The Midnight Run.


A fortnight ago saw me burning up the UK’s motorway network in The Polite Hatchback. The mother of my son, The Boychild, chose to move to a convenient location at the other end of the country when he was about three years old, and the last ten years have seen me wear grooves in our overburdened motorway system in a bid to maintain contact and a relationship with the (once) little tacker ever since.

My normal approach to this has been honed to perfection over time in a plan I like to call The Midnight Run. Leave home late afternoon, cruise in the traffic for a couple of hours, dinner in a strategically placed nice little pub just off the motorway and then, with evening traffic easing, hit the road in true “Lets get on with it” Top Gear fashion. Unleashing the full might of a fast car and an unlimited company fuel allowance, motorways blazed by in a fury of concentrated high velocity passes whenever conditions and zero traffic allow. Stopping only for a couple of fill ups, speeds I dare not commit to print and some mighty impressive records have been set very late into the night and early hours of the morning for the 600 mile round trip.

Embarking on the oh so familiar route this time saw me chasing a brand new record as I headed off early in the morning with one goal firmly in mind and a speed set to suit. Maximum fuel efficiency.

I smiled to myself as, approaching a speed camera on a dual carriageway close to home, I instinctively knocked off the cruise control to allow the speed to bleed off, only to realise as I did so that at already 5mph under the limit I actually had nothing to worry about! I hit “resume” and drifted past, speed legal and unabated. Settled into the soft leather upholstery with my ipod tucked into the cars connecting dock and keeping me entertained I rather relished this new motoring challenge, keen to see how many miles I might eke from the tank. And as the rain fell and the heated seats gently warmed my nether regions I settled in for a long slow haul.

The journey took an hour or three longer than normal, and the traffic reminded me why I usually do the run at night, but whilst no less tiring it was a strangely relaxing and rather satisfying way to travel. The numbers on the trip computer said it all, for the first 200 miles before the traffic got bad I was nudging 60mpg! At about that point it occurred to me that this might actually be possible on one tank of fuel. A quick calculation using the estimated range to go and the miles elapsed confirmed my theory and I became determined to attempt my first ever one tank round trip.

“Got a job yet?” snapped his mother upon arrival at Boychild Towers for the pick up. Cheery woman, it was clearly not just me feeling my lack of income. A waft of stale cigarette smoke suggested she can still afford the fags though so I guess it can’t be that bad. The irony of her question not lost on me I reply “Not yet, have you?” She’s been on a combination of maintenance and benefits from the moment she realised that being a single mum with one kid was the passport to the life of ease she’d once hoped I might provide. As chief test pilot for Benson & Hedges she now seems to dedicate her life to her television. I shudder at a fleeting painful memory of the endless banality of Eastenders, Corrie, Brokside, Emmerdale, Casualty, and every other soap she seemed to want to vicariously live her life through and I’m keen to get away.

Boychild ensconced, we nosed out of town heading for home, fuel gauge still showing usefully over half a tank. If accurate we were well on target for the one tank run. As we swept back along the motorway system I noticed something rather unusual. We passed at least three fairly new Range Rovers in different locations cruising at about 60mph. Now Range Rover drivers normally never slow down for anyone or anything given their self styled king of the road status, no doubt compensating desperately for inadequacies elsewhere. So I couldn’t help wondering whether I wasn’t the only credit crunched motorist that day. Think about it, someone buys a Range Rover on finance in 2007 and then the economy implodes. They can’t afford to keep running it but they owe more than it’s worth so what can they do? Creep about in it as slowly as possible I guess, try and keep the bills down. If the recession squeezes a few people out of running pointless offroad farm machinery instead of proper cars it’ll almost have been worth those bank squandered billions.

We arrived home over 12 hours after I’d set off, but I’d done it on the one tank, and with nearly 100 miles range left! I’m well impressed, and with only a small nagging doubt that a pre middle aged Charlie C would be less approving of my new found motoring values.

A good week was had, despite the ever threatening weather of another lousy British summer. I coaxed The Boychild back into the scary outside world of walks, fresh air and exercise. He seems to struggle with the 3D version of the outdoors, preferring the virtual reality version to the real thing, you don’t get out of breath twiddling a Playstation control pad after all. He met The Blonde though, and I her boys. They’re good chaps, and clearly benefiting from a somewhat more active lifestyle than my poor lad, although he put up a good fight on the Nintendo Wii.

At the end of his stay The Blonde very kindly volunteered to join me on The Boychilds run home. We make it later in the day after my adventures with traffic snarl ups on the earlier trip, and leaving him to disappear back into his nicotine tinged little haven of computers, TV and video games we headed off to find some fish ‘n chips before tackling the long drive home.

The Blonde became the first person other than me to drive The Polite Hatchback and its subtle charms quickly won her over, much as my own did some six weeks earlier. The conversation turned eventually to my employment situation and with The Boychilds summer trip to Dads out of the way I’m well aware that it’s time to really knuckle down to finding some work.

Finally nosing onto the drive at two in the morning I shut down the engine and tried to ignore the extra 1,500 miles (10%!) added to the odometer in a week.

It was time for bed, tomorrow a brand new day.


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6 Responses to “The Midnight Run.”

  1. Phirefly Says:

    I enjoyed this so much. I love the “3-d version of the outdoors” observation. Being the other half of a car-obsessed individual and living hundreds of miles away from all our friends, everything in this strikes a chord with me, especially since Mr P opted out and suddely MPG became relevant for us too. Keep it up.

    • charliecroker Says:

      Thank you Phirefly. I spent a lot longer on this particular post than I normally do so I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

      The blog has been running precisely one month now, hard to believe isn’t it?

      Tempus Fugit.


  2. Phirefly Says:

    Yes, it shows, its very readable. Gosh a month…

  3. Pat (MSE) Says:

    Boychild’s mum might be in for a rude awakening soon, if my calculations are correct. i.e.. if you’ve been doing the run for 10 years since he was three, he must be at least 13 now, and single mum benefits per se stop at 12 nowadays I believe, soon to be brought down even lower.

    Good of The Blonde to offer to accompany you all that way. Things must be going well if you let her drive your car! Does she read this blog btw?

    • charliecroker Says:

      Gosh do they really? He is 13 so wonder she’s getting narky if she’s lost some of her benefits recently and now my previously fairly generous input. Almost makes it worth being out of work!

      Yes The Blonde reads the blog, I believe there may even have been the odd comment squirrelled away on here somewhere…


  4. Mr Bridgers Says:

    Strange how restricted finances make you focus on other goals isn’t it? And moreover find a satisfying warm sense of achievement when we attain them.

    With my forced 2 day a week income rapidly dwindling and faced with the possibility of redundancy at the end of September yesterday I found myself peering, dumfounded, at the arse end of a cooker. Reason? Well the grill element stopped working a few days back, so I thought I’d have a bash at replacing it. Having eeked out the best possible replacement price on ebay it duly arrived a few days back.

    I must admit (and my wife will certainly back this up) that I’m not the most practical of men, to say the least. However the thought of a call out charge and an hours labour from a local sparks prodded me into action. In the past I wouldn’t have hesitated at this expense but needs must.

    Turns out it was pretty easy (don’t tell this missus though, I’m her new hero), job was done in less than an hour and that included rescuing a legion of cat toys from under the cooker and cleaning the kitchen units. Result! And I’m still basking in that warm glow of achievement, daft really isn’t it. Plus I can now cook my bacon, now if only I could bring a bit more home.

    Excellent blog as alway my friend, keep your chin up and all the best.


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