Breaking Down

We were supposed to be visiting a foster carer looking after a young cat for the RSPCA today (the “Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, if you live outside the UK). We used this lever to galvanise the children into action – cleaning their rooms, and helping tidy the rest of the house in preparation for the arrival of Christmas (and the cat). After a hectic morning filled with runs to charity shops, and the rubbish dump, we began to glimpse our long lost house.

I made lunch while a final run was made to the local recycling center, then we all piled into the car to make the journey to “meet” a young cat being looked after at a rescue center. Fate had other ideas.

Five minutes into the journey – while driving along in the Christmas Shopping traffic, our car suddenly lost power. We rolled to a halt at the side of the road while three lanes of traffic thundered past, and escaped into the scrub at the side of the road. I’m pretty sure the children thought an 18 wheeler would plough into our car at any moment. For the next half an hour we stood together under the safety of a nearby bridge, waiting for a rescue vehicle to appear. None of us were particularly dressed for the weather (of COURSE it began raining too), so we huddled like penguins. The children of course thought this was the best day out EVER.

The rescue vehicle rolled up earlier than predicted, and a tall, knowledgeable guy wearing warm clothes and reflective waterproofs set about plugging a laptop into our car and tinkering with this and that. All we saw of him for ten minutes were his feet dangling from the passenger door. Eventually he wandered back to us, still sheltering under the bridge in the biting wind and rain, and explained that a sensor deep inside the engine had most likely failed – leading to a waterfall of errors that resulted in the engine being starved of fuel. We would need to be towed.

After a short conversation, we decided that my other half would steer the car home, while I would accompany Miss 14 in the service vehicle. You would have thought all her christmases had come at once. I’ve never seen her quite so excited. During the journey back to our local garage – where the car was left for engineers to look at on Monday – she unloaded on the hapless rescue mechanic spectacularly – telling him about her plans to be a police officer one day, about the cat we had been planning to meet, about our existing cat, about his late brothers – pretty much everything of significance in her present life emptied out of her.

I smiled.

The one huge benefit to come from the car deciding not to work has of course been that the house is now tidy. To distract the children from not having visited the new cat this afternoon, we got the Christmas decorations out of the attic. We now have my old fake tree standing in the corner of the living room once again, and several boxes of Christmas themed ornaments waiting to find places around the house.

Don’t worry though – plans are already afoot to collect the cat later in the week. I suspect he may be awarded a Christmas themed name at this rate – although Miss 18 (who has casting vote) seems pretty settled on “Casper”, after a cat in a Michael Morpurgo book that she read years ago.

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