Yesterday, I didn’t go to a wedding.
Act One – Not Going To A Wedding
The wedding was Andy and Siâns, of course, and they got married yesterday in Cardiff. Unfortunately, Ruth, JTA and I’s plans to go down there were conspired against by the combined forces of all of the worst luck imaginable. Allow me to elaborate.
The plan was simple. As soon as JTA could finish work, we’d suit-up, hop into Miriam (Ruth & JTA’s loveable, quirky litle car), and rocket down to Cardiff to join the party. And it could have gone so well, as a plan – JTA managed to finish work early, I dug out one of the most awesome ties ever, we’d even packed up a stack of inflatable beds so that anybody else who was planning to crash on the happy couple’s living room floor could also sleep in comfort.
But the problem was Miriam. Miriam, you little beast! She’d apparently been “sounding funny” during Ruth’s trip over to Aber on Thursday night, and – as a precaution – we decided to take her for a quick run out along the A44 to check that she was going to be okay for the journey to Cardiff. The plan wouldn’t be foiled even if there was a problem: we already had a backup plan to rent a car (probably for a whole week, as Ruth and JTA will somehow need to get to and from Oxford over the coming week).
It turns out that Ruth getting a second opinion – mine – was a good idea: yes, Miriam “sounds funny”, if by “sounds funny” you mean “judders and vibrates once you get above about 1000 revs, increasingly violently as you get above third gear, and ocassionally cuts out entirely at higher speeds.” Honestly, I suspect she might have been safe, but she certainly wasn’t healthy, so, after (correctly, it later turns out) guessing that the problem was that one or more cylinders were periodically (read: virtually always) failing to fire, we ditched her and went looking for a rental.
We toddled along to Europcar (don’t be fooled by the picture: that’s not what Aberystwyth Europcar’s offices look like), and asked what they had available for hire for a week. “Nothing,” came the reply. “What about just for today?” we asked. “Nothing,” came the reply, again, “We always sell out at about this time on a Friday.”
They suggested we try Hertz out in Llanbadarn, so I gave them a bell. “You want it for today, do you?” came the reply, in a distinctly Welsh accent twinged with only a little incredulity. There was the sound of paperwork being filed in the background. “I’m afraid we’ve got nothing at all today.”
“Is there anybody else I could try, other than you and Europcar?” I asked, “We’re trying to get to a wedding in Cardiff and our car has broken down.”
“You might try – what are they called? – AV Van Hire, out in Glanyrafon. I think that they used to have a car that they used to rent out, sometimes.” This was our last chance, so I thanks the lady from Hertz and went about phoning her competitor in the industrial estate.
I explained the situation to the friendly-sounding man who answered the phone.
“Yeah. We’ve got a Ford Galaxy here that you can borrow.”
“Really? That’s great! How much for a day’s rental?”
“Yell you what – you get over here and we’ll talk about that when you get here.” Hmm. Not sure how to take that – leaves the opportunity to haggle, I suppose, but he could be the kind who wants to size-up his customers first, and the fact that I’m wearing a suit won’t necessarily work financially in our favour. Still, running out of options at this point, so Ruth & I grabbed JTA and jumped into a taxi out to the industrial estate.
Finding the place was more than a little challenging. The taxi driver didn’t know where they were, so eventually we just had him drop us off at the DHL Parcel Depot and called the rental place again. He said he’d send round the car to pick us up, and a few minutes later it arrived.
“It’s… big,” said Ruth, as we hopped into the Ford Galaxy (Mk2). And she was right – you could comfortably seat seven in this beast. Bear in mind that Miriam’s a very small car – she sometimes look as if the two rear passenger doors were added as an afterthought – and you can see why what is, essentially, only a little smaller than a minibus, might be a little intimidating to her.
The chap at the rental place was as friendly as he’d sounded, and, after talking a little about fuel economy and turning circles, made us a really good offer. “Great,” I said, “We’ll take it!” We wandered upstairs into the plywood “office” that hung above their maintenance garage.
“Have you got your license?” he asked, and Ruth produced hers. He started tapping details into a computer and filling out forms, and then stopped and looked at it again. “Umm: how long have you been driving?” he asked.
“18 months,” she said.
“And you?” he said to JTA.
“17?” he guessed, and then checked his license to confirm that this guess was correct. The friendly man turned to me.
“I’m taking my test next month,” I replied.
He pointed at the documents in front of him, where it clearly stated that while the insurance company that they used could insure anybody over the age of 21, they needed to have two years of driving experience. He flicked backward and forth through the paperwork, looking for an exception clause (they were a reasonably liberal-minded insurer, even willing to take on drivers with convictions, but had no flexibility on this one clause… unlike, we later learned, Europcar’s insurers), before giving up.
And that was that. Our last hope, sat out in their driveway, ready for us to rent but illegal for us to take off the premises: as good as useless. We’d checked the public transport options already and determined that the best we could hope to achieve might be to arrive at Andy & Sian’s house right as they happy couple would be retiring to their matrimonial bed (can you think of a better way to make yourself welcome than that?), and that’s if there weren’t any delays. Dejected, we finally gave up. The friendly man had one of his employees (possibly his son?) drive us back to Aber.
Act Two – Doing Something Else Instead
So, in true Friday night tradition, we did what we usually do: had Troma Night, our regular weekly film night. Of course, few could make it (just Sam; Paul visited briefly; and Kit and Fiona turned up late on). In accordance with the prophecy, and perhaps a little in order to feel like we were less-badly separated from our friends on their special day, we themed Troma Night around them.
We stayed in our wedding-wear, watched films about weddings, toasted the happy couple, and wallowed in the fact that we could’t be there with them. Briefly – and with thanks to Matt R – we got to speak to the bride by phone and wish her well, which was nice, but it’s not quite the same. We promise that we’ll try to get down there and visit you sometime soon!