Her Majesty awaits ...
Updated: Apr 6
Driving home today (after our customary short stay with Spike's parents in their marvelous self-built home). Spike took a liking to an 1880s chair restored by her mother. Throne might be a more accurate description.
Meanwhile, the driver enjoyed a final (very large) cup of Yorkshire tea out of a Christmas gift decorated with splendid peacocks. I like it a great deal. I feel (almost) stylish.
Then we hit the road home.
By which I mean, literally, we "hit" the road.
There is a short, steep stony driveway from the house up to the gravel track off the property, leading to the dirt road that wends its way back down the valley to Dooralong then all points north or south. Although the rocky drive and track have been much improved in recent years, the hill climb from the house is always moderately concerning in the Chrysler. It was designed for cruise-controlled driving at speed on long quiet freeways. It's ideal for the Hume Highway heading south on a public holiday the day after New Year's Day.
The short spurt up the hill has a tight right turn at the top. That manoeuvre is not -- I think -- what the good folk at Chrysler had in mind when they named their flagship people-mover, the Grand Voyager. Throw in a lowered floor to ease wheelchair access via the deployable ramp and my Guido-Simplex semi-automatic hand controls and the fully automatic gears, and the departure task becomes mildly more than challenging.
The advice from Spike's father has always been ... take it at speed.
After weeks of (sometimes torrential) rain the need for speed is not entirely uncomplicated. There are rivulets and channels running down the crumbled incline that definitely were not present a year ago. There are potholes. There are shifting stones and spinning wheels. And the best discernible route is not what anyone one might call conducive to a ninety-degree right-hander when you reach the top.
But what can one do? You take it at speed and do the best that you can.
So we did.
There was a surprisingly large amount of sideways travel as we sped up the hill. Stones moved in several directions beneath the wheels. The ground seemed to quiver.
Pretend that's normal, Douglas. Speed on.
Near the summit, as we began the right turn to join the track, the passenger side front wheel slid into a pothole / crevice / crack in the rain-riddled rocky surface. The front of the car dipped as we slid leftwards. Sort of.
There was a bang. But we did not slow down. At best, I think you could say we bounced onto the track, turned right then stopped. We were pointing more or less in the right direction. And waving bye bye to our hosts down the hill. Like nothing had happened.
I tell myself the corrective action was planned. But that may be a generous use of the word.
Beyond the gate to the Deane property we stopped on the dirt road. Something was making a noise where no noise should be. Spike got out to look. Then Spike called her dad for a second opinion. He turned up not much later in his proper, four-wheel drive off-roader because ... you know ... they live off-road, off-track, at the bottom of the steep hill.
The consensus was that nothing critical was damaged; nothing broken ... in any real way. The protector under the engine had lost a screw and was hanging down. But not falling off. Drive home, we decided, avoiding speed bumps and potholes. All should be well.
The observation about potholes seemed, in the light of our recent experience, rather like closing the stable door after the horse had bolted. By that I mean -- we were in the country. Why not use a horse metaphor?
Across the road, a small group of cows -- a Herdlette perhaps -- chewed the cud with characteristically bovine indifference to the troubles of city-dwellers.
Put in our place. We drove home.