Around this time, every year, we meet with Himself's side of the family for a festive family meal. This year was no different - well, um, it was slightly different this time.... let me explain. But first, make yourself a drink and get yourself comfortable and I shall start.
We live on one side of Widdop Moors, our village nestled on the lower slopes of the main hill and the in-laws are on the other side of the moorland range which is reasonably high. There is a scenic (if a little hairy) narrow single width wild road that clings to the side of the hill as it winds its way over the moors. In summer it is beautiful, isolated, unpredictable and in winter - a little unforgiving. Himself has driven on it for years and knows it like the back of his hand. We have in the past crossed the moor road in really icy conditions with our knuckles white and our eyes wide and sighed a sigh of relief when we have returned down back to the valleys.
Last Saturday, we set off just as it was getting dark, the roads were well gritted, the sides of the roads were snowy and the hills were sparkly and white. We drove up and out of the village,the sky beautifully clear with stars being to appear.
As we drove higher, I mentioned to Himself that the roads were still clear and gritted.... he replied that we still had the moor road to contend with.......which we did a few minutes later. It fortunately appeared that this lonely little road was also gritted too, so we continued.
(With hindsight...) This is when we should have turned around. Here. Now. NOW.
But - hey... we carried on. The first little drop in to the wild valley was quite icy and we slipped down carefully, Himself turned the radio down low, so he could hear the crunch of compacted snow beneath the tyres. As we reached the bottom the road cleared and we set off on the now apparently gritted surface. Himself dropped down a gear and firmly set up the long incline that starts the moor road.
(Hindsight again?) This is when we should have turned around...here NOW NOW.
We slowly but steadily continued up the incline, the road becoming quite icy with more and more snow encroachment. Conversation dropped and the radio turned off completely. You could hear the tyres alternatively catch and pull or slide on the ice. But we still made progress. The road flattened out for a short stretch, ice was clear, there even seemed to be grit down. So we carried on. Even in the dark I knew where we where and the steep steep steep drop on my left.
Another incline. Himself dropped down a gear again and we continued - I glanced at the car's clock and wondered if we would get there in time as we crawled along the road. There is an alternative
For a moment we all sat in the dark with the engine rumbling and the car precariously perched in a ditch when Himself said .... we're going to have to walk home - it'll take us about two hours' .
Then, after a moment's thought, he told me to slide over onto the driver's seat and keep my foot on the brake while he and Youngest leapt out of the car and pulled out the snow chains. Although he had already pulled the hand brake - he reasoned that as the hand brake only held two wheels, having the other brake on would hold all four wheels and hopefully help reduce any possible sliding. In the bitter air, with their heads wreathed in their exhaled breath, the two of them wrestled the chains onto the front wheels. They struggled to stay upright, gripping the car for support as they shuffled around. I was instructed to turn the steering wheel left or right to help winkle the chains beneath the tyre.
Finally both front wheels were chained up in their rather medieval looking manacles. Himself then climbed back into the car and (this rather startled me) he told me to get out. His reasoning was that if the car was to slip off the road he would rather Youngest and I were not in it with him as it went over ... a sobering thought. He started to reverse carefully back down the hill.
I carefully tottered down the side of the road in the dark in my 'going out shoes and floaty Indian skirt' neither sensible nor warm for this sort of activity. Youngest quite happily slid down the ice on his feet with the ease and invincibility of youth on his side. Suddenly the chains both came off the car and it started to slide faster than it should have. Himself quickly threw it back into the ditch to brake the slide. I had to climb back in, restomp on the brake while the boys replaced the chains and then once again, Youngest and I were back out on the road and Himself carefully started reversing back down the road. I must reiterate how narrow this road is, hence him reversing and not turning round and reiterate how steep the ravine is - which drops away from the road with in a pace or two of the tarred surface.
55 minutes after our initial slide into the ditch we finally reached a part of the road where the gritters had given up and turned around and gone home! Himself managed a careful three point turn and then allowed us back in the car. Shivering I quite happily jumped in. He trundled the car down, still in the chains until we found somewhere wide enough to get off the road. He and Youngest then had to try and get the chains off which now were ice-welded together and virtually immovable. It took a bit of chain-wrestling and they finally came off. Much to all our relief. They got into the car, hands filthy and frozen cold but triumphant. Now we just had to get to Hebden Bridge and sharpish - looking at our watches we knew that the dinner we were attempting to get to should have started 20 minutes earlier and we still had to get there. Our new route took us another 30 minutes.... we were late....and they waited for us!!
Woo hoo - dinner never tasted soooo good!
PS - we came home the long way too.
I will probably not blog regularly for the rest of 2017 as life is a bit full at the moment! Something to do with it being December etc, but I will bob in and say hello and check what you lovely lot are up too - thank you Julie for organising this month's advent calendar :) it has been fun!