In 2009 my son and I went on a British Isles cruise departing from Southampton, England.  We spent some time in London and being the confident, adventurous woman that I am, I decided to rent a car and drive from London to Land’s End and then back to Southampton.  Land’s End was a bucket list destination for me and is the most westerly point of England.  How difficult can it be right?  I know how to drive.

Well now, that’s about 746 km (as the crow flies) of driving on the other side of the road.  I can’t remember the exact route I took, but I wasn’t deterred at all and this was my plan!  It is the only time I have ever gotten the extra insurance offered by a car rental agency – how’s that for foreshadowing?

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For supper the night before, we had fish & chips.  I asked for cod fish and Bryan stuck with the hake (which is a cod like fish).  Guess who was puking his guts out all night with food poisoning?  He survived and I managed to be a good Mommy and take care of him without contributing to the puke pile.  In the morning, he kept his breakfast down and took his insulin (my boy is a type 1 diabetic and insulin dependent).

The Drive

We picked up the car and we’re off to Land’s End!

BANG!  Out of the parking lot, I immediately hit the curb turning left.  I had zero judgement turning left and if I’m honest, for two days, I hit the curb every, single time I turned left.  Moving on …

We’re having a great time, driving along and taking funny pictures.  Once I got on the motorway (that’s a highway and look at me knowing the correct British word), it was fairly easy as I only had to keep the vehicle between the two lines.  Bryan enjoyed making fun of me, making funny faces and taking pictures.

PUKE!  What was that and what is that smell?  Bryan was sick again and the backseat was covered.

Now what do I do?  I was off the motorway at this point and going through one roundabout after another.  There are an awful lot of roundabouts (traffic circles) in England.  Up ahead, I see a Shell gas station.  Pull in, out we get, pop the trunk and open all four doors!  Grabbed clean clothes out of the suitcase and Bryan’s puke covered t-shirt and pants went directly into the garbage can outside.  I got a lot of paper towels and cleaning cloths from the gas station.  Gross.  Had to scoop up the puke as best I could and put it in the garbage can.  All the Moms in the other vehicles gave me pity looks, but nobody offered to help.  I suffered through it holding my nose and gagging.

My little man was miserable.  I’m in a hurry now to get to the hotel and look after my son.  There were a lot of little towns that I had to slow down and drive through.

I’d like to point out a few things.  One.  Every time I tried to look in my rear view mirror, I turned my head right and looked out the car window.  Two.  The smaller, country roads had no shoulder and no ditch!  Trees were right beside the road and the branches kept hitting the car.  Three.  The roads in the little towns were very narrow.  Four.  I had to pee.

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CRASH!  Now what?  I might have been slightly speeding, but there is no hard evidence of that to convict me and lock me away in Newgate Prison if it still existed.  The roads are very narrow and somebody had parked their minivan half on and half off the street.  My left side mirror had hit the right side mirror on the minivan knocking it off.  I want to cry.

Being the honest, upstanding citizen that I am, I stopped and went into the store down the street.  I called the car rental agency and got further instructions on what to do and then I inquired with the cashier if they knew who owned the minivan and explained what I did.  I was pointed to a house behind where the minivan was parked.  I knocked on the door and boy did I get an earful.  Mrs. Chambers was extremely upset with me for knocking off her mirror and indicated it was going to cost about 20 quid to fix.  She said that out loud, but I know she was thinking listen here you blonde lunatic from Canada you’re paying for this.  She settled down when I gave her the car rental contact information and the claim number to have her minivan fixed.  She then told me that I shouldn’t be driving in her country and slammed the door shut on me.  Well pardon me!

We continued on and arrived at the hotel and checked in.  We spent about 10 minutes outside, but Bryan was still miserable.  He went to bed for a little while, but that didn’t help and he couldn’t eat anything.  At this point, being a diabetic, I was taking him to the hospital.  I put our stuff back in the car and got directions to the hospital in Penzance!  I suddenly had images of the 1980’s Pirates of Penzance movie starring Rex Smith AND The Pirate Movie starring Kristy McNichol going through my head.  I watched way too much Super Channel when it first came out in the 80’s.  Off we went!  To Penzance!

West Cornwall Hospital, Penzance

It is a small hospital and when we arrived there was a man there with a fish hook in his finger.  Gagging time for me again – gross.  Hearing him scream a few minutes after they took him in did not help.

We didn’t wait long either and in we went.  Bryan was fussed over.  The lady doctor came in many times to check on him.  He was fed a real turkey sandwich.  I begged him for a bite and he let me have one – not my finest moment.  He had his blood sugar level checked multiple times, was given his insulin, a couple IV bags and anti-nausea stuff.

This is the best hospital ever – they took such great care of him.

I had no idea how much this visit was going to cost.  Since Canada is a member of the Commonwealth, there wasn’t a charge.  The Commonwealth nations have a reciprocal agreement in place for health care.

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Getting to Southampton

We left the hospital around midnight.  Instead of back tracking and returning to Land’s End, we continued on the road to Southampton.  After a few hours, I found a motel to stop at for the night.  We were exhausted!

Car Rental Return Summary

While returning the car in the morning, I finally walked around to the left side.  I’d been getting in and out on the right side and not paying any attention to the left side.  I had completely destroyed it.

  • Front left hubcap nothing but dents from hitting all the curbs
  • Left side of car scratched the entire length from all the tree branches
  • Left side mirror dented, scraped and hanging half off from hitting Mrs. Chambers’ minivan
  • Left passenger door had a big dent in it ~ I don’t know what happened and really didn’t care
  • The god-awful stench remained

The car rental assistant was extremely apologetic when he told me he couldn’t give me back my $250 deposit.  LOL that was it!  I grabbed Bryan and we hustled out of there as fast as we could in case they changed their mind.  The deposit was forfeited by someone who just didn’t care at that point!

The Cruise

We boarded our ship on time and I was Mom of the year and set a good example as I lied and told the check-in folks “No, we haven’t been sick at all recently”.  Bryan was feeling great at this point, we found our stateroom and I went looking for booze.

Lessons Learned

Eat the cod fish, take the train, a quid is slang for one pound.




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