Rodney the Heap

photo by Ed February

by Andy de Klerk

And so there we were. Again! Ed [February] and I in the middle of a minor epic without even realising it. The blizzard had finally become so bad that we couldn’t continue any further: snowdrifts piled high around us, and thick heavy snow braided everything together into a white crystal sheet. Night was fast approaching, and it looked like a bivvy was inevitable. Ed peered into the gloom as the last of the heat around us vanished and said: “Mmm, I feel a nip in the air. It reminds me of Pearl Harbour.”

We weren’t on Everest or the Alps, although some of that would come later, nor were we anywhere remotely close to the mountains. Instead, there we sat inside our car, half drifted over, in the middle of the M1 motorway somewhere in the flat farmlands of Sussex, 100 miles from London. Unbeknown to us, we had entered the UK in the middle of the worst winter storm to hit the island in half a century – 500-year-old oak trees had lain uprooted on the side of the highway, but how were we to know anything was amiss? This was our first visit to the British Isles and we spent that first night in an English jail.
Ed was curled up on the front seat in his sleeping bag with a cup of tea when a gloved hand wiped drifted snow from the window. “I’m sorry sirs, but you can’t stay here, you’ll have to come with me.” Ed offered the copper some tea, which he politely declined. We were then pulled out of the snowdrift sideways by an army Landrover and driven to the nearest village where we spent the night in the nick along with a salesman, a prostitute and a thief, none of whom were on their way to Llanberis Pass to climb Cenotaph Corner or Left Wall. The cell doors were left open that night, and all of us, I’m sure, were only too happy to leave the next morning.

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