Trapped on the road to nowhere

“DAD,” says Emma, tumbling out of the car and stretching her legs, “should water be pouring from under that car?” Being just 15 and non-technically minded, she doesn’t realise the people-carrier parked two bays along from us has got radiator problems.

Me having more experience of perils automotive, I exchange a sympathetic glance with the owner, now busy ringing the RAC. Besides, we’ve had a lucky escape of our own, having endured a frustrating, stop-start, seven-mile approach to the Dartford crossing while watching the engine temperature gauge nudging the red zone.

Fortunately, we just moved often enough to force a bit of coolish air through our radiator and see the needle drop slightly; but it was touch and go.

I kept expecting some kind of fan to fire up like a hovercraft under the bonnet and make a big difference. Perhaps it would have done if the stationary spells had been longer. Or perhaps not . . .

As we nip off to the Dartford services for a wee (and pass on the extortionately-priced lollies, despite gasping for one) it becomes clear we limped into the car park just in time. For in the space of a few minutes the place has become gridlocked.

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Over 20 minutes we watch a Nissan Micra move forward just four car lengths. “We’ll boil over if we sit in this queue,” says Jane, and we adjourn to the play area. Holiday travel . . . who needs it?

This is par for the course. Our journeys to and from Dorset have averaged 40mph – which, considering they’ve been mostly on motorways, is pretty poor.

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It’s felt like the Dr Who episode featuring Father Ted actor Ardal O’Hanlon as a talking cat. Set in the year five billion and fifty-three, vehicles on the planet New Earth go round slowly in circles for aeons, never getting off the motorway.

Jane and I do a mental check. Good things about the hols: waterpark flumes, Bournemouth’s free firework display, sliding down a ski-slope on rubber rings, zooming along zip-wires in the forest. Bad: the M25, M3 and M27.

Mostly, this purgatory has been caused by sheer volume of traffic. It’s a pointless way to waste our lives. Fortunately, this jam – probably down to volume, Lakeside shoppers and a long-term road closure by a roundabout – is clearing. Next year we travel early, late, or go by public transport. Grrh!

We saunter back to our bay. “Dad,” says Emma, “should water be pouring from under our car?”

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