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Harry’s Ramblings Four P Pensioners

by Harry Pope

This is my Favourite Article of 2021.


It’s a devil, getting older, and one of the perils is having to plan your journeys around comfort stops. This happened recently, when four pensioners went to Essex for a four day break. We travelled from the coastal area of East Sussex, so a crossing of the River Thames was necessary somewhere. But first the getting there. The journey commenced at 10am, the route was planned to arrive at the first stop which was to be M25 motorway services at Clackets Lane. Bad move, we never made it. One of the party takes water tablets, which means that stops are more frequent.

‘Can we stop at a garage?’, came the request. A petrol station was found, but customer access was denied by the smiling cashier standing at the door. He seemed to gain not a small amount of pleasure from his blocking manoeuvre, the smile never reached his eyes, which were hiding behind a mask. Entreaty would have been embarrassing, so it was back on the road. Just before 11am, there was a roadside restaurant still closed, nothing in the car park, but it was worth a try. Five minutes later our lady passenger returned, a relieved smile. A good tip is to be always pleasant. Myself and one male passenger in the back were fine, the motorway was found ten minutes later, with the services just over five miles away. All going well with one mile to go when traffic came to a stop. All four lanes of the smart motorway were unmoving, what made it worse was we were behind a truck so couldn’t see when our lane might be moving. The conversation inevitably moved to the desirability of a pee stop.

‘I am really looking forward to one.’

‘So am I, but I’m not desperate yet.’

‘Don’t worry, the traffic will be moving soon.’

After well over ten minutes of static traffic, there was movement. Your driver manoeuvred into the inside lane, ready for the motorway services, traffic was a sustainable twenty miles per hour, there was an air of anticipation in the car when we discovered that there was no exit off the motorway. That was the reason for the hold-up, the services lane was cordoned off with immovable cones. Nothing for it but to drive on past, with longing looks from two passengers. I asked

‘Will you make it to the services north of the Dartford Crossing, bear in mind that there may be a queue before the tunnel, potentially maybe a quarter of an hour.’

Him in the back was on his phone, Googling in M25 traffic report. ‘doesn’t say there’s a Dartford jam’.

Driver ‘would you like to guarantee that statement.’ A very firm ‘no’.

The next leaving junction was ten miles away, towards a strangely named village called Locksbottom. What was far more important was the fact that on the main road was a garage, clearly showing the sign that there were toilets available. Round the roundabout, last exit into the garage forecourt, past the filling cars, stopping right outside the main door where two relieved ladies were ready to perform the adjective. Me and my friend in the back were quite serene, patiently waiting for permission to continue on our journey to the holiday destination. When rejoining the M25, there were no further obstructions, the app had been quite correct, but you can’t really trust an app, can you?

M12 was the north of the River Thames exit, past Chelmsford, so what to do next? The travellers were almost an hour on from the last stop, an opinion census was requested by the me, who pointed out that as we were in a democracy, and despite the fact that I was behind the wheel I only had one vote. We took the next exit, but decent pubs were few and far between. Following vehicles must have been more than a little frustrated, being held up each time a building was approached sporting a pub sign outside.

‘What do you think of that one?’

‘Drive on,’ from the front and back. A dozen were slowly passed until general affirmation for a lovely pub on a village green. Mid-afternoon destination was found after a few deviations, but a lesson was learned that day. Always plan your route around where you think you can stop, as accidents can happen. And don’t laugh too much at this article if you are of a younger age, it will come to you all too soon. Be warned.

Harry’s latest writing successes: Buried Secrets, sold over 5,000 copies on Amazon, £2.99 e-version, or £6.99 printed.

Hotel Secrets (don’t buy that hotel) £3.99 e-version, £5.99 Amazon

Six long ghost stories all about Ballygobackwards Castle. A series of ghost stories also audio. Find on Amazon, very reasonable 99p each.