Driving home for Christmas was a special Christmas tradition when I was growing up. We’d drive, each Christmas to Plymouth, to the homes of my grandparents and the journey used to be magical.
When you’re young, the heady feeling of festive anticipation is so potent that it seems to colour ever activity, no matter how mundane, with glitter and sparkle.
The journey was made, through the years (in the late 60’s through to the 80’s) in a Mini Cooper, a Renault 4, a Renault 5 and a Ford Fiesta. None of these had much boot space and my sister and I would be surrounded by blankets, presents and rationed toys desperately fighting off deep vein thrombosis and cramp in our nether regions. If we were especially lucky, my sister would avoid car sickness.
To keep us quiet, dad would stock up on Wrigley’s chewing gum (usually Double Mint – I’m not sure about Juicy Fruit to this day) and the discarded silver foil wrapped blobs would eventually seize the door panel ashtrays. Yes, in those days, some family cars also doubled as mobile ashtrays.
My mother had little room for her feet because she had a large bag full of foil-wrapped sandwiches and thermoses of water and milk. Not for us the mad excesses of service station food. No, staring out a steam and rain covered windscreen trying not to get ready salted crisps on the seat was more our family’s style.
My sister and I loved spotting the fairy lights festooning houses, pubs and lorry cabs as we drove. Each junction had a significance and the highlight was descending the sloping dual carriageway on to the very scary Marsh Mills roundabout in Plymouth and from there across to Cattedown and my grandfather, Harry’s house.
Widowed very early on, Grandad nevertheless always made sure that there was a Christmas tree lit up in the always cold ‘front room’ reserved for visitors and special occasions. He’d buy in a jumbo tin of Quality Street, enough peanuts to pebble-dash a small semi, a Christmas cake and a Christmas Log covered in thick chocolate.
My father would pull up, decant us all and then spend a good ten minutes driving back and forth to get the car properly lined up against the kerb. I think it’s a Virgo thing. Or a dad thing.
|My Lovely Dad|
In those days, of course, even joining the M4 from Cardiff was a novelty and there was a fraction of the traffic that there is today. If you were unfortunate enough to break down though, you were in for a long wait.
Before we set off, my father would go through the ritual of checking the tyres and their pressure, topping up the oil and water and wiping over the lights – something he taught both my sister and me to do so that our cars were as safe as possible to drive. I often wonder how many of us take sensible precautions with our cars before we set off.
Driving home for Christmas – car safety tips
Do you do any or all of the following?
Make sure your lights are working
Get someone to stand behind the car and check the break and backlights for you.
Check your oil, water and screenwash
Don’t just rely on the top-ups you get when you have the car serviced!
Check your tyres
Are your tyres roadworthy and inflated to the correct pressure?
If you’re not sure which ones you need, specialist tyre supplier Point-S have a handy online guide which tells you the tyres you need when you input the registration number of your vehicle.
You also might want to consider purchasing a set of winter tyres if the weather is particularly treacherous.
Check your wipers
Replace blades that aren’t working. Having good visibility on the motorway is crucial, especially in the torrential rain.
Check your fuel levels
Don’t forget the not all garages will be open for Christmas and the last thing you want to do is run out of petrol miles from the nearest station.
Be ready for ice
Make sure you have enough de-icer and an ice scraper. It’s a good idea to carry water, blankets, torches and warm clothes too. You might also want to have some snacks to hand – although we have never managed to make a packet of ‘travel sweets’ last much further than the Severn Bridge.
I hope that if you are driving home for Christmas that you’ll make sure your journey is safe and enjoyable by taking the important precautions listed.
I’d also make sure your breakdown cover is renewed and you have the breakdown telephone number in your mobile.
Then, all you’ll need is a suitable Christmas soundtrack to sing along to while you drive.
Something about driving home for Christmas possibly …….
You can find more tips for getting your car ready for the winter weather here.