I have failed in my attempt to notch up 200,000 miles in my trusty Honda Civic. I have been driving this silver/grey dream machine around Britain and Europe in a silver/grey dream for eleven years. It has been part of my life for one fifth of my life. I got out of the driver’s seat for the final time today at Knutsford Services on the M6 motorway having only achieved 198,047 miles and I wept. Well I didn’t actually weep but under the circumstances that seemed to be the right thing to say. Really I was a bit sad for a couple of minutes then I went for a wee and had a cup of coffee before handing over the key to our Seán who has taken on the responsibility of doing the next 198,047 miles in it.
Final glimpse of the instrument panel
on the flight deck of my Honda Civic.
My reason for wanting to reach 200,000 miles was so that I could say I had driven as far as the Moon but, having just looked up the distance from Chippenham to the Sea of Tranquillity (avoiding speed cameras) on the AA Route Planner website, I saw that the journey to the Moon is really 238,857 miles so I had fallen more than 40,000 miles short anyway. To make matters worse, the Honda wasn’t new when I bought it and it already had around 11,000 miles on the clock. So my whole Moon theory was a complete and utter waste of time. However, despite my miscalculations, I can confidently say that I have driven it the equivalent of seven and a half times round the world.
Seán’s main reason for needing the car is to travel from his home in Preston to his new job in Lancaster; a distance of about twenty five miles. So, by my estimations, even if he doesn’t go anywhere else in it he will have knocked up the 40,000 mile shortfall and attained Buzz Lightyear status by the spring of 2016. So . . . to Garstang and beyond!
Just for the sake of getting used to the car and the journey, once we had got to Preston Seán drove me to Lancaster. A five minute tour of the town centre which took in his employers’ premises, the nearby Pay & Display car park and the impressive Victorian Town Hall convinced me that this is the place where I want to live when I vacate my humble abode in the Wiltshire wilderness. It being so close to the beautiful Pennines and awash with black pudding, how could I ever resist?
Back in Preston I had to make my way back to Chippenham by train. It seemed strange being waved off at the railway station by my son. It’s usually the other way round. And it was sad to say goodbye to him after such a brief encounter but what a journey I had embarked upon!
The first stop was in Wigan. I had never been to Wigan before in all my life. From my seat in the railway carriage I saw neither pie nor pier but at least I can now say I have been there.
The next port of call on my magical mystery tour was Warrington, which I had always thought was the railway station in which Paul Simon had written the song Homeward Bound. I was disappointed to discover from my later research that it had actually been penned on a platform just down the road in Widnes. I suppose really that as the song was about feeling pissed off and wanting to go home it could have been written in any town in Lancashire. Further research reassured me that my halt at Warrington Bank Quay had been worthwhile as it was there that they received media coverage in February 2009 due to a sign being erected to indicate that kissing was prohibited at its drop-off point. Well those signs certainly seem to have worked because nobody in Warrington kissed me.
The rest of my journey was cold and slow and miserable and where it lacked warm waiting rooms it certainly didn’t lack inebriated Liverpool fans from Yate singing tuneful melodies about Stevie Gerrard in the quiet carriage on the train from Brum to Briz. I usually quite enjoy travelling by train so I will say no more as I don’t wish to appear to be moaning.
What made up for the things that I have been tempted to moan about was the fact that, although the temperature was hovering somewhere on the brass monkey side of freezing, today saw the start of British Summer Time and here in the U.K. our clock springs sprang forward by an hour. So it was still very light as the train pulled into Templemeads round about 7.15 p.m. A truly remarkable sight just before that point but after we had whistled through Filton Abbey Wood station was a valley carpeted as far as the eye could see with allotments. The myriad of sheds and pigeon lofts, and bonfires smouldering in the evening sunlight made it look rather like a scene from the prospectors’ settlements in the Klondike gold rush days. However, ‘gold’ and ‘rush’ are two words I don’t normally associate with Bristol.