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03 December 2013

'Are We Nearly There Yet?' by Ben Hatch

I remembered trips I had forgotten, for very good reasons...

'Are We Nearly There Yet?' provides plenty of laughs.  It was also a surprise that it provides plenty of tears.  I do not know why I was surprised since in my vast experience as a passenger and driver in long, long (long) road trips (Dad is a big fan) I have laughed plenty and cried plenty.  And there you have it, Ben Hatch may have been talking about this particular journey in his own country, his own family, his own marriage and bless them, his own children but what he was in fact doing was talking about all the road trips all families have taken since the invention of the car.  I remembered trips I had forgotten, for very good reasons... Ben, we are going to talk about this some day.  You cannot just dig up people's traumas like this and not expect consequences or even revenge.

 I was in a spectacular car accident, because of the scenery, not the injuries.  We spun one and a half times when we were struck and stopped just by the edge of a cliff in the Andes.  I stepped out of the car as my mom kept repeating "nos chocaron, nos chocaron" which means "they hit us, they hit us".  I had to edge around the car like a crab, sideways because to step forward was suicide and that would have been a waste of the excellent brakes on that Land Cruiser.  By the time I was in safety my mom was out too.  My father was doing what all men do in these circumstances, he was inspecting under the car...can't imagine why.  Then, and here is the traumatic part, my mother told me to go ask the people in the other car if they were ok.  WHY?  I mean they hit us.  They were coming down hill at speed through the winding mountain road and decided to cut a curve, as one does, if one is all alone on a mountain road.  My father saw them and tried to avoid them.  Thanks to his maneuver they hit our back left wheel which means we spun.  I guess it is better than if that over filled Suzuki (OMG. I still remember the make of the other car) had hit a heavy Land Cruiser head on.  Injuries would have ensued, their injuries, not ours.  Ok, so no one was hurt but my mother's voice, the view down that mountain as I slowly got out of the car, and then the task I was set, have stuck.  Should have cured me of road trips but nothing deters my father...

But then Ben Hatch did something worse.  He reminded me of the heat only possible in a metal box attached to a hot engine.  When we were not in the high Andes we might be driving through quite a bit of Mexico.  This was long ago.  My memories include a burning neck as the sun struck us through the window from behind.  My sister and I would try to sit lower and lower, risking car sickness as we could not see out the windows (seat belts were not mandatory back then).  Our legs would stick to the fake leather seats and we would beg for some cool air.  This is standard in any Summer road trip from before "climate control".  Stops were heaven especially if there was air conditioning.  My father assured us that the next stop had great food.  We were in a desert somewhere or other.  On the side of the road was a large wooden structure with no windows downstairs.  There were tables inside with long backless benches.  We all ordered a Coca Cola, no glass or ice as my mother did not trust the water.  My memory is of these rapidly warming bottles, with pathetic, limp straws as my father enjoys the house specialty, goat head...including the eyes (the trick is not to eat the brown part).

As you can see, the damage here was done years ago but it was fun to compare road trip horrors with someone else.  The 'stepped on poo' story is not to be missed in this book or the marriage that seems to balance itself with humour and love.  I know I have not spoken much about Ben Hatch's excellent book but my joy came from the release of my own memories of which I only shared two.

Ben Hatch  
ISBN: 9781849531559