ActorLaddie creeps the car down the side streets; I’m on navigation. The snow is a good six inches deep already and still falling. Not yet icy, though, thank goodness.
They’ll have gritted the main roads, we agree. And in the sidestreets, our only company are the foxes. Snow in the moonlight – exquisite.
Now, M25 or A406 North Circular? Either route could get us to Ebbsfleet International Station where the InfantPhenomenon is stranded sans trains, sans bus, sans Uber. But according to Google Maps, the M25 is a solid red line sprinkled with little crash icons – estimated journey one hour forty – whereas the North Circ. is a jauntier orange and currently running at one hour twenty. So, with a bit of luck, we could be at Ebbsfleet by midnight and back tucked up by two. And, in case there’s a bit of a hold up, I’ve packed a couple of flasks of coffee, some blankets and Emergency Chocolate.
The traffic as we get to the A10 is the clincher. A solid, stationary line of traffic to the left. Does it go right down to the M25? Google says yes. We turn right and join the line making steady progress towards the North Circ. I share our position with the InfantPhenomenon on WhatsApp and it’s reassuring to see that the timing is on track.
As we turn left onto the A406, there’s a bit of jostling to get in the appropriate lanes, not helped by snow covering the road markings which designate the lanes. But ActorLaddie knows the junction well and eventually we take our place among the wagons rolling slowly East, young man. It doesn’t matter that we’re travelling at a fraction of the normal speed – at least we’re moving.
And then we’re not.
We’ve reached the section of the A406 with the two-lane flyover – you know, the high, twisty bit above the Angel Edmonton Road? No? Well, think Disney’s “Indiana Jones et le Temple du Pèril” ride but with a much, much better view of the Edmonton Incinerator. And it turns out, that the road has not been gritted at all. So ahead of us, as the flyover becomes steeper, we can see that vehicles are starting to lose traction.
Before long, some of the cars in front are completely stranded, their wheels slipping on the snow to no effect. Some drivers have left their cars to help push others. But other vehicles – the van behind us, for example, are trying to weave around the rest, despite having their own random sideways lurches.
It’s situations like this that really show one’s mettle. Of the two people in our car, one starts moaning “we’re going to die” and closing their eyes. Luckily, it is not the person driving. He waits and creeps and inches forward and waits again until, after what seems like hours – because it is hours – we are able to pull off the North Circular and retreat in one piece.
The good news is that the InfantPhenomenon has banded together with some fellow stranded passengers and they’ve finally managed to ambush an Uber driver who has strayed from the pack and agreed to take them north of the river. By the time we’ve finally get back – sodding snow, bloody moonlight – she’s already safely at home.
If you need me before the snow melts, I’ll be snuggled in the corner looking after the Emergency Chocolate. Stay warm.