It had been a long day. I had stayed up packing till 2am and got up at 5.45am to catch a 9 o' clock flight. I reached London Heathrow an hour later where I met my family and we drove off to Oxford.
My dad had bought a GPS to save him from all the trouble of scrambling through maps and directions in fine print, especially when the sun had fallen and we were all but left canned up in the car. The square glow led us nicely to Oxford -and surprise, surprise, it could even speak!- where I had a scrumptious coffee and walnut cake, and my family had baguettes for lunch. We wandered about the town for a bit in its 'university stone-carved glory' then decided to look for Hogwarts' Great Hall -okay, for the place where it was filmed.
So when we left Oxford, it was already getting dark. I don't remember much of the journey in between -I think I'd fallen asleep, and when I got up, Mr Sun had already left; and he leaves early these days in winter. The most significant light source was that coming from the GPS; but it didn't seem to be helping much.
There are bits and pieces in my memory which I cannot recall right now. I remember dark long roads, and driving through decorated towns, with only me noticing how pretty those coloured lights which were put up for christmas were, when my parents were weary and frustrated and drove straight through. The shiny new guide seemed to bring us everywhere, except where we wanted to go, and it seemed a little terrifying. The radiator hummed and I could only imagine how cold it was outside.
Then we were rushing through dark highways surrounded by the countryside, with the only indication being the two beams that shone from the front of the car. We drove and turned and drove and turned again when we were told to; crossed a bridge with a sign telling us that it was a 'limited bridge' and could not possibly bear too heavy a weight, hit a dustier lane and ended up at a pub-cafe called 'Dun Cow'. Our car scrambled across pebbles and came to a halt.
In the dark, I squinted at the blue screen of my mobile phone, trying to read the words for the directions the owner of the accommodation had sent my mum. The words were tinier than ants -they could not be zoomed into- and seemed to hardly make any sense.
My mum sat there in the car, refusing to move. She was angry, and she got angry when she was frustrated. That probably makes some sort of sense, as I believe that we all get angry when we do not understand, but anger also does not help nor solve anything for it is a by-product of fear which is itself caused by ignorance (non-understanding). Most of the time, I just ignore it, choosing understanding; but there are times when I slip and get a little annoyed by it (and I don't like myself that much when I do that, but that will probably another post for another time if there will be one at all). That time, I said that I could probably go down to the pub-cafe and ask if they knew the directions.
I got to the entrance of the pub-cafe, but then I wasn't too sure whether it was the main entrance for although I could see into it through the glass panes, I could not find a handle or open the door. Just then, a lady came. She gestured to me that the place was close, and I tried in my best sign language to explain that I only wanted to ask for some directions. I guess she understood, for she came to the door and opened it. In the half-light between the darkness outside and the glow that came from indoors, my dad had also come down the car and stood behind my shoulder. I remember that my jacket was unzipped then, but I didn't feel the cold. The girl -she was much younger than I'd thought- bent her blond head over the piece of paper and the phone I held in my hand as I tried to tell her the place we were trying to find. She listened patiently, then said in her oh, so wonderful British accent (I don't think I could ever stop loving that) that she didn't know where that accommodation was. I told her the name of the road, and for that, she said that she could probably help, and asked us to go the way back where we came from -out to the lane and over the bridge before turning into the direction where we'd come from.
I remember reading something like that too from the listed directions in the email, so I clarified stuff, thanked her and got back up the car. When I reached there, my mum had moved to the back seat. Surprised though, I just took the front seat.
I recall taking the seat, and my dad, the driver's one, and the car driving off into the darkness again. And what's more, I remember looking out into that black nothingness, and knowing that things could not be as hopeless as they perhaps seemed. We are so much more connected to the universe and all in it than we usually know, with an immeasurable number of threads holding us together, and if we could not find the place we were looking for, we had not hooked ourselves up to that which would lead us there. I knew this, but it had slipped my mind to ask earlier. Peering at the only things visible, which even more obvious in the dark, was light, I remembered the lyrics to a song. And so I asked for lights; the lights that would guide us 'home' (then, where we wanted to go to).
We took the directions the girl told us and found ourselves back on the same dark highway. Lights will guide you home, I repeated in my head. We drove on. We were told to look for a white garage, and the cottage would be by that. I had imagined a huge white car-repair centre-like garage, and although not as far-fetched, my dad had also pictured a much larger one... than the actual one. It was really no wonder we'd missed that. It was tiny, and our car could just barely fit in -and even so, we were not able to slide the garage door close. Anyway, we had not noticed it then, especially travelling down that road in the dark.
However, after a while, we noticed some structures. About two or three houses. Our car slowed down, but continued moving for a few seconds. Then we saw a light ahead. It came from the front door of a house on the left just in front of us, and illuminated by that light, was a lady and her her huge trash bin. It was our only hope, for even the owner was not picking up her phone when she'd told us to call if we had any trouble looking for the place.
I hopped down the car and approached the lady. She was almost done, when I asked her; and I was hoping that I wouldn't seem bad guy-ish (what with the approaching car on a winter's night in the seemingly middle-of-nowhere, coming down the car when she was out just to get rid of her rubbish). To both my relieves (she didn't seem too startled), she knew exactly where it was. 'There, it's just next door!' she pointed. I thanked her and hurriedly got up the car, half-excited to share that bit of news.
So we'd finally found the place and thus unloaded the car and tried to get ourselves settled. I set my phone to charge, then went about to see what else I could do -ended up washing the dishes. My sister went to shower, and my mum tried to boil water, once I had the pots cleaned. We had wondered whether it was because of this, turning the stove on, that caused the lights (and heaters) to ...pop! go off after two minutes. Everything lay in black.
I fumbled about, and god knows how my mum did it, but she walked back to the hall where my dad was and they got out the emergency torch lights and proceeded to light some candles. With the slight orange glow the candles gave out, I went and got my phone, where I had downloaded a 'flashlight' app (that app saved my life. Well, not quite literally, but it was really really useful). My sister was stuck in the shower, and as the lights going out also meant the heaters as well, she had to cut her shower short. I brought a light and extra towels to her.
I called the lady who was renting us the place while my dad examined the fuse box (there was nothing he could do). There wasn't much which she could help over the phone, and she promised to be there as soon as possible -which was about half-an-hour.
It was the longest and coldest hour we've probably ever been through. My parents and my two siblings sat squeezed on a couch, while I sat on a stool and tried to warm myself with a candle I had placed just by me. We waited for there was nothing we could do. And we didn't even talk; we were shivery and worn out and this was the last thing we would've wanted to happen. So in the dark silence, we sat, giving out a shiver every once in a while.
To cut a long story short, the lady arrived later, along with her son (I'd assumed, not that I do that often) and husband. They checked the fuse box again, then made some phone calls. It turned out that the whole area was affected by some electricity problem. To compensate, as they weren't sure how long it would take for the electricity to be restored (coupled with the fact that we were literally freezing there), they moved us to another (larger and much warmer) house of theirs.
My parents later said that that second house was perfect, and I guess that I would agree too. But most of all, I remember all those glows of lights which guided us to where we eventually ended up, and nothing could help more to re-enforce my belief that everything happens for a reason.
Have a little faith, you know. You don't have to be religious to do that.