The last two days have been remarkably wet even for Cumbria. Strangely enough I missed it as I headed south as far as Kenilworth. So on the Wednesday when I drove south it was throwing it down, until I crossed the county boundary into fine weather.
Driving home on Thursday it was fine, a few spots of rain as I drove through Lancashire, but visibility was good. Then as I passed Burton services I hit rain. It was as abrupt as driving into a car wash, one minute nothing and I was quietly overtaking two lorries. Next minute my windscreen wipers were moving at triple speed in a frantic attempt to let me see out.
But to be fair, this isn’t all that unusual. Indeed off the motorway you can enjoy the ‘Genuine Cumbrian Hyperspace Experience.’ The last time I had this was when they closed the A590. This meant that rather than leaving Penrith and heading down the M6 and A590 home I had to head west along the A66 and then down through St John’s in the Vale to Ambleside, and from there take the Coniston road to hit the A590 at Greenodd to miss the closed section.
And it rained. It was as dark as a January night can be, and it absolutely chucked it down. I had a full hour with the windscreen wipers going at full speed. On the other hand, whilst they might have been exulting in the wild acceleration, I didn’t manage to achieve 40mph.
For those of you who’ve never driven along Cumbrian A roads in these conditions I’ll try and describe them. Firstly you only see what your headlights illuminate. Your field of vision consists of the walls on both sides (slate grey and rotten wet, gleaming in the headlights.) Then there is the road. This is a different shade of grey and where there is no standing water, it’s because of the slope and you’re driving through running water. Finally there is the vegetation above you, which is also sodden, reflects the light back, looks vaguely green but fades to black where the headlights don’t reach. And this continues for miles. Occasionally another vehicle looms out of the darkness. This can be a cause for panic because both of you have been driving down the white line, as it’s the highest part of the road and the bit with least standing water.
Then suddenly, you drop out of hyperspace. You find yourself in a village. Frantically you look for something you recognise because you’ve just been driving with no landmarks or recognisable features. If you’re lucky you spot the sign saying that ‘Blawith welcomes careful drivers’ or ‘Welcome to Subberthwaite (yes you are lost)’.
Then after a few brief moments of comparative civilisation with houses, lights in windows and perhaps even a street light or two, you leave the village, drop back into the hyperspace tunnel and you’re back in a featureless world of wet greys and greens.
You just better hope you dropped into the right hyperspace tunnel otherwise it’s ‘second to the right, and straight on till morning’ and God alone knows where you’ll end up.