Last week I had such fabulous plans of a solo 4 hour road trip in the sunshine to Wrexham, to my old university town 2 years after I left to revisit my classmates, walk round the same old streets and visit the same old shops.
That was instantly scuppered when I woke up on Wednesday morning to the most torrential rain of this year and was faced with one of them 4 hours solo road trips where you wish you had someone else to wipe your misted up windows and scream with you when you get caught in the spray of a lorry when you're overtaking. And let's not even talk about cars who don't put their lights on when it's a monsoon outside.
I'm not a nervous driver, 4 hours by myself without a satnav doesn't faze me at all - in fact I was really looking forward to the road trip, but that weather was something else. The motorway isn't a nice place to be when you're squinting at the road ahead looking for brake lights and everyone's going so fast and overtaking is like taking your life into your hands.
We've always made a pact as a family that if the weather was THAT minging on the motorway we'd get off and as I was coming through Newport I was genuinely considering it until I realised I was just a junction away from where I needed to exit anyway. "I can make it that far" I thought as I came through the Bryn Glas Tunnels, one junction more is doable even in this weather.
And that's when my windscreen wiper flew off.
Honest to god the little fucker just flew off.
It was still attached by one thin thread and was dangling down the front of my car, rendering it useless as I zoomed through the tunnels and back out into the rain. If you don't know the Newport stretch of the M4 or the Bryn Glas Tunnels it goes to two lanes and when you leave the tunnels a filter lane immediately joins the motorway, making the inside lane of the tunnel the middle lane of the motorway. As I came through the tunnels with my broken wiper and the rain started pelting me again I slammed on first my brakes and then my hazards to let everyone know I was very very quickly loosing vision and indicated to swing over to the filter/inside lane and stop. Thanks to the car on my inside who wouldn't let me in, you really helped this panicking (screaming FUCKING MOVE) gal out.
How the car behind me didn't slam into the back of me and the car on my inside managed to swerve to avoid me when I had to just pull over I don't know but by the time I screamed to a stop on the hard shoulder I was completely blind from my windscreen. What I didn't know (cos lol couldn't see) was I'd only been able to stop on the thinnest part of the hard shoulder under a bridge so I couldn't exit the car out of my passenger side so had to wait until there was a gap in the traffic and jump out of my drivers side and then run back up the motorway to a barrier to get behind.
Let me remind you of the rain in this situation. I grabbed my leather jacket and my AA card and my phone and that was it. My handbag, my warning triangle, any form of protection from the weather stayed in my car and I genuinely thought my phone was going to break from water damage it was getting so soaked when I called breakdown.
Phoning the AA is not easy when you're in the torrential rain and standing on a motorway because turns out, 70+ is quite fast and it's pretty loud and after they'd assured me they were on their way (and advised me to download their app because yeah sure I can do that on the M4) I rang my poor Mother. I don't think she's fully recovered from "MUM I'M OUT OF THE CAR BUT I'VE BROKEN DOWN ON THE M4 AND THE AA ARE COMING BUT I HAVE TO GET OFF THE PHONE". I didn't speak to her for another 2 hours and she literally didn't know what was happening to me.
I was a priority breakdown cos lol not supposed to be standing on the motorway but after 35 minutes Highway Maintenance got to me before breakdown. I was wet through to the bone so after a further 15 minutes on the motorway they tied my wiper back on and drove my car to the next exit (conveniently mine) and bunged me in their car with their heated seats to dry my jeans off. Babes.
Turns out, as nice as it was to be off the motorway and safe in a McDonalds carpark, that meant my safety rendered my need for priority breakdown useless and a quick call to the AA, an hour after the original, I was informed I had a 2 hour wait till someone could come out for me. The best part? All I needed was a new wiper which I could buy and fit myself from Halfords - except I couldn't drive cos uhhh can't see through the rain. It was all just great.
It was about that time I went off the autopilot that had me reacting to everything going round and a phone call to my parents and Joss later I was a liiiiitle bit in shock and aware of how scary it was, how unsafe it was and how bloody wet and cold I was. But nothing a McDonalds and a cookie couldn't fix. The AA came out and fixed my wiper and I finally set off for Wrexham again, at the same time I should have been arriving there. In the end it took me six hours and I was exhausted and very in need of a sugary cuppa.
So, my ordeal over and several hours late in Wrexham the rest of the few days actually went very smoothly. We're very much in a tradition when it comes to going back to university which includes lots of exclaiming over how it feels so normal to be back there and how many shops have shut in the high street.
We went to see friends and friends parents and we ate in Frankie & Bennys with more friends and we spent a lot of time in the hotel eating grapes and Easter egg and watching as much dreadful TV as we could. Although we did watch the Leaders Debate so all about balance right?
On Thursday we set off into the most disgusting weather yet again but the closer and closer we got to the North Wales coastline the brighter it got and I think the unedited photos demonstrate just how warm and blissful it got. If it didn't stink of fish and look a bit cold that penguin pool looked very inviting. We went to the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay, somewhere I haven't been since I was a kid and whilst it was smaller than I remembered and the seals weren't playing ball, it was a cute day out. If you're up that way it's enough for a few hours and ideal for little uns but if you're close to Chester Zoo and a bit older that's definitely worth the extra cash (we did that last time, read here).
On Thursday we toasted our last night with some more bad TV and a chippy. I used to live in a little terraced street in Wrexham and at the end of it was a chippy and it's like the best takeaway in Wrexham imo. The last few times we've been back we've taken a chippy (and gravy sauce) back to the hotel for a greasy meal and the portions are insane and it makes me so sad I don't live there any more.
Friday was our last day and we always wake up hideously early and then just lie in bed until about half an hour before check out and then have a mad moment packing and getting ready and trying to leave. It's all fun and games. We then have dinner at Spoons and then spend the afternoon shopping and inevitably not buying anything anywhere else because 'it'll be like half the price in Primark'. We then spend all the $$$$$$$ in Primark and struggle to get it all in our tiny tiny cars. We predictable.
The journey home was much less uneventful and although included a lot of hailstone storms and traffic, I still managed it in 4 hours and was home for tea (albeit at 9pm but whatcha gunna do).
Oh yeah and I pulled in the drive to find these two pesky piglets eating all the flowers.
I've said it before, I say it every time I go there and I'll probably continue to do so as long as I visit there but going back to Wrexham feels like going home. I spent 3 of the most formative years of my life there, it was the first (and probably only) time I moved so far away from home, the first time I lived with friends, the first time I lived an independent life, the place where I knew no one, made life long friends and memories, the place I graduated.
Wrexham might not be the prettiest part of North Wales, not the town with the best reputation or the most thriving high street but I bloody love it.