IT’S A FUNNY OLD WORLD - AGAIN
Since I last had the good sense to put fingers to keyboard, I’ve limped and hobbled my way through what has truly been one of the oddest weeks of my entire life. I’ve been into the deepest, most hidden parts of the Peak District in search of a needlessly neglected Victorian hero; I’ve taken tea at one of our most important World Heritage Sites; I’ve gaped at the Heights of Abraham; I’ve immersed myself in the breathtaking creations of yet another neglected hero - this time, from the Edwardian era; I’ve heard the One O’Clock Gun and watched a new tramway being built in the Athens of the North; and I’ve almost been killed by a bouncing ice-cream refrigerator.
Yes, one of the oddest weeks of my life. So far.
The last time we spoke, I was about to set off for Chesterfield in Derbyshire to visit my old friend Kathy. Let me tell you a little about Kathy.
We met in - we think - 1976 or 1977 when we both worked in Hackney Employment Office (as they were rather archly called in those days). We got along really well and have remained good friends ever since. I went on my first narrowboat holiday with Kathy in 1979; it was on the Llangollen Canal and we both became addicted ‘canalcoholics’ instantly. We went on a couple of log-cabin holidays, too - courtesy of the Forestry Commission, who still operate these delightful and remote estates of holiday cabins deep in some of the UK’s most beautiful woodlands. You should try them.
Our lives drifted apart geographically for many years after that, but we kept in touch and see each other regularly, though infrequently. One of our last spells together was our wonderful week in Seville last autumn. The picture above was taken in the Alcazar, which she loved so much, she visited it twice.
Kathy, who’s a little younger than me, is a truly remarkable woman. She has overcome the kinds of trauma that would floor anyone with less clarity of vision, less grim determination and less life-affirming common sense than Kathy’s got. I take her shamelessly for granted.
At least, I did until Monday 30 March 2009. Because of Monday 30 March, I seriously believe that I will never take anyone for granted again. Ever.
I had driven down the M1 and was waiting at the exit roundabout at Junction 29 for a gap in the traffic when...a refrigerator was suddenly bouncing along the road towards me. It was one of those ice-cream chest-fridges with glass tops you find in shops and had fallen off the back of a passing truck - a small drop-side pick-up truck which had taken the roundabout curve a little too fast. The fridge bounced powerfully for its weight and it was all I could do to watch it coming at me very fast indeed.
I thank Providence that this was the only time in my life so far that I have genuinely thought I was going to die. And what many people have said in describing situations like this is absolutely true. The mind-numbing split seconds slow down dramatically, perhaps to give your mind time to say Goodbye to your body. I know perfectly well that this sounds manifestly foolish and utterly unlike the sensible and anchored person you know me to be (don't argue or smirk) but...at least a dozen thoughts had plenty of time to rush through my head as I sat there mesmerised by the most unlikely instrument of death I could possibly imagine.
Ex-BBC local radio presenter killed by bouncing ice-cream fridge.
But - as you can see - he wasn’t. The fridge hit my car head-on, as I had anticipated, but the bounce off the bonnet deflected its trajectory to my left, where it hit the roadway and came to rest almost under the wheels of a pantechnicon in the inside lane of the sliproad. What a lovely word: pantechnicon.
Because of my apparent state of shock - to be truthful, I can’t remember too much about the first 5 minutes or so - the cops called an ambulance. They calmed me down and talked to me and took my blood pressure and stuff, just like on Casualty. After about half an hour I was back to being the usual grumpy, miserable, self-centred old Ian Robinson - in a now bashed-up and barely drivable Kia Shuma.
Kathy, who lives only 5 or 6 miles from the M1, was priceless. When I finally arrived at her flat, I got hugs and kisses and lots of chat and talk and hot sweet tea.
When you first say Hello to someone, you really don’t know what’s going to happen 32 years or so down the line, do you?
I’m not saying that my near-miss accident was anywhere near as threatening or as dangerous as the scrapes many, many other people have found themselves in. In fact, it almost certainly counts only as a minor collision with no injuries. As far as I’m concerned, though, it pointed me toward The Light in a way I’d rather not experience again for some considerable time - unless Providence judges that I need to be taught yet another lesson the hard way.
I’d be very interested indeed to hear of any experiences of this kind you might wish to share with us....
Post comments on this blog or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Unless requested not to do so, I'll be telling you even more about how weird my week was next time...
AND DON'T FORGET...
...that as many truckshunters as possible should gather for the next AGM on Wednesday 22 April at 1100 onwards at Birkheads Nursery and Secret Garden, near Sunniside / Tanfield Railway / Beamish.