Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Do you really want the full story? Those of you who really can't bear a tale of motorways and snow and the eating of a whole box of Pro-Plus, go at once to The Guardian and read the Wikileaks leaks. (Apparently the naughty Americans have been rude about our own dear Prime Minister, which is not clever or kind, and Saudia Arabia wants to do something unspeakable.)
Actually, I was not going to do much more on the journey, but I am in such a state of screaming relief that I made it through that I do rather have to share with the group.
I am not good at traffic. I find too many large lorries enervating. As I get older, I will do almost anything to avoid jams, and the M6 is the spiritual and actual home of the jam. So what I do now take the five hundred and fifty miles in two stages, very early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when everyone is asleep. I am stupidly proud of this technique.
This Friday, as I was checking the AA and looking at the weather, while lying in bed like an old lady in my room at the Groucho, I started to realise that my cunning plan was not going to work. It did not matter which Met Office or BBC weather expert I consulted, they all said that Sunday was going to see mad bands of snow coming down from Iceland, or somewhere. Huge splashes of threatening white lay between my proposed billet in the Lake District and my house and my dogs. Not only that, but the weather might go on for two weeks. I had frantic visions of being stuck, forever, somewhere north of Penrith.
The only answer was to do the whole thing on Saturday. It was flat out or bust. There were two problems with this. (Are you sure you would not rather be reading about what the State Department really thinks of Mrs Merkel?) One was that I would have to go the long way round, which meant six hundred miles, the last of it up the A90, which runs along the North Sea, and where drifts appear in the middle of the road at the merest hint of wind, as if some giant hand had picked up the snow and plunked it down in front of one. And the second was that even if I left at five, I would still be doing the final forty miles in the dark, with every single website saying SEVERE WEATHER WARNING, and ONLY TRAVEL IF YOUR JOURNEY IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.
I left London just before six, in the end. It was pitch black, minus three, and there was fog and snow before I reached Oxford. I felt trepidation building, as my bold plan began to falter. Then the M40 was closed, so I had to do a detour via Leamington Spa, never an entirely good start to an epic voyage. By the time I reached Liverpool, the M6 was down to two lanes, one entirely covered in snow. It was slow going.
But the weather gods were smiling on me in one sense. By eight o'clock, there was bright winter sunshine. The sun shone on me all day long, lighting up the white hills, glinting gold on the magically transformed countryside of Cumbria, welcoming me back to the mountains of the north. When I passed the Welcome to Scotland sign I whooped like a football hooligan.
The problem always with the absolute joy of being back in Scotland is the following realisation that I still have three hundred miles to go before I am home. At this stage, I was on my third double espresso, and munching Pro-Plus like a crazy person. Concentration was fierce, because, despite the glorious sun, huge amounts of muck were being thrown up by the other cars from the snowy road, and my windscreen was in a constant state of smear. I had horrid visions of my wipers suddenly failing.
After Stonehaven, where I thought for an insane second of trying to cut across the hills, the road headed up towards the sea, which appeared like magic, dark blue and shining in the last of the light. Behind me, the sun was setting in a crazed scarlet ball of defiance. Over the water, vast clouds completely blocked out the sky, rising up like something from a film about the end of the world. They were bright purple, with splashes of carmine. They were bringing the snow which would have made any Sunday travelling impossible, a blazing sign that I had made the right decision.
Dusk fell fast, as I got onto the last road home. I chose the main highway, an A road, thinking that the gritters and ploughs would surely have been out. What a hollow thought that now seems. As the light went, I was left with a road entirely covered in snow. A brave four by four was in front of me, path-finding. I followed it like a dutiful puppy, both of us going at twenty miles an hour. The temperature fell to minus six, and I was starting to get worried about black ice. I could not countenance the idea that I had made it this far, only to be stymied in the last thirty miles.
It took an hour and a half, in exhaustion, apprehension, and second gear. Finally, just as I thought I could not go any more, there were the lights of my village. The Christmas decorations were up, gleaming blue against the snow. I laughed out loud.
Yesterday, when I woke to find the two ladyships gazing down at me as if to check I really was back, I found that about eight inches of snow had fallen in the night. It took me half an hour to get out of my drive. If I had left the journey for one more day, I would never have got home. The forecast remains awful. I am hearing stories of abandoned cars all along the road from Dundee. For some reason, I managed to find the one day when my return was at all possible. I am quite breathless with luck and relief.
As I write this, it is snowing again. The sky is white and ominous. I have enough coffee, cigarettes, red wine, and green soup to keep me going. Now I just have to hope that the power lines do not go down.
PS No photographs yet, as the camera battery is flat and takes ages to recharge, but they shall come.
AND, again, a million thanks for the incredibly kind comments of the last couple of days. It is amazingly touching to think of the dear readers fretting over my journey, almost as much as my darling old mum. It makes me smile to think of all your generosity, and how much you refute the grumpy idea that blogging is somehow a horridly selfish medium. As always: Love 1, Grumpy People Nil.