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Published: July 31st 2011
Sunday 31st July
…. an idiot driver overseas!
Have you ever had that kind of day when one wrong decision is compounded by several more leading to a mishap or even disaster? Well, yesterday was one such day for your correspondent. Having put aside a day for quiet adventure unsullied by the time demands of other folk, I set out for an afternoon of exploration. Having seen the giant tortoises at Plantation – but which one is the very aged Jonathon – there was no one there to ask and the two venerable creatures that I came across were not giving away their secrets – I ventured to the Boer cemetery. This is when I made my first error.
The road being a little narrow and windy I decided to drive through the gates and into a soft-grassed passage. The absence of any tyre marks ought to have suggested to me that I should have parked on the road. But no, I drove onwards past the cemetery on a downward track. At this stage I was sufficiently unconcerned and was still able to enjoy the quiet beauty of this part of the island. However, the passage suddenly became narrower and it was clear even to me that car was not the chosen means of travel of other visitors for significant reasons. There was still time to reverse and I think that my aged (104,00+ miles on the clock) Toyota Starlet (a model I have not come across before) would have managed the gentle incline back to the road. However, it occurred to me that there must be a turning point further down what was now becoming a footpath. Just as the old Baptist burial site came into view round a gentle bend, the car slid on an exposed tree root and slid towards a rather shockingly steep slope on the driver’s (mine!) side. To my rescue came the afore-mentioned barbed wire and a small but secure concrete post. It was only the gentlest of bumps but sufficient to stop the car and make the first of the afternoon’s incisions into the car’s bodywork!
A time for some consideration – how to get out of this pickle? Some attempts at some gentle maneuvering only led to some ear-piercing scratching of the bodywork – the car’s, not mine. The exposed tree root was preventing me moving any further forward. The angle of the car in relationship to the path (as well as the barbed wire that had wrapped itself around the wing mirror prevented any reversing. Time to switch off the engine and do some exploration of the paperwork in the car – I was in need of some assistance. All I could find in the glove compartment was what I think was an owner’s handbook – as it was written completely in Japanese it was not proving helpful. Clambering across the passenger’s seat I climbed out of the car, realized that further attempts to extricate myself would be useless and looked for someone who –if not having any better idea of getting out of the situation than I would have least have shared the experience. It looked as though the car would become a permanent feature of this part of the St Helena landscape.
But no, for clearing a fallen tree in the grave yard was a gentleman who turned out to be my Good Samaritan – I shall name him in this blog for all Good Samaritans should be named – he is Nick Williams from Sandy Bay. He put down his chain saw, looked at the precariously parked car and, not once, suggested that it must have been driven by an idiot from overseas – or that there was not a solution to the problem. The next 60 minutes was a mixture of cutting barbed wire, sawing through the errant tree root and endless attempts to drive away from this mess. At the end of all this deliberation the car was positioned in exactly the same rather precarious position – from the outside I could really appreciate the purpose of the barbed wire – keeping me from a rather unfortunate descent.
Whilst all this happened we had an interesting talk about emigration from the island, historic houses and the general way of the world. A kinder and more interesting companion to have whilst in a spot of bother one couldn’t hope to find. It was now time to seek some outside help – however, with absence of mobile phone technology on the island and your correspondent’s complete absence of knowledge about the owner of the vehicle this could have proven to be a little tricky. Not a problem. My Good Samaritan surmised that the car probably belonged to ‘Colin’ and that he would walk to a nearby house and make the appropriate phone call.
Time to shorten this tale – Colin and his driver turned up in a surprisingly short time – Colin’s wife must have passed on the message immediately. Although I could spot a smirk on both of their faces, Colin’s only comment was ‘Bit of a mess, eh?”. The driver was an expert but it still required the three of us (Colin, Nick and a rather shame-faced correspondent) to lift the car at the back and set it on the right direction. After only a few minutes the car (considerably more battered and scratched than when I set out) was back on the road. I said my farewells and thanked the Samaritan for his kindness and drove back to Jamestown with considerable care.
Now, tomorrow there will need to be some discussion about the insurer!
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