A couple of weeks ago I ventured out. It was just Jesamine, Molly and me. I’d done a bit of research (as I’m a perennial planner) and found a car park on the banks of the river Stour in Dedham – Constable country. I haven’t been to Dedham for a long, long time and there’s a lovely walk you can take along the river and across the fields to Flatford Mill where Constable painted his famous work. I painted a picture in my mind of parking up, reeling out the awning, putting the kettle on and soaking up the atmosphere before heading out on my walk.
And that’s where I went wrong. The planning. It’s difficult to break the habit of a lifetime but I had no choice. I rocked up to the car park but there was nowhere for me to set up on the riverbank so I hit the road and followed my instinct…on to Manningtree. It’s been on my list of places to visit partly due to the fact that it was home to Matthew Hopkins, self-titled Witchfinder General. My imagination had painted a picture of spooky barns and creepy cottages but, as usual, I was wrong. Manningtree is beautiful – lots of old buildings and a hugely wide estuary. I hadn’t known that it’s famous for its swans and also the title of the smallest market town in England.
During this strange time of lockdown I was blessed with an almost empty landscape to explore. We weren’t able to find a spot to put the awning out but I still had my cuppa before heading out with Molly to explore the waterfront and town. I peered through the windows of closed galleries and stood in awe outside the library. Molly wanted to meet the swans (oh yes, she had fowl on her mind for dinner and was kept on a tight lead), and we walked on the small beach where we found some sea-glass and watched children building sandcastles.
Back with Jesamine I made more tea (somehow it tastes so much better when out in the open), I spent a little time working on my book, and I had a doze. I briefly considered following the coast road to Harwich but feeling windswept and fuzzy I headed back.
I stopped for petrol when I was just fifteen miles from home so I’d be all set for my next trip. I filled her up and climbed back in, sad that the day was nearly at an end. I turned the key, and…..nothing. Nothing happened at all.
I tried to look in the boot where the engine is, which was a ridiculous thing to do as I wouldn’t have a clue what I was looking for. But I was feeling confident. Well, I couldn’t even open it; I couldn’t get the lock to turn. Nothing else for it but to phone the AA. Molly was going crazy, trying to get out (I’m sure she thought we’d arrived somewhere exciting) and I calmed her down and got my book out. After all, there was nothing else I could do.
Just twenty minutes later the AA chap arrived. He opened the boot in a jiffy (it wasn’t the lock but user error – the story of my life) and Molly stood on the sofa inside, staring at this strange man who was messing with Jesamine. The lovely man jumped back, he was clearly alarmed at the big scar-faced, scary dog looking at him. She can’t help looking like that, she’s got a wonky eye that really makes her look a bit mad, but she’s completely harmless. I managed to convince the lovely man that she wouldn’t jump over and maul him and together we pulled everything out that I’d stored in the boot.
Within two minutes he’d worked out the problem. The wire to the starter motor had become detached. He kindly showed me what to do if it happens again, and that was it, we were back on the road, singing along to Joni Mitchell about big yellow taxis and clouds and realising that for once I wasn’t letting clouds get in my way and that I don’t mind spots on my apples.
As I locked Jesamine up for the night I smiled. I remembered what the lovely man, James, told me at Keen Kampers. To own one of these old things you shouldn’t plan too much but just go with the flow. And you definitely need a sense of humour. Oh yes, and a breakdown membership.