Right before I moved to Australia, I decided I wanted to create a British bucket list of all the things I wanted to do before I left. This list consisted of a Scottish road trip to see Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye, the Hogwarts Express and some reindeers. I wanted to hike Snowdon. I wanted to see the poison garden of Alnwick. I wanted to do a vegan cooking class in the world’s best vegetarian cooking school in Bath. I wanted to do the Harry Potter Warner Brothers tour in London. I wanted to do everything the UK had to offer! I mostly wanted to keep myself busy because my actual life was depressing me immensely. And yet I never got around to doing any of those things.
Why? Well, I was working. I hadn’t earned even a quarter of the amount I originally wanted to for my trip so I spent my last month in the UK hustling by making lattes. Don’t get me wrong, I did end up doing some things on my days off. One of the things I did ended up being an absolute disaster.
My friend, Zuzana, and I planned a trip to the Peak District with her housemates and their dog, Bruno. Even though there were four humans and a dog, we decided to take two cars. It would be Zuzana, Bruno and I in one, Andrea and Jeanette in the other. The main reason for this is because Bruno was still an excitable puppy and liked to crawl all over the back seat. The five of us crammed into one car might be a little bit claustrophobic.
The plan was to head to Dovedale. So, I tapped the address into Google maps and was on my way. It should be noted that Jeanette warned me before we left that I shouldn’t trust Google maps and I should use the app that she liked to use. “It’s much better, but it does drain your battery.” Yeah, I was on 20% after I left the house so a battery draining app simply wouldn’t do in this case.
About half way down the M6, I noticed my battery was seriously diminishing. I pulled into the services and purchased one of those cigarette lighter USB port thingies. This ended up being a bit of a lifesaver, as I was finally able to charge my phone. Unfortunately I had already forgotten the name of the app Jeanette told me to use, so I made use with Google Maps for the rest of the journey.
Leaving the service station and getting back onto the M6 ended up being one of the most stressful things I’ve ever experienced. You know when you’re on the slip road, trying to build up speed to match the other cars on the motorway? You know how usually the cars will move over to the right lane to let you in? You know how it’s simple motorway etiquette to do this for a little Hyundai I10 like myself? Yeah, the lorry next to me wasn’t doing that. There were road works galore all the way down the M6 this unfortunate Thursday and instead of reaching the hard shoulder when the slip road ended, I was greeted by cones, dips, stone barriers and worker men. I had to slow down to a mere 20 miles per hour to stop myself crashing into them. I had no choice, as I didn’t want us to crash into either the lorry or the road works.
I somehow made it onto the motorway and built my speed back up. Somehow! And from there, Google Maps lead the way to “Dovedale”.
You already know where this story is going don’t you? Yeah, Google Maps failed me yet again. Curse that app! It took me to a car park that would end up being the setting for the next disaster of the day.
Zuzana, Bruno and I paused to sit down after the stressful car journey on a picnic table next to my car. She attempted to contact Jeanette and Andrea to find out where they were as just before we arrived, they messaged us to let us know they were waiting in the car park for us, yet they were nowhere to be found.
I sat opposite Zuzana on the picnic table and began to contemplate my existence. Now, this was in the mist of a series of unfortunate events that were unfolding in my life. I don’t want to get into the story as it would be long enough for a novel, but the short version is this: Off and on for the past few months I had gone from being the world’s biggest victim of circumstance and the world’s biggest self critique. There was no in between. This particular day happened to be one where I felt like everything was my fault because I’m a terrible person. I had been made to believe that I had a rather skewed moral compass. People in work were treating me badly, friends I had known for years had started to ghost me. I try hard to be the best version of myself at all times but we’re all human and we all make mistakes. My mistake ended up being a bad one.
As I was sat there, trying hard not to have another anxiety attack or a hysterical crying fit that I had become accustomed to as of late, Zuzana leapt from the bench and yelled, “Laura! Your car!”
