Saturday 31 August 2013

Last night an AA man saved my life, a story of redemption on the M6

My Hero at work! He even knew the engine was in the back
It all began on a road trip from Ipswich to Manchester for the 40th birthday celebrations of my dear mate Mat. Barbara had been playing up for a while with some form of electrical or fuel problem that had resulted in me going through three sets of alternators. She seemed relatively fit for the journey however and i set up for the 'rainy/ravey city' and veritably steamed up the A14/M6 at a steady 55-60mph top speed, sitting comfortably in the wake of Eddie Stobbart trucks and with tunes pumping from the stereo from my mad raving days in the North West and looking forward to a reunion with guys i used to DJ with nearly 20 years ago. 

What happened next may be horribly familiar to those who enjoy the exciting and unpredictable nature of travel in a 40+ year old VW : the thrill of  "will i %*!@ing get there or not?"

Stockport was in my sights and in another ten minutes i would be pulling into the drive of my bro Brian's in Salford when Bab's started loosing power and coughed like a 60 a day coal miner on bonfire night. I pulled in to the next service station and limped into the car park. The problem was getting worse and i had no choice but to get out my AA card and mobile phone and with my heart sinking as i knew it highly unlikely he or she of the Automobile Association would be carrying a spare vintage VW alternator.   I had only ever called out the AA on one other occasion in the VW, but just as all men hate asking for directions, having to call for help when driving a museum piece that looks as knackered as my Babs is more than a bit embarrassing. I could just imagine the scorn of my fellow travellers in their shiny little Japanese and French wheels of plastic and carbon fibre and naff reliable engine and electrical systems.(Boring farts, eh readers?)

"A patrol will be with you in the next 30 minutes to an hour sir" said the girl on the phone, adding "are you in a safe place, or are you particuarly vulnerable?" She may well have added "are you some kind of wimpy, weedy, wuse who cant fix his own bus?"

The yellow van duly arrived and out jumped a massive mixed race guy who bore an extremely close resemblance to the drum n bass godfather and DJ Goldie (A good omen i thought, as me Mat and Brian used to drive from Bradford to London for Goldies infamous 'Metalheadz' night 'back in the day) He didn't have the gold teeth and was scouse and not from Bristol, and was a big guy who looked no stranger to the gym. I told him of my woe and the history of recent problems with the alternator. He scratched his head and had a good poke around and tried a few basics like cleaning the contacts and plugs....but she was still was running very poorly and would stall as soon as the revs dropped to anything near idling speed.

"Alright, alright, calm down, calm down (he didnt really say that bit) but sorry pal, i'm going to have too either tow you back to Ipswich or into Manchester and you can get it sorted in a garage in Manc so you can get back under your own power" He explained cheerfully in his delightful cheeky northern patter.

"Damn it, i have to meet up with a bunch of chaps i used to go dancing and disc jockeying with in my formative years, i have not seen those jolly fellows in simply an age you understand, we had such gay times together and i blasted well have to get back to rural Suffolk for work monday morning  and bally well think those scallywag urchins in Manchester might steal my beloved jallopy, i know what you northern types are like, no offence what ho" (That's what i sound like.)

"Yew a DJ, like?" He asked

"One certainly is, in fact i have a box of fine vinyl recordings on the back seat here that i plan to play to the chaps tonight, they will be frightfuly disappointed i wont be making it, we used to have such super fun at those illegal raves on the M62 and wild nights of the finest wines and crumpets(?) at such excellent establishments as Shelly's in Stoke and the Hacienda " 

"Kuuule, you went to Shelly's and the Hacienda? Look, I'm going to sort try and sort this out for you mate, i love my music and always wanted to go to those clubs"

Another ten minutes or so of fiddling with the alternator, but no joy, but she was still running at high revs so i suggested if he could follow me up the few miles of remaining motorway i could just about limp to my destination, put on the dancing shoes and call out a comrade of his tomorrow for a tow back to Ips.

As he followed me out of the exit ramp of the services Babs just completely died, not even making the motorway. Before i could get out of the van he had already jumped out of his transit and grabbed my back bumper and dragged me up the exit ramp and back into the services. This guy was seriously strong!

"I know what your problem is, i smelt fuel in your exhaust as you drove off : its your points i reckon"

He duly got the spanners out again and virtually stripped the engine down and adjusted the points accordingly. She was running like she had when she rolled of the production line in Germany in 1970!

In fact she has been trouble free ever since then and i got to see my beloved brethren and compared beer bellies, bald patches and battle scars and boogied to Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald (I didn't have any Goldie tunes, shame really)

That's my story of redemption on the M6, absolved by the power and love of repetitive beats and a hero in a fluorescent yellow tabbard. He was my knight in a shiny yellow transit and restored my faith in humanity, and of course my beloved Babs!