Its been a long time...

since my last post and also since I last drove a long motorway journey. So it is fitting that I should celebrate both with an "incident" on the M40 and a blog post to explain all.

On Tuesday, when I arrived into work at Coombe Bissett at 7am to open up, my tills were not working. This was obviously a big worry becuase we rely heavily on our EPoS system, not just for stock control but also for cash management, customer accounts, VAT calculations and returns, sales figures and so on. So with some trepidation about what I might find I went briefly into the office where the main server is kept to find a Windows BSoD. That is, the Blue Screen of Death that denotes the fact that your machine, the one you rely on, has just crashed out of doing what it is supposed to do and now needs major surgery and attention. Deep joy.

By this time I had a stream of customers also needing my attention so switching over to the trusty sheet of A4 and a pencil I started to write down every item I was selling for later inputting to the system when it finally came back into the land of the living. A time consuming exercise but without this we would have no record of what had been sold when the system was down.

Over the next couple of hours staff arrived to help and in due course it was diagnosed by the supplier that the server's hard drive had failed in the night, it would not be possible simply to fit a new one as there would need to be data installed on it first such as the EPoS software and databases, etc etc. Therefore the only option was for a courier to collect the dead server, take it back to Nottingham where the offices are, for the work to be done and then deliver it back to CB.

By my reckoning it could easily be Thursday or Friday until we were trading properly again, during which time we would still need to either write everything down or possibly trade from a single, reserve till point. This was set up during the morning but is not really enough in a busy shop when there is added pressure from needing orders generated - things normally done in the back office.

So I decided to take the van up to Nottingham to the supplier's offices, have the work done, and possibly be back that night or certainly the following morning. Shaving a lot of time off the problem and getting me out the shop for a few hours as an added bonus. What could possibly go wrong???

The journey up onto the M40 went well. A nice clear day, dry roads, relaxing driving conditions, light traffic. I was in the middle lane at around 70mph as was moving past slower lorries in the inside lane. I think there was a truck ahead of me, also overtaking, but a little way off. I tend to look quite a long way ahead when on the motorway - keeping an eye out for what traffic is doing around me. Therefore I didn't notice a red object, just on the left hand side of the middle lane, quite small, until I was nearly on top of it.

It is not uncommon to see litter on a motorway and as I was far too close to take avoiding action anyway I ran it over. What harm can a bag do, I thought...

There was an almighty thump from the nearside wheels, two in fact as they both ran over the "bag". The steering jumped, but didn't drop to one side luckily. The brakes still worked, I tried them tentatively and all seemed to be fine. I guessed I must have a puncture in the front tyre so eased myself over to the left hand lane slowing all the time and then braking harder as I came on to the hard shoulder and then onto the verge, so as to get as far away from the inside lane traffic when I came to get out.

After stopping, and turning on the hazard lights, I went to have a look. Oh dear, or words to that effect, 2 virtually brand new tyres and two steel wheels completely wrecked.

That was some piece of litter.

There was another car around 50m ahead of me and I assumed they were in the same boat as me and so it turned out - the object, which turned out to be a trolley jack that had fallen from a vehicle now long gone, had smashed one of the alloy wheels on their Audi and scraped along the bottom of their car. Later another car hit it and lost the sump pan, causing their engine to sieze shortly afterwards. Luckily all this is only bent metal, not bent humans.

After phoning the Police and the AA a patrol car and a road traffic car both arrived and cleared the jack from the road by doing a rolling block to slow everything down while it was retrieved. Eventually a truck arrived to take me and the van off the motorway to a nearby service station. The recovery garage was all for sending me straight back to Salisbury with a dud van which really didn't sound very helpful, given that I still needed to get the dud server to Nottingham to be sorted out.

As it happened there was a large Ford dealership in Coventry, about 20 miles away, so in the end I went with the van to them, stayed the night in Coventry where I enjoyed one of the best currys that I have had for a very long time, then booked the van in to the service centre for attention early the next morning. I was then able to hire a car to get me from Coventry to Nottingham and back:

A Hyundai Santa Fe automatic apparently, which after driving a manual and lets face it agricultural Land Rover Defender for any length of time came as quite shock to the system. I think I will stick to my Defender thanks, but at very short notice and for only £30 for a few hours it did the job it needed to do!

So after collecting the repaired van, luckily with no other underlying damage to the suspension or brakes, I was able to scoot back to Salisbury to prepare the repaired server for trading the following day. This wasn't without its hitches but I don't regret taking the decision to go up to Nottingham, even though I will be more careful about driving over "litter" in the future!

Thanks must go to the AA who recovered me promptly from the side of the road, Allen Ford in Coventry who sorted the van despite one of their mechanics being taken to hospital and them being short staffed but still doing a good job for me at very short notice, Enterprise Car Hire Coventry who collected me from the dealership, found me a hire car at short notice and then only charged £30 for the hire, my staff at both shops who just cope when it all goes wrong around them and don't complain (at least not to me) and most of all to Penny my mother.

She swung into action as soon as she knew of the crisis, offering first staff to help at CB then coming over herself to hold the place together, organise butcher's orders for the upcoming harvest supper dinner, looking after customers, doing our main weekly Londis order without the benefit of a sales history for the last week, and helping out where necessary while I was away for an extra, unplanned, 24 hours. And for not panicking when I phoned from the side of the M40 to say that I had crashed but was OK. Thank you, Penny.

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