The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - January 14, 2016

Steve Canavan ran out of fuel

Steve Canavan ran out of fuel

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If earlier in the week you were stuck in a lengthy queue of traffic on Queensway – a main road from South Shore towards St Annes – may I apologise on behalf of the complete plonker who ran out of petrol and came to a spluttering halt, blocking the road.

The plonker I’m referring to is myself and for those who haven’t before found themselves in the position of coming to a standstill on a busy road during rush-hour, let me tell you now that it is an interesting experience.

Not since I went the wrong way around a roundabout on holiday in France, running seven cars off the road, have I been the subject of such venom and hate from fellow drivers.

People stuck behind me honked their horns and shook fists in my direction, though, to be fair, not everyone was angry; some motorists gestured with their fingers that they’d be over to help in two minutes. Or at least I think that’s what they were suggesting.

But, you see, the whole episode was not my fault. When I was younger, I had a friend who worked as a mechanic. You could tell what he did for a living because he permanently had oil stains on his hands and dirt under his fingernails; my mother never accepted a biscuit on visits to his house.

After I passed my driving test, this chap told me that if ever the fuel gauge was showing empty, not to worry – it’s misleading, he said, there is actually loads of petrol left. I’ve never properly tested this theory – when my petrol is low, I fill the tank up – but his words have always stuck in my mind.

And so it was that shortly after leaving work in Manchester earlier in the week, I didn’t fret when the petrol light in the car lit up.

On the dashboard a snazzy little electronic display thing (the technical term) told me I had 35 miles worth of fuel remaining. It is about 50 miles from Manchester to St Annes but I was in a rush to get home (I had a badminton match to get to – a crunch top-of-the-table clash against Poulton B; my, I lead an exciting existence), so I figured I’d get as far as I could before filling up. I had options to come off the M61 and refuel at Horwich services and again on the M6 at the Tickled Trout but I thought back to my trustworthy old mechanic mate (Duncan, lovely lad, later lost the use of his left hand after a yachting accident off the coast of Torquay) and decided there was no need to panic.

A few miles before the Kirkham junction, the petrol indicator went to zero miles.

I could have played it safe, come off there, found a little garage and filled up. But imagine if Manchester United or Winston Churchill had possessed such a negative attitude? The Reds would never have won the 2004 Premier League title by the points margin they did and we’d all be eating bratwurst and Sauerkraut for tea.

So I ploughed on. It proved a mistake.

A mile or so from home, just as I was beginning to relax, I noticed the car slowing. It is quite an eerie feeling to press the accelerator and for absolutely nothing to happen.

Cursing Duncan profusely, I stuck on my hazards and stumbled to a halt.

Within seconds – for this was rush-hour – a huge queue of traffic had gathered behind me and I quickly discovered that when people have been at work all day and are eager to get home, they don’t take kindly to some imbecile blocking the road.

I didn’t know what to do, so I sort of sat there like a melon until two blokes in a white van jumped out to help.

“Broken down have you?” one said.

‘No, I just thought I’d stop in the middle of road to have a corned beef sandwich and make a phone-call to my mother,’ I almost replied, before deciding, probably wisely, it wasn’t the time for sarcasm.

The lads – God bless them – helped push my car on to the pavement. I began to thank them but they stopped me, saying they weren’t good citizens, they just wanted to get home in time for Pointless.

I started to walk to the nearest garage to get some petrol.

As I did so, I rang my mechanic friend. “Duncan,” I started, “you know how you told me there’s no need to worry when the petrol gauge shows empty...”

Fame, fame, Dane... What’s your name?

I was never a huge David Bowie fan – he was a little before my time and his music never connected with me in the same way Bob Dylan’s or The Beatles’ did – but the reaction to his death highlights what an icon he was.

What made his passing more shocking was that no one expected it, for no one knew he was ill.

For that alone, Bowie deserves respect.

This is an age where many celebrities conduct tear-jerking interviews with trashy magazines about their condition and earn a few quid.

Bowie kept a dignified silence.

The singer’s death dominated both the television and written media, but it seems not everyone knew who he was.

After hearing about it on Monday morning, a friend of mine told his 27-year-old wife the sad news.

“That’s unbelievable,” she said.

“I’m really sad about that, he was great.”

About an hour later she called from the lounge, “that person you told me about who’s died, it’s someone called David Bowie.”

‘I know,’ said her husband, ‘that’s what I said.’

“Oh,” she replied. “I thought you said Dane Bowers – I’ve never heard of David Bowie.”

Dane Bowers, for those not in the know – and well done if you aren’t – used to be in a moderately successfully boy band by the name of Another Level 
and has appeared on Celebrity Come Dine With Me.

Tssk, the younger generation.