I’m his Albatross …

I don’t think I should go out on jobs with Ned any more, I seem to be his harbinger of doom.

Just to fill in the gaps, we work for the same company ok ?

We have different jobs but sometimes they overlap and so on Friday we were both required to go to the same customer in Wales, he to install, me to do training, so he drove us in his car, a brand new company car, he’d only collected it on Monday.

Now if it had been me who was driving to Wales I might have ensured that we had enough petrol to get there but he is the less intelligent of the two brothers and he figured out that it would be borderline whether we got there or not and that was a risk he was willing to take – he didn’t consult with me in any of this I must make this clear.

So we’re still a good 30 or so miles away from this customer when he finally admits that this car was running on fumes and he’s going to have to pull off the motorway at the next junction and look for a petrol station, I tell him that most car fuel gauges have a good margin of error built-in and when the fuel calculator says you’re down to zero then you can usually get five or ten miles out of it – he tells me its been on zero for the last ten minutes, ten minutes during which we’ve been driving at 70mph, I did tell you that he is an idiot didn’t I ?

So we find ourselves driving down a country lane in Cheshire looking for a petrol station, a village or small town would be a good start but there don’t appear to be any in this part of the world, there are lots of big houses, this is the Premier League Footballer belt after all, this is where my famous cousin and his more famous wife live and we try and recall his address so that we can pop in unannounced and see if he has any petrol laying around the place – but of petrol stations there are none.

We stop in a very small village and ask a very posh lady who is out walking her very posh lap-dog if there is such a thing as a petrol station around here, after all even posh people need petrol stations, even more so for posh people given that a Range Rover only travels a matter of a few yards before the tank needs filling again – she thinks about it and then starts to give us directions to a petrol station that she admits is about five miles away, Ned asks if there isn’t one a bit closer as in all honestly the car hasn’t got five miles left in the tank now, and she changes her mind and remembers that there is another petrol station – just around the corner – trust us to pick the village idiot to ask.

So we stop at this petrol station.

Its not what you’re thinking, you’re thinking something like the petrol station that you regularly use at aren’t you, an international petrol company station with a dozen or so illuminated self service pumps, that sort of petrol station ?

The petrol station that was just around the corner had not been modernised since the day the pumps were installed, and it looked like they were installed just shortly after Mr Benz put one of his new fangled internal combustion engines onto a farm cart and opened his first dealership.

The tall old fashioned pumps with a bell that rang at every gallon stood on the kerb as we stopped in the road and stared, a man in a brown overall came scurrying out of a small wooden hut, opened the petrol flap on the car with one hand while holding the petrol nozzle with the other then stopped and shook his head, “Its one of those new fillers” he said, as if this was the first car that he’d seen with those fillers that prevent you putting diesel in petrol tanks and vice-versa, yes those fillers that have been fitted to all cars for at least ten years – fook knows how he sells any petrol at all in his village, in short he couldn’t serve us.

We actually did find some petrol in another village in a slightly more modern (but not much more modern) filling station and we arrived in Wales only one hour late for our appointment only to find that the customer was not ready for our installation and training session and it had all been a wasted journey – we then did another call on the way back to Leeds, a call that was supposed to last for (and I quote)  “Only two minutes”, it all went tits up and we were there for two hours and didn’t leave until nearly 7pm.

So that was Friday.

Today (Monday) involved another two install/training session in the Manchester area and guess what, neither of those were ready for us either so another wasted day but not totally wasted for on the way back home across the M62, at its very highest point, right underneath the bridge that carries the Pennine Way across the motorway, we discovered what it is The Highways Agency do after our Neds car had a blow-out, at 70mph.

Fortunately it was a rear wheel and so he stopped the car on the hard shoulder easily and we sat there for a few minutes trying to decide whether or not it was really a flat tyre until I said, “Tell you what, I’ll get out and have a look shall I ?”, I did, and it was and to make things worse it was on the offside so just a few inches away from a constant parade of huge trucks blaring past at 60mph – not a good place to change a tyre – Ned set off walking for the emergency phone to call for support and I sat on the crash barrier and admired the scenery – elder brothers prerogative.

It really was a lovely afternoon, sunny, not too cold, absolutely beautiful scenery across the Pennine moors and one of the busiest motorways in the country at my back, I tried to phone the office to let them know but they couldn’t hear what I was saying with all the traffic noise and I hoped that Ned was doing a bit better with the emergency phone call – he’d set off walking the wrong way to find the nearest one but I hadn’t the heart to tell him.

The Highway Agency Land Rover turned up and we found out what it is that those people do – they protect your back for you with the aid of two men who stand far closer to the moving traffic than I dared to alert the drivers of those HGVs that seem so much bigger and faster and heavier when they are flashing inches past you at 60mph, I sat on the crash barrier while Ned changed the wheel – well its his bloody car.

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