Basil Fawlty, a Cameo and Bugs: 2013 Challenge Day #13

Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers. A Classic moment in TV History.

Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers. A Classic moment in TV History.

Still germ-infested here. I only made it out of bed yesterday because my son tripped over and fell into a door and the adrenalin kicked in as I went to retrieve Mr Bump from the fridge. Today it was husband’s turn for a lie-in so managed to drag myself out of bed to watch TV with the kids. We only survived the day by taking them to town and wandering round until they were tired enough to sleep!

This is quite a long post because it’s mostly narrative rather than dialogue. I am finding it a challenge to keep the instalments interesting when sometimes things just have to happen to build the story and move Claire around. Hopefully I’ll get better at it! It’s teaching me about ‘conflict in every scene’ if nothing else…

I’m trying to work out how to set up a Pinterest Board so my followers can pin to it if they want. If anyone knows how to do it, please let me know! I’m also open to suggestions as to what I can call my novel (currently just called the YHA Novel. My titles are usually pretty unimaginative, considering I used to work in marketing.)

See if you can guess who the (posthumous) cameo is based on my previous posts…. 😉


“Just start, you stupid stinking heap of junk!” Claire smacked her hand against the steering wheel, then winced as pins and needles shot up her arm. It felt like the wheel was made of iron rather than the cushioned leather she was used to.

“Don’t cry, don’t cry.” Claire inhaled deeply and stared out of the chipped windscreen. She was still parked outside her flat. No one had towed the car away in the 24 hours since the Skoda had arrived to replace her company Audi and so she had no choice but to use it to drive to her parents before heading up to Berwick to start her assignment.

Claire dropped her head back against the seat, wincing again at the hardness of the headrest. She had never been in a car with fewer comforts. She tried to recall what the man in blue overalls had told her. The words manual choke floated into her head, although she had no idea what they meant. Claire fished out her iPad and typed the words into Google. She scanned through the information on ehow and began searching around the steering wheel for something that looked like a lever she could pull. She found it eventually near the handbrake and yanked it out. When she turned the key this time, the engine spluttered into life with a throaty roar more suited to a tractor than a tiny tin-pot car.

Claire looked out the window, hoping none of the neighbours were watching. Even though she wouldn’t be back to the street for a year she didn’t really want anyone to question why her shiny company car had been traded for this East European relic.

Claire managed to find first gear, after a quick tour of third and fifth. The gear stick was a giant baton, like a cheerleader might twirl, and the distance between the gears could be measured in inches. It had been months since Claire had driven a manual and that had been a hire car. Bunny-hopping down the street nearly gave her whiplash as she tried to find the bite on the spongy clutch.

Claire headed out of town to the motorway, weaving through morning rush-hour. What possessed me to leave this early? Idiot. The truth was Claire didn’t know any other way than to get up at 5am.

Traffic ground to a halt as they approached a roundabout and Claire could hear the engine growling at her. Looking around helplessly she realised she hadn’t pushed the choke thing back in. She was sure ehow had said something about it only being needed for a few minutes and she’d been driving for twenty.

Damn this car.

She inched forward in the traffic wishing that she could get anything other than Commercial on the ancient radio. After the third advert for PPI Claims she turned it off and tried not to worry about the sounds coming from the engine behind her. She glanced in the rear mirror and saw something fogging her view even though the way was clear in front.

What…? Is that mist?

Claire turned to look over her shoulder. There was steam pouring from the boot. That can’t be good. She looked down at the dash and saw that the temperature needle was thrusting at the red. Bugger. Claire searched around to see if there was a way out to the hard shoulder, or better still a service station, but there was just stationary traffic all the way to the roundabout. Double Bugger.

Claire coaxed the car onto the roundabout and down to the motorway, praying they would make it to Knutsford services before it conked out entirely. The cars around her hemmed her in like a pack of lions surrounding a sickly calf. The horns started as she crept down the slip-road, not daring to go above twenty.

She was practically sobbing with relief by the time the Skoda crawled into the petrol station. Climbing out of the car Claire resisted the urge to kick it. If there had been a tree branch handy she could quite happily have bashed the bonnet like Basil Fawlty.

“Problem love?”

Claire looked up to see a kind face twinkling at her from beneath a motorbike visor. An elderly gentleman in a black leather jacket with a red scarf around his neck was just putting the petrol cap back on what looked like an old police bike. He pulled the disposable gloves off his hands and walked over to where she was slumped against the car.

“Overheated?” The man looked to where steam was still pouring out the back of the car.

“I guess.” Claire shrugged. “It’s not my car; I normally drive a 2011 Audi.”

“Ah, I imagine you’ve been having fun with this then.” She looked up to see if the man was being sarcastic but it seemed he genuinely meant it. Maybe if you ride a motorbike then even a Skoda seems comfortable. Claire never understood the appeal of being out in the cold and rain when you could be nestled in a heated leather seat.

“Did you turn the fan on?”

“The what?” Claire watched as the man reached into the driver’s seat and pulled a lever. The boot popped open and he went round to inspect the engine. His voice was muffled as he spoke from the depths of the car. “These old things often have a bodge for the fan. A manual switch under the dash.”

Claire walked closer so she could hear him better. She had learnt her lesson about paying attention. “You need to flick it on in traffic but remember to turn it off when you’re parked otherwise you’ll flatten your battery.”

He looked around the forecourt and located a bucket of water, then pulled on his large leather gloves and twisted off some part of the engine. A plume of steam whooshed out and the man leant away before turning back to pour some water into the hole.

“You’ll need to take it steady but I don’t think you busted anything. Are you a member of the AA?”

Claire looked puzzled. What did Alcoholics Anonymous have to do with her car overheating? Unless he was worried she might turn to drink in her anger and shame.

“The AA? Breakdown cover? I recommend it if you’re not used to driving an old car. Temperamental things. Need love and care.” He stood up and slammed the boot shut. “Bought my daughter one of these when she passed her test and she ended up taking the carburettor off when it broke.” He beamed with pride as if he could imagine nothing finer than a daughter who would get her hands dirty.

Claire looked down at her perfectly manicured nails and wondered if her father would be proud of her if she turned up at home covered in oil. Her mother would freak.

“How do I get AA?”


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