Tuesday, October 21, 2008


My first ever car was a 1978 Ford Escort, Mk 2, 1.6l which had had the engine 'looked after'*
It was midnight blue with a tan top and rust trim, and although it looked as though it was falling apart at the seems, it was a right little go-er. I decided to call it Turpin and together we spent many hours whizzing around the countryside whenever we got the chance, but mostly (as I live in London) we spent hours and hours trundling around the streets at about 15 miles per hour.
I loved that car; although as I said it wasn't much to look at and neither did it have anything super-whizzy like electric windows or power steering, it certainly got the job done, and as it looked rather blasé about life, we rarely got anybody trying to cut us up. Which was nice.
Anyhoo, one day dawned bitterly cold with the threat of sleet and ice later in the early evening. Poor Turpin (being a rather elderly car) took a long time to warm up, but once he got going, there was no stopping him. We whizzed about our business during the day and the weather stayed fine until it got dark.
At five in the afternoon I went to visit the then boyfriend. This trip took me along a main road before coming to a roundabout on a slope. This roundabout is on top of a couple of bridges which accounts for the slope, and other drivers dislike it more as it has a small collection of width restrictions to make things interesting.
As I set off I noticed what little warmth the day had brought disappear and the temperature dropped rather dramatically. It also began to sleet a little and all around car drivers were getting upset. But not me and Turpin, oh no. We were fine!.
Until we got to the roundabout.
At that time of the day being rush hour, the little roundabout causes a lot of build up of traffic as cars try to push their way in in an attempt to get home just that 30 seconds earlier, and tempers can get frayed on occasion.
But luckily for me, as I was approaching it from the 'in from town' lane rather than the 'going back out of town' lane, my way was just about clear, yay!
I waited a little while before I could get onto the roundabout and edge my way in to go down the slope and onto the lower road.
I was nearly there when I felt Turpin begin to go sideways.
Now, Turpin had never done this before so naturally I was concerned as to why he'd decided to try a new trick just then, and it was as we slowly and sideways crept closer to the lane of traffic trying to join the roundabout from the left hand lane that I realized we'd hit a patch of black ice.
I looked up at the driver whose car I was approaching and they looked back at me in astonishment as if to say 'Why are you going sideways?' I desperately tried to let them know that I didn't want to be going sideways, I couldn't help it, and fortunately they figured out what was happening and began to reverse their car.
Of course, they could only go back a couple of inches and the air rapidly filled with the beeping of horns as as many cars as possible began to reverse as I drew slowly nearer.
I managed to get off the black ice and regain full control about two inches from the front car and breathed a huge sigh if relief as I at last pulled away and made it into the road I wanted to be in.
But as I drove slowly away I saw the first car pull onto the patch of black ice, followed by the cars behind him as they forgot about the fact that I'd been going sideways for some strange reason.
I wish I'd stayed to watch them on the ice, but I didn't have a camera back then and anyway, it was very cold.
The moral of the tale is that not all blondes going sideways in old cars are doing so because they are stupid or cannot drive.
Sometimes it's because things are slippy.

*I was surprized to say the least when I discovered I could do 0 - 60 in about six seconds.