Long Road to Ruin

Yesterday was the Exeter Novel Prize ceremony. We went last year as our unpublished novel, Bleeding Empire was longlisted. We had a great time and got to meet authors we’d been friends with on Facebook for a while. We were introduced to a literary agent, and then we got invited to read at the Salem literary festival after meeting author Rosemary Smith there. There was also our now famous attempt at small talk by regaling the breeding habits of our African Land Snails. You can read it here.

This year, another of our unpublished novels, Silent Dawn, was also longlisted. So we drove to Exeter to attend the prize giving. We were really looking forwards to seeing our author friends again and meeting new ones. Events like this don’t happen often and after we’ve been having yet another crisis of confidence in our writing and sales, we needed this.

Fate as usual, had other ideas. If you’re expecting our usual post about how we set off of an adventure, get lost, hilarity ensues and it all ends in a funny blogpost, you’re wrong. Very wrong. We can’t find anything even remotely amusing about this, so we’re not going to try. Feel free to try on our behalf.

We’d dyed our hair for the occasion, we dressed in our finery (well, we had to wear our old ripped hoodies because our decent ones got soaked walking Bandit), and we set off. It was all going so well. The prize giving started at 2:15. We left Cardiff at 11:30. There was no traffic, it finally stopped raining and then we hit J22 on the M5. We needed to get off at J29. From cruising along at 70 mph, we suddenly found ourselves crawling at 10 mph before coming to a standstill. All three lanes were gridlocked. Unfortunately, Pinky was a bit to wide to weave between the lanes like a motorcyclist was doing. There were no warning signs of anything. This is the first weekend of the Easter holidays, so we expected some traffic, but only a few of the cars were laden down with kids and luggage. The only acceptable things to cause this much traffic are a zombie apocalypse or a naked Johnny Depp. Disappointingly, neither were in attendance. By the time we got to J23, it was 1 p.m. We tweeted saying we were either going to be horribly late, or not make it. The prize giving only lasts a couple of hours, so we had a very short window to make it. Our mum told us to just come home, but that meant we definitely wouldn’t make it. We were determined to try. We had no Wi-Fi, no 3G and for the first time ever, we’d left our trusty paper map at home. So we had no way of finding an alternative route. And even if we did, we were in the outer lane and couldn’t have crossed the two other lanes to even take a junction off.

Turned out, at J24, there were roadworks set out. And they’d closed one lane. Our lane. They only put up signs about this 2 miles from the roadworks. Except there WERE NO roadworks. They’d set out all the cones and closed the lane but was there anyone ACTUALLY working? No. So they caused all this chaos for nothing. If they are not working then they have no need to create such a massive traffic jam on the first weekend of the Easter holidays. Their level of stupidity is prize-winning. 2 p.m came. And went. And we were still miles away from Exeter. According to Google, this stretch of the M5 should take 20 minutes without traffic and is 19.3 miles long. We were queuing for 19.3 miles and it took us a damn sight longer than 20 minutes.

When we saw the signs for our lane closing, we moved over. Also, the wanker blossom in the BMW in front of us had left so much space in front of him, at least two coaches and the Great Wall of China could have fitted. And left space for souvenirs. It’s jackasses like him that make traffic queues longer. And did he move over in advance? No. He did the usual wanker blossom behaviour of coasting down the now empty lane and forcing his way in at the last moment, therefore jumping ahead of everyone who had obeyed the signs. We hope he suffers with an incurable itch and endless mouth ulcers. But in our experience, Karma only ever rewards the wankensteins of this planet.

Once we were finally free of the roadworks, the traffic magically cleared. There were no services now so we passed our junction and stopped at J30 for the services. We were now 16 minutes away but it was nearing 3 p.m. Except getting back to our junction meant we were now on the wrong side of the road. And it took us the wrong way down the A30. We pulled into a truck stop in Honiton at a place called the Smiley cafe. No-one was friggin’ smiling. The place was closed and the toilets were horrible. We finally got 3G to see how to get back. We were about 25 minutes away. It was now about 3:10 p.m. So it would take us 25 minutes to actually get to Exeter, and we had to find a car park on a Saturday and get to St Stephen’s church. And the ceremony was most likely finishing at 4.

General Pinkinton at the Smiley Cafe

General Pinkinton at the Smiley Cafe

You’re probably expecting this tale of woe to finish with us miraculously getting there, meeting lots of brilliant authors and recanting the whole sorry saga in a funny way. But that would be the Hollywood ending and like us, Fate doesn’t believe in happy endings. We sat in the truck stop for 45 minutes in complete silence, broken only by the Silent Hill alarm as Tom texted to cheer us up. Unusually for us, we didn’t have a tantrum and start ranting. Going to the prize giving was really important to us. We’d by-passed rage and plunged straight into despondency. We tried finding somewhere to go so our trip to Devon wouldn’t be completely wasted. Trip Adviser suggested cool underground medieval passages which we were tempted by but they were a guided tour and when we feel crappy, being around the general public is a bad idea. We didn’t want to go home and every place that sounded interesting meant being around people. So we sat there and did nothing.

We eventually drove home. If it wasn’t for the fact that we had arranged to be at Tom’s for D&D night, we might still be sitting outside the Smiley Cafe. Google maps finally decided to work and took us through country lanes and small villages, which was a welcome break from the M5. And traffic was still gridlocked from J23-25 on the M5. If we find whoever put those cones out, we will peel all their skin off…no. Peeling their skin off is too kind. It will come off in big chunks, causing less pain. We will use a cheese grater to remove their skin then pour fire ants on all their exposed nerves. They ruined our weekend. We don’t get to go to author events and the one that we could go to, we completely missed because of the twat bandits who decided to fuck up the M5. And they cost us a day’s work. Had we not tried to go to the event, we would’ve spent the day working, catching up on the 5 days of nothing from when our laptop was broken. And we can’t even claim the petrol on expenses because technically, we didn’t actually go to a work-related event. We just drove to Devon and sat in a truck stop. Which was closed. So we’ve lost time, money and a fantastic opportunity.

We stopped at the chip shop on our way home. Only for a big campervan to drive into the back of us at the traffic lights. The thought that ran through our heads wasn’t ‘shit we’ve been hit’, it was ‘really?’We’ve owned General Pinkinton 8 years. No-one has ever driven into him. And yesterday, of all days, it happened. Luckily there was no damage to Pinky. The guy’s camper was a bit crumpled. Pinky 1 Campervan 0. He was very nice and kept apologising and asking if we were ok. Well, we hate the world today and wish to inflict unimaginable torture on those who gridlocked the M5, but physically we’re fine. When we got home, Cat noticed her back was hurting.  She doesn’t suffer from back pain but ended up having to stand up for most of the evening because sitting down hurt too much. It’s fine now. Doing Lynx’s back physio exercises helped. We spent the evening at Tom’s and although he always cheers us up, we weren’t great company.

So our weekend is summed up by missing a great event thanks to the M5, followed by a car accident. Screw you, Fate.  Go pick on someone else for a change. We’re done being your bitches.