Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Spare a thought for the nation's breakdown recovery crews this Christmas

THE BIGGEST hazard of driving home for Christmas – at least according to Chris Rea’s 1988 hit – is being top to toe in tailbacks. Yet if it wasn’t for a trusty AA man the other day, I wouldn’t have even made it that far.

It’s typical Simister luck. After months of managing to avoid a visit from the breakdown fairy, she would have to strike on the Friday before Christmas, just as I was preparing to pack the boot with freshly-wrapped presents and head home for the festive season.

Naturally, being the sort of chap who’d rather run a42-year-old car built by British Leyland and a 15-year-old French hatchback acquired for less than most of my mates would pay for a decent shirt, I’m used to the occasional thing going wrong. It’s just not the sort of thing you want to happen on the day you’re driving home for Christmas!

In this case, the Peugeot 306 I’d bought a few weeks earlier decided it only wanted to use three of its wheels for the long trip north – the offside rear wheel had completely seized up, and nothing I did was freeing the brakes off. Defeated, I dialled the fourth emergency service – and resigned myself to being in for a long wait.

In all my time peddling automotive tat in lieu of a shiny new car, I’ve had a distinctly mixed experience of all of Britain’s big breakdown recovery firms, including one instance when it took a staggering ten hours to recover my oldMini from Carlisle. So – on the day when most of the nation’s motorists were bound to be having the same festive intentions I was – I was hardly expecting miracles.

Yet within half an hour the stricken 306 had been jacked up and a chap in a hi-vis jacket had given me a diagnosis – the rear brake cylinder had given up the ghost and needed replacing before it was going to be safe for any pre-Christmas cruises up the A1. All of which meant finding a garage who’d be prepared to do the job inside of a day.

My usual menders of choice were too busy mending an equally problem-prone old hack – my colleague’s Saab 9000, no less – but Mr Hi-Vis had a mate at another place, and after a quick phone call and a bit of arm-twisting said garage agreed to getting the job done the same day. Sure enough, a couple of hours later I was reunited with a Peugeot ready for the important job of running the Simister family’s Christmas presents home. While I’ve had some distinctly ropey breakdown recovery jobs in the past, this time my knight in hi-vis armour genuinely was the difference between getting home and being stranded at the office, 200 miles away.

So spare a thought for the chaps in their brightly-coloured vans as they chug across the North West this Christmas. Every driver they get back on the move over the festive break is another Christmas that hasn’t been ruined by the breakdown fairy.

Here’s to them – and Merry Christmas to you too, obviously!

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