Before I retired I worked as an educational psychologist. You will know this if you’ve read these blogs before and if you haven’t read them, why not? When I was working one of my bosses was a woman who might have been described as somewhat straight-laced. She was an excellent boss, intelligent and highly efficient, a perfect foil for my creative and chaotic management skills. I had complete respect for her as a manager and yet she had one dark secret, apart from her husband that is. She was a huge fan of Patricia Cornwall’s gory crime books. Her love of the forensic side of crime of the blood and terrible deaths seemed completely at odds with her sensible suits and her conservative decision-making. I have always read Patricia Cornwell’s novels, with her hero pathologist Kay Scarpetta, with one eye closed. As a fan of the Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margaret Allingham sub-genre of crime writing, Cornwell’s novel were a bit too graphic vis a vis death and destruction, for my sheltered taste.
I thought of my ex-boss and her predilection for a certain kind of crime novel as I was reading an article in the Observer colour supplement last weekend. The article contained information about Cornwell’s terrible early life – how she had been abused by a paedophile, had an absent father, a mentally ill mother, an abusive foster mother, treated in a psychiatric hospital for anorexia, moved around by her divorced mother, you know the usual stuff. The up-lifting message of the article, if that is what it was meant to be, was as follows and after Saturday I’m hanging on to it. The message was that Cornwell had turned all setbacks to her advantage she says, “I’m a survivor. I don’t know why. I was just lucky that I can take things that have been traumatic and use them as rocket fuel.” Or, as my daughter puts it, what don’t kill you makes you stronger (or insane – my addition).
OK, Saturday did not contain any paedophilic experiences, no abuse, no anorexia, absent father’s insane mothers but it did contain, was dominated by, the AA and in my experience this is much worse. The day was not deserved I thought. We’ve had a pretty rough week, couple of weeks in fact and it’s been to do with the gardening business and in a tangential way so was Saturday. I decided to borrow the firm’s van (my van actually) and my son-in-law to go down to my late mother’s house and continue the very tedious business of emptying the house of furniture. The idea was about as close as I got. I left the house at 9 and by 9.10 I was broken down in a layby. The van had conked. As in photo above. Photo below was my Saturday morning view hoping to sight a breakdown truck in rear view mirror.
At 9.10 I made my first call to the AA. Make a note, I was in Leeds and it was just after nine on a Saturday morning. In other words I had cause to be optimistic that I would not have to wait long. Fool. A patrolman will be within you an hour. As you are in an unsafe situation you are a priority call. OK, great. 10.35, no sign of anybody. That’s an hour and 25 minute after my first call. I call again, we will be with you in 25 minutes. OK, great. 11.00, no sign. I ring again. We will be with you in 25 minutes. You said that this time. We will be there in 25 minutes. I spend the time reading my blog on resilience and repeating the phrase – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and looking in the mirror for any sign. I’m very bored and moving along the scale to homicidal anger. Hmm. At 11.30 I ring again, all these times are of course recorded on my phone so I can be sure all this information is accurate,
11.30, I get some nice soothing music. I listen to it for a long while, can’t say how long because this isn’t on my phone, seems like about three days. They answer. Our driver is 5 miles away she says. That’s nice I think, that’s different. I have time to speculate how long it will take the driver to cover those 5 miles – 30 miles an hour surely, that’s 10 minutes. After 20 minutes the truck arrives, I should have asked whether these were 5 earth miles. I’ll come back to the truck, unfortunately it is on the other side of the dual carriageway. He flashes his lights as he goes by. That’s nice I think. 10 minutes later the truck arrives and my troubles are only just beginning.
So in Patricia Cornwell words, make rocket fuel from adversity. As I’m sitting in my lonely cab I wonder can I get a blog out of this? Well, not enough happening really to make a 1000 word blog. How silly of me that’s thank-goodness-this-is-over thinking – and it isn’t over and the fat lady is nowhere in sight. There will be a blog and it’s a therapeutic process.
The point is, at 11.50, that’s two hours and 40 minutes after my first call, not within the hour note, we have a truck. I have been here for two hours and 40 minutes I say by way of making conversation. Not my fault mate, I got this call at 10 to 11. Well whose fucking fault is it then, you’re not even the AA. It’s the AA they’re shit. Ahh, an intellectual, I think. Have you got a technician with you, the lady on the phone said there would be. He looks at me as if I have just offered to roger him. Then the great news, he’s only here to move me to a place of safety so the AA man can come and work on the van. My intellectual friend says, they don’t mind us getting killed at the roadside but not them. My heart sinks below where it was when it had already sunk some time ago. Where do you want to go? I resist saying what about to a world populated by people who do what they’re supposed to, who provide good service, who solve problems rather than create more? No, be silent.
OK, I’m nearly up to a 1000 words. Let me be brief. My pal takes me home and it’s now 12.30. Now what I ask, give ‘em an hour and if nobody (the AA) shows up give them a call. By 1.30, no response. Oh sorry the lady says, you’re not on the system. I’ll make you a priority call, oh, excellent, more reasons to be cheerful. AA arrive at 2.10, he stays until 4.00 and doesn’t fix it, it’s either a fuse or the BCM (Body Control Module). How exciting, one is cheap and the other expensive. Which one will it be I wonder. He cannot fix it either way. He leaves and I watch the rugby. You may think the fat lady is now singing but you would be very wrong but all this is to take place on Monday when I try and hire a replacement van. But that’s for another time. Retirement is great, so much more time to enjoy yourself.