In the film ‘The Blues Brothers (1980)’, one of the many chase scenes involves the by now crippled ex-police car of the brothers being chased by Illinois Nazis. They run through road-works, and end up at at the end of a partially constructed roadway – they literally run out of road, and the car hangs over the edge.

(Screensave from DVD of ‘The Blues Brothers (1980)’. I know how they felt at this moment…

I know how they felt. I’ve been in that position of hovering over the edge. They had an easy way back (‘Movie magic’). The other really famous situation of this kind was the (almost literally) cliff-hanger ending to the original ‘The Italian Job (1969)’, with Michael Caine’s famous last words
“Hang on lads, I’ve got a great idea,”

Many years ago, in Germany on business, in a ‘company car’ (in fact one of the directors, loaned to me). I was not in my car, on the grounds that my then 20-year-old Volvo wasn’t up to the job (sic). Never had power steering, the servo for the brakes had failed (but still passed the MOT, the brakes worked). Anyhow, due to the Bayreuth festival, hotels in that town were sold out months in advance, so we found ourselves out, literally, in the middle of nowhere. My companion was a younger man of dubious sexuality – such that I slept on the floor on the first night out, in Heidelberg, he had the bed in the only room we could find that day.

This was despite his attempts earlier in the day – although he had had plenty of offers of a bed from [or more probably with] various women (sometimes plural) he approached in the attempt to find somewhere (only I was in tow…) He certainly was a ‘Buon Uomo’ (if I’ve got that right), and would top up his sun-tan at every possible moment. But these offers were further complcated by the fact that we needed secure parking for the car at that time, because of the goods we were carrying.

His navigational skills were notible by their absence. At one point, earlier in the day in question, we found ourselves in the then still existing East Germany. Since the car was travelling TIR, and we were now in a country not listed on the forms, we’d be in trouble if anything when wrong.

So late this night, with his at best iffy navigational skills, I found that I had to do a 3 point turn. Only I didn’t succeed – there was a ditch rather close to the road, and the car ended up askew nose down in the ditch, at 2 O’Clock in the morning.

It is not hard to imagine my feelings at this point. After a lot of swearing, I don’t recall that I used Michael Caine’s exact words, but certainly a precis of them…

As I looked at the situation, I thought I found a way out. By jacking the car up on one side, enough to put the spare wheel under the chassis, would equalise the problem (so long as it didn’t slide down further). That worked. So getting my colleague to stand on the rear bumper, and jump up and down, while I, in the driver’s seat, tried to reverse – it worked – the car pulled itself out, scraping along the spare wheel.

The alternative would have been walking to a farm, getting the farmer up, to get his tractor out and pull the car out of the ditch. Fortunately my colleague spoke good German, so there was not that hurdle to overcome, but I didn’t look forward to the prospect.

This ‘getting a car out of a ditch at two am with a spare wheel and physics’ is one of my my better stories, it is also one I cannot tell to friends and family – for getting the car in the ditch in the first place, to the owner of the car, or to my family who’d worry what I’d do next.

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Comments about Blogs

October 14, 2012

Firstly, there has been some interest in my comments about Public Houses, so I have added a new category and edited all the previous entries so that they can all be located.

I know that I have not blogged much this year, it has been busy, but I have noticed that quite a number of blogs – on wordpress and others – have also had a long hiatus in entries. Even some of the most frequent bloggers have almost stopped – there was one with one entry in three months (recognising that they were taking a break), another with no entries in the past six months.

I know it is coincidence, but it is odd that so many blogs have not been updated for so long. My blog has often had a hiatus due to work or personal circumstances, I certainly cannot claim to be a regular blogger.

A paddle punt

September 25, 2009

Today I was walking by the Thames, as a break from work, when I noticed what I already knew to be an unusual boat was out.

It caught the attention of a number of people on the tow path, even though it was mid-stream.

Now I knew of this boat from earlier in the summer, in my early morning walks. One morning it was moored by Richmond riverside, and I was able to get some good pictures:

The moored paddle punt

This gives an idea of how it works. The paddles work like a duck’s legs/feet, with the mechanism operated by a bike pedal and chain mechanism. There is a rudder operated by something like bike handlebars beneath the seat.

If you have seen one of those bikes where the cyclist is horizontal, the pedals at the front, and the handlebars beneath the seat. that is approximately the operating position that the punter must adopt.

This boat appears to have been made by a Jamacian boatmaker based in the boat houses by Richmond Riverside. He was in the driving seat on the afternoon out on the Thames.