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"Here in my car", said 80s pop hero Gary Numan, "I feel safest of all". He obviously never shared the same stretch of road as me, then. Automotive tales of mirth and woe, please.

(, Thu 22 Apr 2010, 12:34)
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My dad..
..always bought cheap cars at auctions but cannily made sure he had full AA membership so he could get home when they inevitably conked out on him. This saved us a couple of times while driving through France or returning from Calais loaded up with too much beer and Blanc de Blanc. I think he actually lost count of the amount of times he was towed or carried back to base in the UK. Definitely got his money's worth.

In the early 2000s he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and was having a dreadful time fighting it. My brother (in Devon) and I (in London) visited him at home in Yorkshire one weekend when he really wasn't very well at all. He suggested it would be a good idea if we took his car (a silver Skoda Favorit if I remember correctly) thinking it would make it easier for us to see him as we both lived so far away. So, when we left I drove the car to London and my brother drove himself from there to Devon. We'd agreed to go back the following weekend.

Sadly, dad's situation worsened towards the end of that week (he was now in hospital) so my brother and I decided we should get back up there as soon as possible. He'd just finished work and said he'd set off soon and would call me on the way from Devon. He'd be in London around midnight.

By 1am I was getting worried that he hadn't shown up. I'd been in telephone contact with my family at the hospital and our dad's condition was grave. By 2am I still hadn't heard from my brother. I was getting pretty frantic - a mixture of desperately wanting to get to the hospital and hoping like hell he hadn't crashed the car in his efforts to get to me.

At 5am, still with no sign of my brother, I had a call from my sister. Dad had died. I really didn't know what to do at that point. At about 6am my brother finally turned up. He'd been so knackered he'd pulled over for a quick nap and woken up several hours later. Anyway, he was here now, I broke the news to him and we decided the best thing would be to set off straight away. Since he'd had some sleep he agreed to drive.

So there we were, driving up north in a crappy Skoda to join our grieving mother and sisters. Two brothers in a complete daze, barely able to speak and wondering what the hell could possibly be awaiting us. At least we had the car. Twenty miles from home there was a loud bang and smoke started pouring out from under the bonnet. We managed to pull into a service station a little way up the road. I think at this point we both thought the same thing at the same time: "What the fuck are we going to do now?"

We popped the bonnet, and even though neither of us were mechanically minded we could tell we were going nowhere. We sat in the car wondering what we could do to get home. Should we abandon it and get a taxi? Not enough money on us, and anyway, we were next to a motorway. Should we hitch? Not a good idea as it was now pouring with rain. Could we swap the knackered car for some bikes? My brother's idea, not mine. In the end, and as it was now late afternoon, we decided to do the one thing we really didn't want to do - call our mother. To her credit, not only did she take the news of us breaking down in such circumstances very calmly indeed, she came up with a brilliant suggestion: "What about the AA?" Why hadn't we thought of that!? Oh, hang on a minute, dad was covered personally, not the car. Damn. It was then our mother had her second brilliant idea of the day. My brother has the same initial as our father. Just call the AA and pretend to be him.

So, after a few minutes spent mustering whatever courage he could, my dear brother called the AA. He confirmed his name and address and membership number. His date of birth proved to be something of a problem though. Somehow, I remembered what it was. "31st May 1947," I whispered to him. "Who was that in the background?" asked the woman on the other end of the phone. "Oh, that's my son," replied my younger brother. After he'd said, "I don't have that information with me," a couple of times he gave the car registration and our location and I realised that this might just work. In fact, someone was to be with us within half an hour. So we waited.

As we waited, the sheer ridiculousness of the situation began to dawn on us. My brother had just impersonated his own recently deceased father in order to get roadside assistance for the broken down car our dad had given us so we could visit him on his death bed. An AA mechanic was to turn up expecting to find a fifty five year old man and his son, but would instead find two (half) brothers who really don't look an awful lot like one another, one supposedly the father despite the fact he's quite obviously a good bit younger than the supposed son who is in fact thirty one years old. If asked to prove he was who he said he was my brother reckoned he could hold his credit card between his finger tips in such a way that his middle initial (C) looked a bit like the L of our father's middle name. It didn't look very convincing. In fact it looked so stupid we both burst into fits of hysterical laughter. I don't think I've ever laughed so much before or since. It was weird. We finally decided we'd come clean with the AA guy when he arrived, though we had serious doubts we could tell him of our plight without laughing, something which would seriously undermine the credibility of our story. He finally showed up two hours later, by which time we'd regained our composure. He put our car on the back of his truck and we finally arrived at our parents' house fourteen hours after our dad had passed away. Despite being in a terrible state, my mother made sure (as always) the AA guy got a bottle of wine for his troubles (probably one they'd helped bring back from Calais) and my brother and I embarked on the worst week of our lives.

Sorry for the length of this but it's the only way I can tell it.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 23:44, 3 replies)
this deserves a click
(, Wed 28 Apr 2010, 1:35, closed)
Totally clicked,
but I don't know whether to chortle a little or cry a little.
I'm so very sorry for your loss, but from the sounds of it your dad was probably pissing himself laughing up there saying "that's my boys!"

Hugs x
(, Wed 28 Apr 2010, 3:54, closed)
Lovely story,
I laughed and cried. Click
(, Wed 28 Apr 2010, 10:35, closed)

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