It’s unlikely to have escaped your attention unless you’ve been fortunate to spend Winter in more temperate climes, but over the last couple of months the UK has been subjected to some of the most inclement and Arctic-like weather it’s experienced for quite some time.
With temperatures regularly reaching negative double figures and snow and ice bringing the usual chaos to the nation’s daily grind, the ‘Beast(s) from the East’ – as the weather systems responsible were dubbed for headline-grabbing purposes – certainly made an impact as they plunged the nation into what felt at times like an unannounced Ice Age du nos jours..
So, you might be forgiven for feeling that now the snow has melted and icicles no longer cling to the underside of your bumper in the style of a frigid walrus ‘tache that you might be permitted to relax, safe in the knowledge that you’d braved the Siberian conditions whilst keeping your automotive pride and joy intact.
Well, not so fast Speedy Gonzales, for of course, after the freeze comes the thaw, and if you were paying attention at school during double Geography all those years ago rather than idly attempting to outdo Pininfarina with fanciful sketches of the next Ferrari Testarossa you’ll recall the principles of ‘freeze-thaw’ or ‘frost-weathering’ and the sort of damage it can do to solid rock.
And, if a bit of water coupled with sub-zero temperatures can fracture huge great lumps of granite in the mountains of Wales then it follows that the hastily-laid and many-times-patched sections of asphalt currently passing for road surfaces in the UK these days don’t stand a chance..
Yes – once again, it’s pothole season!
A time for Kwik-Fit shareholders and board members of alloy wheel manufacturers to rub their hands in glee whilst County Council insurance departments up and down the country brace themselves for a tidal wave of claim forms.
And guess who’s large diameter, liquorice-wrapped alloy wheel recently encountered a prime example of such a carriageway crater?
I wouldn’t have minded (alright, actually I would – very much) but I’d only reported this particular bomb hole less than 24 hours previously using Surrey County Council’s online system where – I discovered – I was far from the first to do so.
In my defence, it was dark and wet when I dropped my wheel into the hole in question and it was disguised by being full to the brim with water but that didn’t lessen the sheer frustration and physical shock that accompanied the filling-loosening crash.
Pulling over further down the lane I emerged into the Stygian gloom and relentless downpour to study the offending appendage by the light of a torch and I was encouraged to see from a cursory glance that the rim didn’t appear to be bent. However, the tyre had certainly lost a bit of air so with great care I turned the car around and set off the 500 metres or so back home at a slow and watchful pace, trying to remain positive about the fact that I had only a short distance in which to nurse the car back to the driveway.
A couple of hours later and I’d got the temporary spare on, having removed the alloy which by now was clad in a completely-deflated tyre. Taking a closer look at the rim in the daylight it seemed that fortunately my initial inspection at the side of the road had proven accurate as there didn’t seem to be any obvious damage – which was a relief given how easy it is to bend wide, large diameter alloy wheels with their attendant offset. And so, having checked the opening times of the nearby big-name tyre and exhaust place I rocked up as they opened the doors, optimistically (as it turned out) looking forward to getting a replacement tyre fitted and somewhat belatedly getting on my way to work.
And so I stood, waiting for the chap sitting behind his computer terminal to finish his call whilst his four tyre fitter colleagues lounged around behind him, all studiously avoiding making eye contact with me lest they acknowledge my existence until finally the phone call ended and I evidently became visible to the assembled throng – the conversation unfolding thus:
Man behind counter: Yes, can I help? (this being uttered in the sort of tone that seemed to indicate that he dearly wished he couldn’t)
Me: I hope so, yes, is there any chance you could fit a tyre for me quickly if I wait, please?
Man behind counter: Sorry, the earliest I can do is next Tuesday. (today is Wednesday)
Me: (looking around at the 4 empty fitting bays, the 4 tea-drinking tyre fitters and the 4 empty job sheets on the desk as well as the empty waiting room)
Man behind counter: Yeah, it’s the Easter weekend – we’re fully-booked out I’m afraid.
Me: (looking around once more at the 4 empty fitting bays, the 4 tea-drinking tyre fitters and the 4 empty job sheets on the desk as well as the still very empty waiting room)
Man behind counter: You could try (name of local, independent tyre company) down the road – they might be able to help.
Me: OK..thanks, I guess I’ll have to. Bye then..
And with this, I exited the empty waiting room, walked past the empty fitting bays and drove off in the direction of the independent tyre company down the road suggested by my oh so helpful chum..
To be continued.. See Part Two