Saturday 2 January 2010

In the Bleak Midwinter

...Frosty wind made moan.

Well, I have returned to my home after an enjoyable week and a bit away from Newcastle, whilst I visited my friends and family in my home town over the holidays.

I very nearly didn't make it there. I set off later than planned on Wednesday 23rd, and was making good time down the A1, when, shortly before Wetherby, I realised that my headlights were glinting off the road ahead of me, and the reason they were doing this was because the road was frozen. Not reassuring.

I slowed down to 50mph, which is when the blizzard hit. Light snow at first, getting progressively heavier, and about fifteen minutes into this, I realised that I couldn't see the lane markings, due to the snow, and was driving in the left-hand lane on the principle that if I went onto the rumble strips, at least I'd know I was straying out of the lane.

I don't panic whilst driving, not because I'm particularly cool-headed, but simply because panicking doesn't make driving any easier. I will admit that I was thinking "Hmm. This really isn't good. Really, really, not a good driving situation".

I slowed down to 30mph and followed the lights of the car in front of me, then the gritting lorry in front of me. As the sign for Wetherby services appeared, I wondered if I should try following the gritting lorry all the way home to Wakefield. Then it turned off towards Wetherby services, my brain calculated the factors involved here (nearly midnight, freezing, blizzard, unlit motorway, fewer and fewer cars on the roads, it would take another hour at the speed I was going to get there, God knew what the roads in Wakefield would be like after I turned off the motorway, and for all I knew there was a jack-knifed lorry around the corner), and made the fast decision to get off the road.

I drove very slowly round the snowiest roundabout I've seen in some years, and did something I've never done before; I pulled in at a roadside hotel and asked if they had any rooms going free for the night. (If they hadn't, Plan B was to kip in the chairs in reception.) Luckily, they did, and I took a double room, breakfast included, £50. As I headed off to retrieve my suitcase and laptop from the car, a small queue of weary travellers was forming behind me.

Later, I called my mum to tell her I would be seeing her and the rest of the family later that night.

I don't panic whilst driving. But my hands were shaking as I dialled the number.

Other than that, it was an excellent Christmas, and much enjoyed by all. (For those of you wondering, the conditions the following morning were snowy, as shown in the photo above, which is the view out of my hotel room window that morning, but much easier: I was home 40 minutes after I set off.) Happy New Year.

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