“Yeah, no, traffic looks like it’s slowing down but I should be home for tea. Don’t slow it down or anything, I can’t see it taking too long…Sure…Okay. I’ll call you when I am half an hour away. Bye! B-Bye!”
Red brake lights pierced through the windscreen raindrops and the 4×4 in front of me ground to a halt.
Getting out of Porlock, out of the deep dark countryside had taken long enough, finally I was back on a decent sized road, sure, surface water was pretty bad, but I couldn’t be too much longer could I?
After three and a half hours, I fired off a text from my dying phone to my housemate who had called earlier.
“Still haven’t moved. Not looking like it will clear till late. See you in the morning xx”
It was cold, the kind of cold that you feel in the tips of your toes and deep in your shoulders no matter how you have wrapped your coat around them. I turned the engine off in hour two because I saw my fuel reserve dwindling, so had covered myself in the coat in the boot as I draped my feet over the handbrake.
My lukewarm Pepsi had run out in hour two. I needed a wee and my feet were shaky. The guy in front kept flashing his brake light. His foot must be flexing on the brake pedal and red light was trembling in the fog that was descending as it does on a November night.
It felt strange leaving Porlock, and in hour three, I sat and thought about it a lot. About the place, the grass, the hills, the smell, hell, even the jam. I don’t do the countryside. I don’t do the sea. But, there was something about that little place. Still…I had to get home.
And god did I need a wee…
I could see flashing blue lights in the rear view, and after a while of sitting with the window down, looking out into the foggy night with a particularly dull legal show on LBC crackling from dusty speakers, I decided it was time to get out and see what was going on.
I leant against the drivers door for a while, breathing warm air into my palms. It was quiet, quieter than you would expect on a Saturday night, on a busy A road with the whole northbound lane shut. After a while, the guy in the car across from me got out and we talked for a while. He was nice, tall, called Jamie and he and his fiancee ran a bakery.
Then the occupants of two more cars joined in, clambering out of cars they were growing tired off and into the cool night breeze. We all talked and it was strange. One of them offered to charge my phone, the tallest one had a flask of coffee and I passed around a packet of gum.
As warm breath danced, suspended with fog in the night, and my hands were knitted together in my coat sleeves, fingers plaited close until in a split second, I heard a bang.
My hands fell to my sides and I looked up and bright lights were dispersed through the darkness, like a thousand falling brake lights sobbing with the stars. Shots rang out over the motorway and we fell silent. It was the 5th of November. Instead of being stood in a muddy field, age fourteen with school friends and the boy you like, hands clasped around hot chocolate; here I was, 24 and stood in the middle of the road with three strangers.
And as the police came closer to turn us round, a procession of people waiting, ready to go the wrong way up the road, a convoy of irritable people, screaming kids and exhausted parents, I knew I wouldn’t be trying to turn back around.
Was it the smoke, the lights, the friendly faces or the cool air? Something was telling me not to.
Whatever it was; I was going back to Porlock.