Nov 11, 2005

Day 9 : Flat tire in Yorkshire

“Da Vinci Code reference,” I intoned. SR took the wheels after a day’s respite, quite enthusiastically. Another bright day, I inhaled deeply.

“Where are we going?” SS asked curiously.

“Rosslyn,” I answered. SR had just read the book. I was one of the early readers before it became such a phenomenon. It was a gift from SO.

“I am not too sure but it must be this way,” I said.

“Again without directions?” whined AS.

After travelling for a couple of miles, without any clue, I stopped and asked a passer by. She told me to head in the opposite direction! She seemed confident, wiping my doubts and we headed that way. After another five miles, with no clue except the sun, I suggested we stop. “Er.. I think we are heading back to Edinburgh,” I mumbled. “Yes, then time to stop,” SR agreed wryly.
This time the man I asked shook his head in mock contempt. “Roslin! Read the book did you?” I grinned. “Well you are not that far off,” he sighed and almost reluctantly gave me the directions. The right one.

It was such a picterseque countryside. Roslin was much smaller than I expected. Apparently we missed Tom Hanks just by a week or so, they had filmed the climax recently. There is no doubt this was a very different chapel than the others I had seen till now. Symbols and scultputres abound. This is how a foreigner would feel at our temple I thought - bewildered, intrigued, fascinated. But in a strange way it wasnt as bewildering, since though these particular symbols were alien, the idea of a chapel with such symbolism and sculptures is in itself not a confounding concept for someone from South India. Why, the Meenakshi temple from where I.. I really must stop digressing to the temple at every opportunity I get.

I didnt break the code in five minutes as I expected, so I walked out looking for a cottage with Sauniere’s wife, and didnt find any. Only a woman sitting silently.. surely pondering the holy grail.

After wandering a bit in Roslin, hopped into the car and headed in the general direction of York. Next stop was Jedburgh Abbey.

This was something I had circled simply because it was on the way. But I was so enthralled by the huge Abbey ruins. I wandered about for quite sometime, admiring the magnificant ruins in that quiet setting.

We headed back and stopped in a small village on the way. I walkded about idly and a Pakistani came out and greeted me in hindi. I replied a few words in hindi and then switched to English apologizing my lack of fluency. Apparently my hindi is better than I imagine, he said so. We talked about where I was from and about the trip while his wife joined and urged me to speak in “apna zaban”. I smiled and thought about the fierce anti hindi protests in tamilnadu.

I walked into a book shop and found multiple copies of 'Suitable boy' just for 50p. Needless to say, I bought one.

After a hot soup, got back into the car.

“Next stop Hadrian’s wall,” I said. Hadrian’s wall was supposed to be this wall almost in ruins that the romans built to keep the Scots out or in whichever direction you are looking from. We went chasing it for the better part of an hour. We got to a board that said Hadrian’s wall two miles and then thats it. We kept going back and forth and didnt find any wall.

SR and SS thought this was hilarious and kept pointing to the stone walls separating the farms, saying - “Hadrian’s wall. There. There”

After a half hour of circling the area, despite the scenic route, I gave up and suggested we head forward, since it was beginning to be late afternoon.

Growing up, for many years in my early teens, I was in love with two men. I think I still am. Tristan and James. And here I was driving through the Yorkshire Dales! I had dreamt of this only since I was thirteen I think. If we could get to Thrisk and stay there, that would be fantastic, I thought. The other three hadnt read any of James Herriot’s books. What a shame!

It was nearing sunset, and about forty miles to go, but I thought we could make it. Thats when I heard the huge thud. It looked like something like a stone hit the tyre. SR got the car off the road to a bylane and got down.

“We have a flat tyre,” he said leaning near the window, frowning.

It was getting cold and we were not equipped in terms of heavy winter clothes. There were a few houses in what seemed like a very small village, but no one on the streets and no light from the houses. SR checked the trunk. “We dont have a jack”. We looked at each other wondering what the heck we could do.

SR decided to walk a bit and see if there was a B&B or some garage or something. AS surprisingly didnt have any dire predictions.

A lady passed with a huge bundle. Before I got down and tried to call her, she vanished into a side path. I stood there wringing my hands. SR came back and said there was a sign that looked like a B&B somewhere near the horizon. The lady came back, ‘Hmm.., the nearest garage is 30 miles away,’ she said after I explained the predicament. ‘Where are you headed?’ she asked. ‘We are from India, touring. We were heading towards thirsk,’ I told her. ‘ I know someone who might be able to help you, let me ring him. Perhaps I can impress upon him that you are visitors to our country,’ she said and vanished into her house. After a few minutes, she came out driving a car. ‘I’ll go fetch him, he is just a couple of miles away,’ she said.

We looked at each other, unable to believe this. True to her words, she came back followed by a young man in his car. He changed the tyre, while she and I had a nice conversation about her mother, about my itirenary [which she thought was fantastic considering the time. Only she’d have liked me to visit Durham], my english and her son. The young man wished us good luck, refused any money and went on his way.

If you must have a flat tyre, have it in yorkshire…

The next ten miles till Darlington, we were shaking our heads at our unbelievable luck. And their extrordinary kindness.

But our day had not finished yet. After going around for a half hour, we found a single nice hotel which was - fully booked. We spent another half hour, scouting for B&Bs or any decent hotels. None. It was about seven and dark, someone suggested a hotel about ten miles from there and we headed towards that. Each hotel we went asked us to try another, one was available but was a whopping 200 pounds a night.

The stars were out. I couldnt see much except a vague outline of the undulating countryside. There were hardly any cars. We were hungry, we were lost, driving in some narrow roads, looking for a hotel. Everyone was silent.

“This is how James Herriot must have driven late night, when it was much darker, perhaps even more colder to attend to one of his sick animals,” I remarked pumping enthusiasm.

“He would have known the way home,” SR remarked dryly. I pretended not to have heard it and started recounting one of my favourite stories - Tristan pretending to be the ghost. I was laughing helplessly by the time I finished. Ofcourse, as it often happens when you tell a funny story, others didnt understand what was so funny about it. Atleast, before they got much more irritated, we found a hotel. Unbelievably, it was just 8:30.

Northallerton the board claimed. Since we did have a place to return to, we went out to an Indian restaurant for dinner. This was Bronte country a poster announced. Well, literary reference - check, I noted tiredly, climbing onto my bed, later. If it got colder and gloomier than this, forget Heathcliff, I’ll start brooding.

My last thought before I fell asleep was how it stank of roach repellent.

November 11, 2005