New Years Eve in Glasgow! always an anti climax for me, not that I am the party animal type. A quick last visit to the Brother and sister in Law’s, a few door’s away from where we stay, back indoor’s for 10pm before getting my head down. Oh I didn’t mention, got to get up before the Bell’s (Midnight) stand outside in the pissing rain to first foot the house for the New Year 2012 with a bottle of Stella in my hand.
The alarm was set for 5am for a 6.30 departure back home to Brighton. The van was filled with diesel the afternoon before, the two ladies behind the counter at the Petrol station recognised from my accent, that I was not native to Glasgow. We exchanged polite conversation and they said, “we are always here, see you next time you are up”, you don’t get that type of friendly chat from counter staff at filling stations, well not in my experience.
Because of the high winds and rain, the firework celebrations that evening were damped down, so getting back to sleep for a few hours wasn’t too hard, getting up at 5am was hard work, after a couple of weeks Christmas break and not having to get up for work. Even the dog, an 11 year old “git” of a Jack Russell wasn’t to keen on getting up, however he had an inkling that we had packed ready for home so he was getting wound up, hope the vets travel pill kicks in with an 8-9 hour drive ahead.
Got to walk “Mac the Jack” before kicking off home. Its raining hard and windy, thinking, not looking forward to the driving conditions ahead. Had my first Happy New Year greeting from an old lady doing the early morning dog walking thing. A taxi passes and pulls up to collect a few people leaving what looked like the end of a party, plenty of drunken loud voices exchanging goodbyes.
Just had time for a quick cuppa and to say our goodbyes to Karen our host and Sophie the King Charles Ruby Spaniel before setting off for 6.30am. The Van, a VW 28TDi was loaded, Sat Nav primed with our home bound destination. We choose to travel back New Years day mainly because the roads are not to busy and there aren’t so many lorries bombing down the Motorways.
Its raining and getting very windy as we take a gentle run through Mary Hill, Glasgow and it’s not to long before we pick up the Motorway South bound heading for Carlisle and Southern England. The Motorways through Glasgow are well-lit until you hit the outer City limits, then its down to cats eye’s, well-worn road markings, full beam headlights and the occasional illuminated road direction display.
I’ve never minded driving in the dark, its easy down South, plenty of street lighting and most towns are close to each other so there isn’t really too much full on darkness to experience. Winter driving heading South is a whole new ball game. Lucky for me this time I wasn’t driving back in the snow and ice, however total darkness, your partner and mutt sleeping, the lack of other vehicles and the full force of driving rain and high winds, makes for a very testing drive. It being New years Day and very early morning, cars and vehicles were few and far between, I think I was over taken only a half-dozen times on that long stretch through Scotland on the M74 and was very grateful to follow a vehicles red lights and road spray for a time. Driving in those conditions you think to your self, “What the bloody hell am I doing here”.
Dawn broke very slowly. Just when you thought it was going to get light, thick heavy rain clouds burst again and the little light was lost again. Two hours from the start of the journey I was happy to see the road sign, Welcome to England another six hours driving for us. Mags and the dog still sleeping albeit broken sleep, the dawn was breaking nicely now but still hammering down with gusty winds, still there are not to many vehicles about which makes for a better drive.
My first pit stop was three and a half hours in. The Motorway stops are handy for a pee refuelling, letting the dog out to do his stuff, or maybe a Costa coffee. The dog was pleased to stretch his legs, sniff trees where other canines have left their marks. When entering the Motorway stop the first thing you look for is the loo’s, but before you find a loo direction sign, you are bombarded with strategically placed sweets, doughnuts, papers, neck supports and all manner of useless items and knickknacks, that the retailers want to flog on. The staff sorting the coffee were vaccant as shit house door’s, youngsters in jobs they don’t really want, but need’s must. We can’t be bothered to sit for long, so its coffee back to the van, refuel the motor then head on. Forgot to take my jacket off, to late, will have to pull over at the next service station twenty odd miles on.
After pulling up again quickly to remove my jacket, its straight back on the M6 heading South, its amazing just how the contours of the land change, from hills and mountain ranges in Scotland to vast farmlands, fields and hill’s South bound. The M6 Toll road approaches with the Sat Nav ordering me to stay right, lovely stretch of road by-passing Birmingham, the rain and wind has dropped, just another few hours to go, don’t need another fuel stop but the dog might need to stretch, I think he will make it home, the vets travel pill has worked a treat for him this time. Mac usually starts to get restless just before we get off the M25, can he sense or smell home. The dreaded M25 road to Hell is the next obsticle, on a good day it flows nicely, on bad day it is Hell! hedging my bets that its New Years day and the volume of traffic won’t be that heavy.
I was right, traffic volume managable, the sky is starting to darken again and the wind is picking up again. Passing Heathrow is usually a nightmare, a plane takes off and hangs over the motorway or least it seems before turning and heading off somewhere nice, we moved swiftly past, about an hour and a half to go, then its home. The road signs for Gatwick Airport were a pleasure to see now, the heavans opened up the wind increased and the traffic adjusted to suit the conditions apart from the idiot brigade driving like lunatics adding to the road spray problem.
The final leg of the journey now and we are off the Motorways, I take the Hickstead turning off the duel carrageway and head on over the South Downs, now with its National Park status, towards the Devil’s Dyke, stunning views of the Sussex country side and great views east towards Brighton and Hove. In the right conditions, the Isle of White can be seen from up there. Must stop for a quick pint of milk before home. The rain is still heavy, the wind is getting more wild home is here now, Iam knackered now, eight hours hard driving, its good to be in now, lets stick the kettle on.