(first published 11th March 2012)
It was one of those sundays. There was just enough March sun to justify, if not necessitate, the pulling down of the roof for the coast road journey from East to West. There is no feeling like it, and the long, winding roads that thread the flatlands behind the Kent seawall are simply breathtaking when taken at speed. The A259 had been closed for several weeks, and the detour took me through Lydd and a series of other villages I’ve never before visited. They do rather remind me of the fens. And it’s not merely the flatness.
Motoring through Camber I decide to park up and take a look at the sea. I turn into the car park behind the seawall and, as ever, have to crawl through the entrance due to potholes. Chasms negotiated, I accelerate just a little to park up and, luckily, notice something which changes my mind for me. I reverse, swing round and park on the road side of the parking area.
What I had seen was a Mercedes estate, ankle-deep in the sand and shingle mix of the car park. The husband was in the driving seat, the wife and another man trying to push. Deeper and deeper it went.
I offered assistance and we tried to shore up the tyres, but the car was bottomed out. The other gentleman had a Land Rover but no rope. We failed to find any.
Another car pulled up, and having decanted his young family, brought a spade and a fork over to help some more. We scratched our heads and dug some more and finally decided to move the car forward, backfill the tyre-holes and then reverse.
Of course, the car was automatic, so a bugger to do that clutch-slipping thing with. The car moved forward. Another couple turned up and watched.
We back-filled. We pushed. The wife was now driving. The car moved … it escaped. But the brakes were applied too soon. It remained stuck, if not incurably so now. We re-dug, we prepared. We got ready to push once more.
The husband starts laughing when the spade and fork man asks if he hasn’t got the AA or something. ‘That’s the really funny thing’, he says, seeing the funny side in a very English sense. ‘I’ve got a rope at home … because I run a recovery truck service …’
‘And there’s no-one in the office?’ Said spade and fork man.
‘No. It’s Sunday. We only came to look at the sea.’
We three start to push again, rocking the car to let it escape. To no avail. Finally, the man of the watching couple comes over. To save the day. He is the straw.
The camel’s back broken, we all shook hands and went about our days.