3pm. Somewhere near Didcot. 21st December
How sensible am I, starting my journey back to Reading?
Unbeknownst to me, Reading had already come to a standstill
The Reading Chronical had already published the standstill*
6pm. Pangbourne. 21st December
This is where I encountered the full car neige, the tail end of the traffic trying to get into Reading. The traffic standing still, sliding sideways, not yet abandoned. Local radio traffic news talked 50 yards taking 2 hours to cover. Urrrrrgggggggggghhhhhhhhhh……
Across the next hour I called and consulted with multiple friends. The phone network was often too busy to connect my calls. Despite the presense of many car drivers I felt very alone. My calm sensible friends and I agreed that I needed to get off the road quickly and get shelter for the night.
wendy: do you have any spare rooms for the night?
wendy: yes, well, um, yes
receptionist: we have one room left, would you like a toothbrush with that?
wendy: OH! (signifying relief at getting a room and supportive receptionist) Yes please, thank you, I was turned away from the hotel down the road, a toothbrush! how thoughtful
Handsome Other Guest (HOG): we’re stranded too, I’ve only got a hammer and some ski poles in the boot of my car, maybe we can do a deal over the toothbrush?
wendy: I’ve got a blanket in my car, we could build something like a tent with the poles and hammer. Not sure where the toothbrush comes in
HOG: (Huge smile then turns to receptionist) table for 6 please
receptionist: we’re waiting for the chef to get in before we finalise the menu, we’ll try and feed everyone
HOG: Table for 6? Can you put me on the waiting list
Clearly the snow car chaos called for some serious parking-up and a pint of Butcombe. My party for one joined a few other party’s for one and we all shared stories of family, cars, hills, walking, the IT industry and other topical faerie tales.
* the exceptional Number 17 bus was still on the move, albeit erratically.