My car had started rolling down the hill. I jumped up, left the keys on the picnic bench and dived into my car that I had luckily left unlocked for once in my life. Usually I’m vigilant about locking it, but this time I decided not to as we still had some of Bruno’s belongings in the boot that we’d need to grab when we finally found Zuzana’s housemates.
I sat in the drivers seat of the rolling car and reached to pull the hand break up. Hang on, something was wrong. The hand break was already up. And I had left the keys on the picnic table! There was nothing I could do except sit there, in the drivers seat, as my car slowly rolled into a parked car. Perfect.
“Um,” was all I could say as I got out the car. Zuzana tossed me the keys a little too late and I drove back up the hill to inspect the damage. Yep, I had scratched both my car and the car mine had crashed into. “I guess I have to leave a note?”
I parked my car in a flatter spot on the car park and wrote out a message to the car owner. I also messaged Mum to ask her why my hand break decided to have a day off from it’s busy life of hand breaking. She knows a lot about cars and I knew my Dad would kill me if he found out what had happened. She told me, when parking on hills, it’s important to leave the car in first gear to avoid rollage. Is this something you learn on your driving lessons? Was I sleeping through the class when we were taught that? I have no idea but this was something I definitely didn’t know already.
I contemplated faking messy handwriting. I contemplated making the ones and sevens in my phone number indistinguishable so the car owner would have a hard time figuring out how to call me. Maybe it would take her months? Maybe I’ll already be in Australia by the time she decoded my message? Maybe I’ll have married a millionaire and could finally afford to pay off the damage. But nope. Remember I was worried about my skewed moral compass? I knew I needed to do the right thing so I wrote out my message in my clearest scrawl and attached my (correct) contact details.
We left the car park in an attempt to enjoy the rest of the day in the beautiful town of Dovedale, hoping Jeanette and Andrea would be meeting us at the paving stones – Dovedale’s main tourist attraction. But something was wrong. There were no signs pointing us in the direction of the stones, like I expected. When I typed the address into trusty Google Maps, it came up as a three hour walk away. Yeah, that wasn’t right.
“I think we’re in the wrong place,” I said, simply. I was ready to give up on this entire day and crawl into bed. We headed back to the car park and noticed a sign I didn’t see before. ‘Private parking only.’ Oh dear. Not only had I parked where I shouldn’t, in a town I shouldn’t even be in, I had managed to cause as much damage as I possibly could in said car park. Could this day get any worse?
As well as being in the mist of one of the hardest, most depressing portions of my life, I was also in the mist of a fake positivity streak in order to deal with it. Every bad thing that happened would be a lesson, and every single cloud on my horizon would have a silver lining. Yeah, this day was turning into a disaster, but at least it would make a good story! I switched my attitude and tried to make the most out of a bad situation.I moved the car for a third time into a new car park. The flattest car park I could find and this one was right next to the visitors centre for the town of Bakewell. Ah, so we were in Bakewell. Birthplace of the bakewell tart and the biggest town in the Peak District.Thankfully there were no more disasters to deal with that day. So we weren’t in the right place. Oh well. Bakewell ended up being one of the most beautiful little villages I’ve ever been to and Bruno’s relentless puppy excitability managed to put a smile on my face, despite it all.When we returned to the car after a long day of wandering around the town centre and a walk round the gorgeous countryside, I received a voicemail from the lady whose car I crashed into. She complimented my handwriting and told me I owed her £180. Ugghhhhh.So I spent my remaining time in the UK hustling by making lattes. There would be no more stupid daytrips for me, especially after the disaster that was Bakewell. It was probably for the best. I earned enough to pay the woman and enough to fund at least a little bit of my Australian trip. The whole day was definitely a learning experience, too. I learnt to put my car into first gear when parking on a hill. I learnt to never trust Google maps, I learnt that next time we should only take one car and deal with Bruno’s incessant wriggling. And most importantly, I learnt to make the most out of a bad situation, although maybe I shouldn’t have been trying to force happiness so much. Maybe this is something I’m still learning?