This week we’ll be back home after a trip to Scotland and England. At present, though, I’m writing this column from the outskirts of Knutsford, in Cheshire, England, near the busy city of Manchester, where my mother grew up.
I’ve been content nestled in our cottage near the woods, surrounded by timbered houses enclosed by hedges and sheep grazing across the street.
In 1951, my father maneuvered the narrow roads near here in an enormous milk truck, taking me along on occasion. I was 4 and my brother was 2 when my parents returned to England after meeting in World War II. My sister hadn’t been born yet.
We stayed with my grandparents in Manchester for six months, and Dad took a job driving a truck.
One of my earliest memories was going to Blackpool with my grandfather and having a donkey run away with me on the beach. Memories, we’ve made more on this vacation, some touching and some funny. You can’t make a trip overseas without something going wrong.
Smooth Sailing Initially
On this trip we flew to Edinburgh to meet my cousin Gill, her husband Geoff and their daughters, for a couple of nights in that grand city. The flight was good, our room lovely.
After that we picked up a car and headed for our rental house outside St. Andrews, a new property in the hamlet of Dairsie, Scotland. Since we’ve been to Great Britain four times now, Spark has gotten used to driving on the other side of the road. The six nights in Dairsie were delightful, nary a problem at all.
That’s what I was thinking when we left Scotland to make the five-hour drive south to Knutsford. Almost in the city, the thought returned.
“Something always goes wrong. If anything does here in England, please let us be able to handle it,” was my prayer.
With that we arrived in town, but didn’t have a house number for our cottage. It was 5 p.m., traffic was horrendous, and the roundabouts were jammed. We made a last-second decision to hoof it down Chelford Road, hoping we’d recognize the rental by photos from the Internet. Spark zipped off the road and hit a hole next to the curb.
“I hope I didn’t bust a tire,” he @#*$^# said.
He did. The same thing happened when we were in the south of England and hit a curb in June 2013. That little foray cost us $300 and the loss of our car for two days while a tire was ordered. It was same song, second verse in Knutsford.
Let’s Not Replay This Tape
Last year we were rescued by a very nice man we met on the street who directed Spark to the tire shop. In Knutsford, our savior was Jonathan, the cottage owner. Minutes after our calamity, he picked us up, dropped me off at the cottage and took Spark back to the car to try and change the tire.
That couldn’t be done because the locking lug was damaged, so Jonathan called the road service folks for us.
Once the spare was on, Spark brought the car home. The next day, Jonathan came by the cottage again so Spark could follow him to the shop. Sure enough we had to order a new tire — $300, and two days later the car was good to go.
Lest you think this is strictly an American affliction, allow me to steer you straight. When Spark was in the shop waiting room, a Scottish driver was getting a new tire for exactly the same reason.
“Happens all the time,” is what we heard.
The situation got even funnier when the tire shop man took Spark’s credit card information.
“There’s another Stuckenschneider in our system — one down in Tavistock last year,” he said. “That was me,” Spark said sheepishly, which was an appropriate reaction considering our locale.