We were stuck in the wilderness. I looked across to my friend in worry.
There was no escape.
This was not how I expected my Valentine’s Day to pan out…
Let’s rewind to the year 2014 – a year of self indulgent fame and vanity.
This was represented by the talent vacuum that is her majesty Kim Kardashian, who was balancing a champagne glass on her photoshopped and suspiciously engineered behind.
When the most famous picture of the year is an ex-pornstar using her bum as a beer mat, you know our culture is about to flat line.
This image, not the trailer for the new Star Wars that year, allegedly ‘broke’ the internet.
I did the same once, by accidentally dropping some boiling chicken jalfrezi on my dial-up modem.
Clinton Card’s Day Valentine’s Day.
I was treated and spoilt rotten…
To people’s Valentines Facebook statuses
I was saturated to a nauseous news feed on full of romantic surprises, teddy bears and chocolate hearts. Couples don’t really care how it makes the singletons feel.
I mean, I can’t help that I’ve alienated the female race because I say what I feel and I am rubbish at giving compliments. I was single. Tonight’s meal would likely be in a box with a plastic film.
I was almost ready to go on Take Me Out.
Instead of spending the night wallowing with a sad bottle of Blossom Hill red from Lidl’s alcohol aisle, whilst tucking into a microwaveable lasagna, my friend invited me to see Frank Turner. Frank was performing live in his home town of Winchester.
Who is this Frank Turner I heard you ask?
Frank Turner is a folk singer with some really punchy songs, with a rugged manly look that makes you question your heterosexuality. A soulful voice combined with the crescendo of acoustic guitars, violins and banjos, his music makes you want to jump up and dance and spill you cider everywhere. He is also the only songwriter to unwittingly write a song about me and my big-kid syndrome:
I won’t sit down,
And I won’t shut up,
And most of all I will not grow up
He also has best goatee since Craig David. How can you not like this guy?
We aimed to travel there via South West Trains, despite having to remortgage the house to afford a rail ticket.
However, this was February 2014. Storm Nigel was battering the South, causing some aggressive flooding. It wasn’t quite Kevin Costner’s Waterworld, but it packed some weatherly carnage that caused animals and humans alike to hibernate.
Various beach huts had been destroyed, but it’s OK, they were mostly owned by the rich. Diners at the Marine Restaurant in the town of Milford-on-sea (aka the Black hole of the South) had to be rescued by the army after the windows were destroyed. Water waded under the tables and shards of glass fell onto their canapés
I would love to read the reviews on Trip Advisor for that night.
Meanwhile, my friend Tom and I arrived at the train station. Everything was delayed but there was no indication when or if the trains would be running. It was packed full of people wandering aimlessly around the platform. They carried sad-looking wilted red roses, waiting in vain for a train that would never arrive, to meet up with partners they would never see.
We could wait with them, but we’d get to the gig around Easter time. I didn’t want to miss our date with Frank and his banjo.
We jumped in Tom’s car, the mood was precarious. There was nothing to worry about right, driving in the wild weather? It was like the humorous prospect of Donald Trump eyeing up politics. It seemed like a sinister thought, but nothing would ever come about with it surely?
However, Hurricane Nigel, had other thoughts, and pulled us from side to side across the motorway. It felt like we were the marble in a pinball machine. I was a little worried Mother Nature might scoop us off the A31.
Luckily, we arrived at Winchester’s Guildhall, still vertical. We enjoyed the support act, Will Varley, who sung ‘The Self Checkout Shuffle‘ which included the lyric ‘there is an unexpected item in my bagging area,‘ no joke.
I spotted a cute girl to my right, but I was a little bit too apprehensive to strike up a conversation, without alcohol or a waistcoat. She looked at me with a smile, I assumed it was directed at the person behind me.
A little later, I silenced the negative voice inside my head, plucked up my courage and spoke to her. Turned out she was a Mancunian!
At first I couldn’t understand her accent, so I smiled and nodded for a while. She was actually really lovely, we spoke about her love for pasties and how her favorite insult was calling someone a bungalow.
(As they didn’t have much going on upstairs.)
“Can you two be quiet!”
We both turned around like naughty schoolchildren to come face to face with an annoyed old lady , who had actually told us off. We’d be chattering away so much we were louder than the gig itself. I’ve never been told off for talking at a live gig before, I was quite amused.
