Without the tools or the knowledge to change Percy’s transmission oil properly and a filter to replace the old one, we gave in and decided it was best to be towed back to London from our holidays in Bath, and get Percy seen by the experts at Globe Transmissions garage. Luckily, we had three options to get home… the AA Gold family membership from my father-in-law, which includes roadside relay; a free recovery service from my HSBC bank account; and our classic car insurance roadside recovery from DAS. We opted for the ‘gold standard’ in roadside assistance and recovery- the AA.
Nina called the AA at roughly 11am when we were nearly ready to leave for home. A mechanic arrived in a little under 1 hour and agreed that with a slipping gearbox it was best to not risk driving and ordered a tow truck back to London for us. The tow truck arrived at 1.30pm and Percy was loaded up.
We perched ourselves and Mimi the rabbit in the rear of the truck’s cab but were informed by the apologetic driver that due to the delay from traffic through Bath reaching us, he had eaten into his driving time and had to take his mandatory 45 minute break. So, ten minutes down the road we pulled into Leigh Delamere services and had a 45 minute sit down in Costa coffee. Back in the truck, we were informed that he would only be able to take us to Membury services, just after Swindon on the M4 (28 miles away) where another truck would be waiting for us… they don’t call it a relay service for nothing! We were happy enough, as we weren’t in a rush to get home and I had the next day off work as well.
When we met the next driver at Membury services, he told us he would take us about an hour up the M4 to Heston services, where we would be passed on to our final driver to take us into London. However, 10 minutes into the journey and several ‘phone conversations with his buddies later (we heard him explaining how he’d be home late for dinner) he changed his mind and told us that he wasn’t going to make it to Heston and instead dumped us at Reading services a mere 20 minutes after we’d set off. He called head office for another truck and zoomed off for his dinner. By this time, 4.45pm, my fuse was getting shorter because the driver at Heston that was booked for us was now cancelled and we had to wait for another driver who wouldn’t be with us until 6.30pm. However, we were assured that he would be taking us all the way to London, so we settled down with another Costa coffee and walked Mimi the rabbit on the scenic grass verges of the M4 Reading services.
At 6pm Nina received a call from the AA informing her that our driver had to attend a breakdown on the M4, which was given higher priority than us as it was on the hard shoulder. Fair enough we thought, but he now wouldn’t be with us until 7.30pm at the earliest and that’s provided he didn’t get any other high priority calls. The AA weren’t going to find us another driver and I’m thinking that they don’t have enough trucks working. I’d had enough and decided to call my free roadside recovery from HSBC. I explained that my wife was 5 months pregnant and we’d been on the road since midday on the world’s slowest relay from the AA. HSBC were extremely helpful and said they’d provide me with national recovery from a local tow company called Automania. A short time later, Ricky the driver raced into the services and apologised for taking so long!
Unlike the AA drivers, he helped pregnant Nina into and out of the truck, offered us drinks and didn’t chat to his mates on the phone once during the drive back to London. We arrived home at 9pm, having chatted to Ricky about everything from kids to motorbikes, taxis and the AA.
We’ve learnt from this trip that if you know you’re going to be needing a tow, don’t call the AA if you can help it… otherwise it could take you 10 hours to travel 100 miles from the time you called them. They call themselves the 4th emergency service… if any of the other emergency services took that long, you’d be dead.