Helen Harper

The Kindness of Strangers and lessons learned!

Oh my goodness. I have to say I don’t normally write blog posts because usually my life doesn’t seem interesting enough to write anything. My days, while very pleasant, tend to involve lovely doggy walks, pounding my keyboard (whether in frustration or because the words are flowing) and too much time spent watching TV shows like Masterchef. I also think that I spend so much time writing about kickass heroines that sometimes I think I’m one of them when, frankly, the reverse is true. Today would be the perfect example of that.


Yesterday, on Facebook, I re-posted a joke about the storm sweeping the UK (The Beast from the East for those of you who are British based and know what I’m talking about). Never again shall I make light of the weather. In my now somewhat pathetic defence, I live in Torquay, where the climate is considerably milder than the rest of the country. It’s easy to enjoy news reports of blizzards when the worst you can usually expect is rain.


Anyway, a good friend of mine is on holiday this week so together we had made plans to visit part of Cornwall, with long dog walks sandwiched between coffee shops and sightseeing. We set off just before 10am, all wrapped up warm because, while it was dry, it was very cold.


Less than five miles out of Torquay, it began to snow. It was pretty flurries at first – which were initially exciting (bearing in mind I’ve not seen real snow in person for several years). It wasn’t long before the flurries got somewhat stronger so we decided that we couldn’t bank on the temperate weather we were used to and we should reluctantly adjust our plans to avoid getting stuck somewhere. A while back, a nearby reservoir walk had come onto our radar and, as it was close by, we made the (we thought) sensible decision to head there instead. We found it without any problems and had a relatively nice walk, considering that we gave up before we reached the end of the reservoir because the ground was not particularly easy to traverse and the dogs had to be on lead for a large part of it due to the sheep roaming around.


Not too long after midday, we returned grateful to the car and began to drive. I think the vague plan was to find somewhere nice for lunch. We didn’t get very far. Although there had to be less than inch of snow lying on the ground, a great deal of it compacted into ice and, with narrow steep Devon country roads, the car did nothing but skid. We were going nowhere. We tried and tried – and then, despite being seemingly in the middle of nowhere, a lovely gentleman came out of his country cottage and tried to help. He guided us back down the road to a safe stopping place and invited us in for tea while we tried to get roadside assistance to help us get up the icy hill.


It took a verrrrry long time to get hold of anyone – clearly because the weather was causing breakdowns and trouble for motorists all over the country. When we finally spoke to someone, it became clear it was going to take a long time for anyone to reach us. We had more tea. The lovely gentleman, who helped us for no reason other than the kindness of strangers, turned out to be Philip Kazan – author of wonderful looking historical fiction books. There’s nothing more fabulous than happening across a fellow author! If you enjoy that genre (and even if you don’t) then please do check him out! The very least I can do is give him a decent mention and maybe bring a few more readers his way. We had no mobile signal and had to wait for hours for assistance. Without his help (and later that of his wife also when she managed to return on icy roads from work), goodness knows what we would have done.


Anyway, after copious amounts of very good tea, the AA showed up. Unfortunately, the also lovely AA man was equally worried that he wouldn’t be able to get his van out because of the weather. He certainly didn’t have the traction to tow us. We tried to follow him but it was quickly clear the car wasn’t going to make it. It could barely manage to get up a tiny hill in the opposite direction. We abandoned the car where we could and will return for it when the roads thaw. Mr AA drove us to the nearest town where, with three tired dogs and two tired humans, we managed to find a wonderful taxi driver to bring us back to safety with the help of a wonderful barmaid who worked very hard to also help us. With chilled fingers and toes, we finally got home just after 6pm. It might not sound particularly dramatic in the telling but it was definitely dramatic in the experience and I am SO glad to be home and safe and dry. It could have been so very much worse. They say you learn from your mistakes and, believe me, I have learned a lot. My southwest complacency has vanished!


Click here to find out more about Philip’s books!

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