Bank Holiday Monday – 30th May 2016 – and a simple trip to our local garden centre at Eggesford. We didn’t buy any plants but it is always a treat to just look around at all of the lovely things to buy. I did come away with something though – a pale green glass candle holder. The pattern in the glass reminded me of running water over stones – like the clear streams on Dartmoor.
Coming home along a narrow, single-lane back road – I suddenly had to stop dead in my tracks.
Because suddenly careering around a bend way too fast – came a large lorry that filled the road – with no where to go but straight in to the front of my car. As I sat there in my driving seat for about ten seconds – I willed the lorry to stop but it couldn’t because it had been going too fast and it was carrying too much weight behind it to stop. It hit my car – and as the cab tilted forwards with momentum over the bonnet of my car – I remember the reaction of the lorry driver’s mate. He was a young man in a red t-shirt – at the moment of impact he buried his face in his hands for fear of what might of happened. Tom was my front seat passenger – he was completely unhurt. I too was completely unhurt – as were the lorry driver and his young mate. We reversed away from each other to create a space – and I jumped out of my car enraged! The lorry driver had been driving too fast for the type of road – and my faithful old car was now catastrophically damaged – at least that was what we’d all expected to see. In hindsight, the lorry had actually sustained as much damage as my car! The driver’s excuse about just wanting to get home – and that he had too much weight behind him to stop – fell on deaf ears – my concern was that my car was now metaphorically crushed; with the force and weight behind the lorry my car should have been concertinaed. No matter that had we been just seconds nearer the bend we probably would have been killed. The lorry was returning from a job and was fully loaded with marquees. Amazingly my faithful old Skoda Felicia was still driver-able – so I followed the lorry to his depot which was just a couple hundred yards up the road – to exchange details. At the yard I was ‘greeted’ by his work mates – one of whom was rather mouthy! He kept repeating himself – “What was all the fuss about? Only your headlight is smashed!” In hindsight – I realise he was basically right on that observation alone.
Despite the force of the crash – it is amazing that my car looks like it has merely been bumped rather than having stopped a lorry in its tracks. Neither myself or the driver of the lorry had really taken in the extent of what ‘little’ damage had actually been realised. Myself and Tom – and the driver and his mate were probably all in shock – because it was a nasty collision – and had all the makings of a fatal one had we been just a couple seconds nearer the bend.I never really looked properly at my car – I just knew it was broken – and because of its age and worth – probably beyond repair. The boss of the yard – in the meantime had turned up – quietly she took down our details and handed her details to me on a piece of torn off paper. Everything was there except the driver’s name – so I asked her to write that down too. With everything done – I drove away from the yard in my broken car – with a mind to report the driver for dangerous driving to the police. All the way home – I used hand signals to indicate – not realising that the bulbs had miraculously survived the impact too. On the forecourt at home – we tested the lights – and even though they where smashed the lights came on! Walking back into the house – I glanced at the piece of paper the boss lady had given me – and I was struck by the improbability of the surnames of both of them. I ummed and ahhed whether to report the driver – but in light of both their surnames, I thought what good would it do anyway; there were no visible independent witnesses – and miraculously no-one was hurt in the collision. I also believe that the lorry driver knew he was going too fast; he even said he was in a hurry to get home at the scene – and he was clearly shaken-up. At the scene – he was only concerned that I – and Tom were not hurt – and without arguing he admitted liability. He has learned his lesson I’m sure. And I think that Tom and the young driver’s mate – will have learned that back roads need the greatest respect when they become drivers themselves. Lessons will have been learned all-round. Not surprisingly, Tom says he never wants to go along that road ever again. All involved in the collision know that we had the narrowest of escapes.
My car because of its monetary worth has been written-off by the insurance company – but I have been given the opportunity to buy it back – and that is what I’m going to do for its scrap value. On Monday – it will have repairs to the headlight damage and a new MOT – and hopefully it will be back on the road again – with a few cosmetic scars but still perfectly serviceable. I have had a number of cars – but never have I owned such an incredible runner as my faithful Skoda Felicia. It helped save our lives ‘today’ – so I now call it my ‘Little Blue Tank’! The bumper has a few rubs from the impact and the metal work is a little dented. It withstood the force of a fully loaded lorry – and even though the lorry was decelerating – it impacted my car with considerable energy and momentum.
Thinking about the moment of impact – I don’t know where all that energy went – it just dissipated into nothing – leaving my car relatively unscathed and us completely unhurt within. If my car had had crumple zones like modern cars do – I don’t think I’d be sitting here now writing this – it is a sobering thought.
I feel the same now as I did with the owl incident. I hit a tawny owl at high speed – I heard and felt my car hit it – and when I stopped and picked up the owl – the owl was a limp mangle of feathers and to all intense and purposes – it was dead. Yet somehow on the front seat of my Skoda – the owl returned to life and made a miraculous recovery – and I was able to return it to the wild later that evening – it flew off into the night completely unharmed. Strange things seem to happen in my car – and the incident with the lorry has that same, strange in-explainable ‘something’ about it; the physics of kinetic energy simply just don’t add up. When I realised the name of the driver on the piece of paper – I decided not to report the matter to the police – he will have learned his lesson. Like me – I know he will be deeply grateful to the greater forces that be – that something dissipated the energy of the impact sparing us all from our individual consequential fates – and I think the clue is in his boss’s name, ‘Gilchrist’ – and the driver’s own surname – ‘Angell’ – with two Ls! To someone who’s home is full of iconography and symbolism – their names were significant.
I’m attached to my car – not just because it is a cheap, wholly reliable runner – but because of the owl incident – and I have even had a Buddhist monk on-board who’d met the Dalai Lama – it’s a car with history and now it has helped protect us from injury perhaps even death – who knows? It is seemingly indestructible and on Monday – my faithful blue Skoda Felicia will deservedly get another lease of life and I’m looking forward to getting right back behind her wheel.