The day job got unexpectedly cancelled today at short notice. Apparently they had too many people allotted for too few vehicles after the icy weather earlier this week managed to write off a vehicle and damage several others. I got caught up in all that, on the M6 between junction 44 and junction 45. However, I escaped without a scratch, thankfully. I was piloting my wacky 44 ton house of fun to Falkirk in frosty weather and it had been raining all the way through Cumbria, much to my surprise. Usually when conditions are freezing rain falls as snow, but on Monday it didn’t.
I knew something was up when the vehicles in front of me slowed unexpectedly and swerved. I too had to react quickly to miss the BMW that sat in lane one of the motorway facing sideways and surrounded by broken metal and glass. It had slid at speed along the barrier. In lane three a Nissan pick up came to grief as I watched, slewing sideways and disappearing in a haze of shattered glass and tyre smoke. There isn’t much you can do when you are travelling at over 50mph on what turned out to be black ice, and as the rig began to crab, I resisted the urge to apply the brakes – you can’t on ice, unless you want to get to the scene of your accident a whole lot quicker. Another couple of vehicles flashed by sideways having their own little accidents and I thought I was going to hit one, but didn’t. When I came to a stop I was at an angle across lane one and the hard shoulder with a wrecked car a few yards in front facing the wrong way with its hazard lights on. The driver of that came to see if I was okay, and I was. In the distance a hundred yards back down the motorway there were vehicles strewn everywhere, and nothing else was coming past.
It took him three attempts to light his cigarette as he was shaking so much. The tarmac was really slippery, but I carefully went around my rig with a torch checking for damage. Given the amount of broken car parts I had crunched over, I was amazed that none of the tyres (there were fourteen on my rig) had popped. Bidding the man with the cigarette the best of luck, I headed carefully on my way as flashing blue lights appeared in the distance. As I cleared junction 45 and headed on into Scotland on the M74 I was conscious that there were no vehicles following; I later learnt that the motorway had been shut and I was the last vehicle through. The lorry that had been following me from the same company about half a mile behind took two hours to get through, and met me at Falkirk as I was leaving for home.
Somewhere else in the country another company driver wasn’t so lucky and his rig was written off (he was okay) numerous other slippery accidents ensured that several other rigs were off the road for repairs. I was told afterwards that I should consider one of my nine lives to have been well and truly used up, as black ice at motorway speeds rarely leaves vehicles involved in a motorway pile up, especially a 44 ton truck, without even a scratch. I shall use my remaining eight wisely.
So instead of being at work, I’m here at the computer. We went Christmas food shopping at 4am, and I was surprised partly that there were quite a few other people making use of the supermarket not being too full of last minute grocery shoppers, and partly that there weren’t more people with such forethought, as it is only two shopping days to go to Christmas. Zoë went to bed when we got back, but I went to bed last night at 6pm ready for a day’s work that isn’t, so I’m up for the day. I haven’t had much chance to do any writing over the last couple of months between working 60-70 hour weeks and doing book signings, so I thought I would use the surprise time well. I’ve been meaning to take another look at ‘Long summer of war’ for a long time. I edited it a while ago – over a year as it turns out – and I wanted to come back to it with a fresh set of eyes detached from its creative writing process. The book was actually written between the first two of the stars trilogy, so is of a similar writing style. I’ve read to page 23 so far, and needed to make only a couple of small changes, so I’m really happy that it’s better than I remember. There’s still a long way to go to do a full read through and edit, but a part of me is wondering whether this would be a better book to release in 2012 rather than reissuing ‘Orb of Arawaan’. That would then give me a little extra time to reread Orb just to be sure it is polished. I’ll have a speak with the publisher later in the day and see what they say; I’ve emailed them a copy of the manuscript too. I have a suspicion that they will whinge “We do sci-fi and fantasy books, and this one isn’t”. Still, don’t ask – don’t get.