Yesterday was, appropriately, much ado. We left Oxford in the morning and took three different trains to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown. At the Stratford train station we rented a car, which thankfully had automatic transmission. Most rentals are manual, so getting an automatic car was nothing short of miraculous, and I’ll be honest, is something I may or may not have prayed about specifically.
When we arrived at our little bed and breakfast in the countryside outskirts of town, I was beyond excited to have successfully driven a UK car on the other side of the road. However, when we set out again to drive to a local pub, disaster struck. The roads are extremely narrow and winding. These really shouldn’t be two-lane roads, but somehow they manage to race around blind curves and make way for each other with no problem. Unfortunately in one of these instances when I pulled over to make room, we hit a sharp rock that was in the road and the tire blew out. Rim completely to the ground.
We drove on it a few more feet, because there is nowhere to pull over and happened to come upon the driveway of a gated manor house/hotel, and there we saw the tire had been punctured completely. We managed to call the rental car company who had an emergency assistance line, but then once the call was made there was nothing to do but wait. For three hours. We had many reasons to be thankful: international cell coverage, an emergency number with the rental and a nice place to pull off to name a few. On top of that, the people at the hotel were lovely. We kept expecting someone to come out and yell at us for being lowlifes on their posh grounds, but instead every person that came out was only concerned for us, and even offered to bring us drinks. Chivalry is not dead in England and cheers to the multiple British men who came to our rescue! The weather was also perfect, and the view was lovely with a pasture full of sheep to keep us entertained.
When we got word that help was still another hour away, I remembered I had a miniature copy of Henry V with me that I had bought my last visit to Stratford two years ago and kept randomly in my purse. So we set about reading it, and passing the tiny book back and fourth. All things considered, passing the time with the Bard’s own words in his hometown is rather poetic.
At last help came; our knight in shining auto-repairman clothes. He replaced the tire very quickly, and as it was nearly 9:00 by this point one of the hotel workers told us on his way home to mention his name at the door and we could probably get dinner at the hotel without a reservation.
Throughout the whole ordeal I had been praying for strength, and trying to find ways to be thankful. It’s certainly scary to be stranded on the side of a road in another country with a dying cell phone battery. It would be easy to be stressed, anxious and despair, but when those emotions came I kept returning to the fact that God is still on his throne, and asked Him for grace. We certainly wouldn’t have wished to be stranded on the road for several hours, but at the end of it was a nicer meal than we ever could have imagined. The Manor house was picturesque like something out of Jeeves and Wooster or some turn of the century period movie: Mahogany panels, fireplaces, cathedral windows and gourmet food. The car gazing was good outside, even saw my favorite Aston Martin! People were so kind, and there were two details as well, that struck a particular note with us. First, we entered the reception area and they had a statue of a dog that looked just like Charlie, (much beloved poodle-doodle from back home), and second there was a unicorn tapestry hanging, which my mother has studied at length. These and many other things were reminders of the One who never leaves us nor forsakes us, who takes difficult situations and redeems, bringing beauty where there are setbacks and adventure to a change of plans.