In 2012, it snowed.
So hard, I was convinced I was going to die.
I was sitting in my friend’s lounge when the first snowflakes started falling. It was getting late, and it was a 60 mile drive home. Usually, I’d have crashed on their sofa, but I was working the next morning and needed to get home. Driving made sense.
It didn’t take long to regret that decision. The snow fell, heavier now. I struggled up hills, the wheels spinning. I was in the “Divorce Car”, the car I’d been left with when my marriage broke down; a car I hadn’t actually wanted, and couldn’t really afford to run as it was an ostentatious, petrol-guzzling monster of a thing. Plus, it was Rear-Wheel Drive, which I didn’t know is disastrous for snow.
I was now too far into the journey to turn back; at least I was near the motorway, which I assured myself would be gritted, and safer. I was wrong.
It was nearly midnight by the time I got onto the M25, the snow still falling so quickly and so heavily. The carriageway was icy, and I lost control of my car several times, the steering wheel jerking under my hands. I was crying as I drove, muttering an incantation that I hoped would save me (although I don’t know who I was offering it up to, given that I’m quite cheerfully atheist): “I can’t die. I’m a mum, I’m a daughter, I’m a sister, please don’t let me die.”
Then, I was catapulted across the carriageway.
The car spinning, in freefall, towards the central reservation.
Time slowed: “So, this is how it ends.” I thought. I apologised to my kids, that I wouldn’t be there to see them growing up. I thought of my mum and my sister. I wondered briefly if there was an afterlife, and if I was going to be reunited with my dad. I even took a moment to be sorry that I wouldn’t be going on a second date with a promising suitor*.
The car stopped, inches from the barrier, facing the wrong way into the traffic.
I exhaled, and burst into tears again.
I’d been driving for over 3 hours at this point. I gingerly turned the car around, kept driving, crying constantly now, and chanting my new mantra, “Please don’t let me die. Please don’t let me die.”
I eventually managed to wrestle the car off the motorway and, slowly, slowly, some of the way home.
At 4am, I admitted defeat. I couldn’t get the car up a hill, couldn’t turn round to go back down, couldn’t do anything other than abandon the car and walk the final 4 miles home.
As I walked, I fell into step with a man. We started chatting, as you do in weird situations; normal social conventions don’t apply. His name was Jamie and he was an interesting chap, ran an art gallery in town, lived over the other side of London but had got stuck visiting family. We chatted about this and that until we arrived at a house.
“I’m sorry I can’t walk you home”, he said, “but this is where I’m staying tonight.” He reached into his jacket, then handed me a business card, “Text me when you’re home so I know you got back safely”.
I got home some time after 5am. My Converse had frozen to my feet. I cried with relief for a while, and then collapsed into sleep.
Four years later, I was chatting with a lovely lady that I knew, a little. This time, we got onto the subject of art. She told me it’s her family’s passion, and that her son Jamie runs an art gallery in town.
“Oh”, I said, “I wonder if he remembers me? We met the last time it snowed”.
*As it turns out, there was no second date, for reasons that will probably be explained in another post.