I casually asked if she would be my Valentine. (not the old lady, I don’t do well with the fiesty type)
She said yes. I felt quite elated, then felt preposterous for actually asking someone this the first time I’d met them, in the middle of a Frank Turner gig.
We met up a few times after where I learnt more Manchestery idioms such as their national cuisine of pudding – a savory dish. I also learn their odd twist on the tooth fairy (you get vegetables put under you pillow instead of coins.) Also, if your brother looked very different from you, he was quite likely the milkmans .
I hadn’t noticed I’d spent one of our dates with chocolate ice cream splashed on my face, luckily she saw the funny side. Sadly we weren’t meant to be, but it was probably be some of the funniest dates I’ve ever been on and it was a funny education about the world ‘up-north’.
Anyway, back to the gig. Without upsetting any more pensioners, Tom and I left and began the journey home. We were navigating the road labyrinth that is Winchester town centre, a place that has more castles than people.
We should have made it home in under an hour. Sadly, the weather had other ideas.
Broken tree branches streatched across the road, which were casually lazing around after being ripped off trees by the storms. Tyres would screech in terror as cars avoided dislodged bits of the countryside. We were really in the back of beyond on the way home as we passed through places with names like Tidpit, Appleshaw and Frogham. I felt like there were no signs of life.
One particular road looked like it was completely flooded. With no canoe, my friend Tom used his initiative. He drove up the embankment to the left, of which looked like innocent wet grass. We were gaining momentum across it, but then the wheels stopped. Tom pushed down on the acceleration, where we moved a a few inches, but then the car completely ground to a halt.
We were stuck in the mud, and alone in the middle of nowhere. We were officially trapped in countryside captivity. I swear I heard an owl hoot into the night and a tumbleweed float past.
Tom tried to floor it as I pushed the car, but it was no use. I pushed with all my might, my hands pressing against the car with hope, confidence and determination. However, my empty promises to join the gym had bitten me in the ass. All I got was disillusion and achey forearms.
A car approached us from behind, but then abruptly disappeared away again, choosing not to be road Samaritans today.
We called a taxi to come rescue us, but they didn’t seem very helpful about sending a car out to the middle of nowhere in a stormy season, so they told us to wait. Being the countryside, the Internet did not yet exist and we knew no numbers for the AA or RAC, not that either of us was a member. Instead we sat huddled in the car, hiding from the gusty winds and animal howls in Emmerdale- county.
We hopped out to see any signs of life. We traipsed across the mud and I saw an abandoned barn. It seemed like a nice place to wait diligently for the possible taxi to arrive. My friend proceeded to get his suitcase out the car, worried some nefarious flood bandits might try to break into the car overnight. To me it looked like he was contemplating this barn as a new holiday hotspot!
Two lights suddenly blazed through the country night. We turned around to see a car appear behind us and two lads offer to help us out. With Tom attempting to get some movement in reverse, the three of us pushed the car, though the stubborn automobile wasn’t going anywhere quickly. The lads came up with the idea that putting car mats underneath the tyres would gather some much-needed friction and traction.
We put them underneath, and we gave it another go. We pushed and pushed and pushed some more (this sounds like a pregnancy) and I suddenly felt cold, wet mud spatter across my face. Flecks of mud were going everywhere, hair, my clothes, my mouth… but I was so jubilant I couldn’t help but wear a smile on my face. I’d never been so happy to feel mushy car earth decorating my face – as I knew this must mean the car was moving. We pushed it all the way back to the road.
Thanking the guys, Tom drove through the flood, of which turned out to be barely deep at all. In fact, it may have given the car a nice little wash after it’s muddy excursion. As we drove home, we saw the Taxi coming the other way. We had completely forgot about them!
We stumbled across another flood, but thankfully we managed to avoid it by Tom doing a crafty 3 point turn. I was slightly apprehensive though as behind us was a massive ditch, so I leapt out the car and directed him away from it to avoid spending the evening in the ground.
We eventually arrived in Bransgore and shared beer and reflected over our misadventures.
Next Valentine’s Day I will stay indoors and safe, I decided.
If I can wade through all the cards I’ll receive.
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