervousness is due to two trashed tyres in as many days and the nagging feeling that this trailer really wants to be released into the wild or shot or whatever one does to broken down
old nags workhorses.
I pull into a petrol station to adjust the tyre pressures (these tyres have been sitting around idle for years). This proves a little awkward since the valves are on the inside (tyres mounted backwards to clear the body), but not impossible. The other tyre registers erratically but I put this down to the inconvenient location of the valve. DH checks the wheel nuts and tightens them…quite a lot. I have a bad feeling about this. We set off again.
The trailer is still bouncing all over the place and making the car shudder quite violently. I stick to 40mph and do not endear myself to the other traffic as lorries fly past at 60mph. We pull over again to redistribute the what little load there is to see if this will help and set off again. I hope all the shuddering doesn’t make the wheels fall off. It is now raining quite heavily and starting to get dark.
I spend more time watching the wheels in my wing mirrors than looking where I am going. I realise this is not a good thing and the stress is making my head and shoulders ache. We make it to the M25.
I continue peering at the wheel as best I can in the reflected headlights. It is dark and hard to see, but it seems to me that it is looking a bit saggy. We pull off the motorway into some services and the tyre is indeed very flat. We feed the air compressor 20p pieces as if it were a one-arm bandit, desperately trying to get the pressure up, but it doesn’t want to play. Eventually, DH manages to get it pumped up, but thinks it may still be releasing air. I am soaked through and very, very unhappy.
We pull back onto the motorway and my stress levels hit breaking point. I am convinced the tyre is flat again and pull off at the next junction, unwilling to continue. When we finally find somewhere to pull over, I am right and the tyre is flat as a pancake again. (This is the other tyre btw).
I have had enough. There is no way on earth I am going to attempt to change a wheel in the pissing rain in the middle of the night, or, for that matter, spend another eternity waiting for rescue. We find a layby, remove the remaining items from the trailer, detach the numberplate and stuff everything in the car. DH now has a mountain of stuff on his lap and the back of the car is full to the roof. We leave the trailer behind and with it all the stress and tension. It is now 11.30pm, the children are watching Doctor Who with WP#2, she tells me, but we still have a long way to go.
This has been exhausting and I consider asking DH to drive, but decide he probably won’t want to anyway (he dislikes driving and I am a nervous passenger) and, besides, it is always best to get back in the saddle after a bad experience. This proves a good decision and now that the trailer is gone, I quickly slip into auto-pilot mode, as the tension slips away and I find myself on familiar roads. Before long I have adjusted to a cruising speed of 70mph (<cough> or thereabouts) and we are making real progress.
I feel elated to be free of the burden, but also rather guilty, since WC#2 went to such efforts to get it back on the road for us. It wasn’t a bad trailer and served us well on a number of occasions, but I know with absolute certainty that it will have gone long before I get a chance to return for it. I knew the Universe was trying to tell me it wasn’t destined to return home with us.
It is 1am by the time I have retrieved the childen, hosed them down and said goodnight. I climb wearily into bed and wonder how long it will take me to…..zzzzzzzz!