It’s been absolutely throwing it down all week. Stair rods. Cats and dogs. Piddling down – not to put too fine a point on it. The dainty little narcissi, which came up far too early (I did tell them – but would they listen?) are now standing forlornly in puddles of water. The garden birds send little tsunamis rippliing across the grass as they hop around in search of soggy seed and the crocuses have all fallen over in a sodden mess. Mind you – having said that, I think they had help. I found the Old Girl dog standing in the middle of them the other day. I remonstrated with her and explained, patiently, that I would much prefer it if she DIDN’T walk through my crocus patch. However, as none of the words coming out of my mouth were either ‘cheese’, ‘chicken’ or ‘walkies’, she simply lowered her podgy bottom onto the poor flowers and sat there looking at me.
All of which is a bit of a digression, to make the point that it’s been raining very wet rain.
It isn’t very far down to the village shop, but in something close to a monsoon, a traveller on foot will end up drenched before they’ve gone ten yards, so when the ironmongers rang to say that the replacement hammer drill I’d ordered had arrived, I decided to get the car out to go and collect it.
Now there’s absolutely NOTHING the dogs like better than driving around in the car barking at nothing. If you offer them the choice between ‘chicken’ and ‘car riding’ they will unfailing turn their backs on the fridge to queue at the garage door. So, even though I was only going to be gone for about fifteen minutes at most, I thought I’d make their little doggie day for them by taking them with me.
I went through to the garage, shooed the dogs into the car and then opened the double doors onto the driveway. I got in and started the car. It started first time. I engaged reverse, got the bite, released the handbrake and …. the car wouldn’t move. The dogs barked delightedly.
I tried again. All that happened was that the offside rear of the car sort of rose up everso slightly into the air, like a cat stretching gently, then fell back when I took my foot off the accelerator. The dogs bounced up and down dementedly and snapped at each other, as if going nowhere at all in a car was the most exciting thing EVER.
Even with my limited mechanical know-how, I recognized the problem as a seized brake, probably caused by the flood water I’d been through a couple of days earlier – and I smugly told myself that I knew EXACTLY what to do about a seized brake, because I am a capable, modern woman and I know such things.
I rocked the car. The dogs yapped hysterically. I bounced it. The dogs went berserk. I revved it in first gear. I revved it in reverse gear. The dogs thought it was the most fun they’d ever had – well, at least since they discovered the joy of shredding a pillow. They were all but bouncing off the windows. I pleaded with the car. I sobbed pathetically, hammering on the bonnet in impotent rage. Nada. it remained resolutely immobile.
Defeated, I got the dogs out of the back of the car. They were deliriously happy even though we hadn’t left the garage.
Back in the cottage, I searched the internet for ‘Seized brakes’ and found many videos of Blokes with Wrenches speaking of removing wheels and hitting things really, really hard with mallets – at which point I said to myself, ‘I pay my breakdown service vast amounts of money every year – so I think THEY can come and hit things really, really hard with a mallet’.
It took them 55 minutes to arrive – which is the price you pay for lovely scenery and a neighborhood buzzard – but the Breakdown Bloke was lovely. He got in the car, started it, tried to move it and failed. He bounced it, rocked it, revved it and eventually decided that was required was the strategic deployment of violence. He got out a lump hammer and a cold chisel. My eyes popped.
‘Watch carefully,’ he said, ‘So you know how to do this if it happens again.’
He explained how you could tell which brake was seized by which part of the car reared up when you tried to move it …. then went down on his knees, removed the hubcap from the offending wheel and with no ceremony whatsoever, placed the chisel near the rim and gave it a good sharp whack with the lump hammer. There was an unmistakable CLUNK as the brake came unstuck.
‘Sorted,’ he said with a grin. ‘I’ll just do the paperwork and leave you in peace.’
The next day, over lunch, I relate all of this to the Professor down at Bramblings,
‘I pay the breakdown people £100 a year for their services, and they come along and hit my car with a lump hammer …’
He looked at me over his half moon glasses for a moment, before saying quietly, ‘To our professional charges for hitting your car with a lump hammer: £10. To our professional charges for knowing WHERE to hit your car with a lump hammer: £90.’