Thursday, February 26, 2009

Need for Speed

Quite some moons ago I passed my driving test and was let loose upon the roads of Londinium.
Although it had taken me more attempts than I'd have liked to pass, I was a fairly confident driver and it didn't take me long to suss out the difference between driving the 1.0l Nissan Cherry that had belonged to my driving instructor, and the 1978 Ford Escort, 1.6l, mk2 that was held together with rust, gaffer tape and a prayer, but went from 0-60mph in about 5.4 seconds thanks to the previous owner having fiddled about with the engine a little bit*
After about six months, 'Turpin'** and I felt as though we'd been driving together for years. I'd learnt all his little quirks such as his refusal to start on occasion unless walloped 'just there' on the starter motor, and how he liked to break into a full pelt gallop whenever anyone dared to challenge him at traffic lights by revving their engines at him.
That was also great fun. Especially when some twat wearing a baseball cap would pull up next to us in a shiny new Beemer or 'Over and think that just because a 'girly blonde' driving an old car that looked as if it had just done a season's banger racing wouldn't be able to even start the engine would be easy to over take or cut up, they'd suddenly find themselves right next to a car that seriously looked as if it wanted a scrap and would not mind getting a couple of scrapes on it in exchange for ripping off the other car's paintwork if it edged just a fraction too close to it.
Yep, Turpin and I were a great team and only the threat of prison and the breaker's yard stopped us from having as much fun as we'd have liked. We knew our stomping ground and we like it.
Now during those years I had a boyfriend who lived about five miles away from my home, and on occasion I would drive over to stay the night. Most times I would set off around early evening, just after or before the rush hour so that Turpin and I could have a good canter along the A4020 without too many people getting in our way.
Our usual route was to head along the A4020 from Ealing, then turn off towards a road that would cross over a point known as the Three Bridges, because that is one of the very few places in the UK where a road goes over an aqueduct, which in turn runs over a railway line.
It's a historic monument, and also, because it is a weak bridge that carries the road, there are width restrictions in place in the approach, and a roundabout directly after you reach the brow of the bridge.
I know many people who hate the site, simply because the first width restriction on the approach is about twenty yards long, but the roundabout and speed bumps are all on adverse cambers.
I've never had a problem there (except when I hit black ice and went sideways for a little bit) but many other drivers do, and you can see testament to this by looking at the numerous paint scrapes that adorn the just over 6 foot wide width restriction posts there.
In brief, that bit of the road is an bit of an bugger if you misjudge your speed or car width.

So anyway, now I've set the scene, back to the story.

One night I was on my way over to the boyfriend's far later than I normally would have gone as I'd been out to see some friends.
I got the the traffic lights on the A4020 at around 23:45 hours, and as I waited on the inside lane for the lights to change, a large dark car pulled up beside me.
The lights had only just changed to red so I had to wait a little while and for some reason I glanced over at the driver of the other car, only to discover he was staring right at me.
I quickly looked away so as to avoid eye contact but as I waited for the green light I could still feel his gaze on me, and I didn't like it one little bit.
As I waited for what seemed about an hour, I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I knew something wasn't right about the man in the car next to me.
I took the handbrake off and kept Turpin quietly at braking point until at last the lights changed and as fast as I could (remember I could do 0-60mph quite quickly in that car) I sped off along the inside lane.
Now, farther along the road the three lanes turned into two, with the inside lane that I was in turning traffic to the left to take it to the Three Bridges. I stuck to the (then) 60mph speed limit and thought I'd left the other car standing, but next I knew he was right beside me.
And he was literally trying to get as close as possible to my car!
At that point I knew the fucktard idiot was trying to play silly buggers and things got worse when he suddenly revved his engine up a notch and clipped the rear of poor Turpin, clipping his lovely chrome bumper as he did so!
All I could think of to do was to get away, and so I stomped on the accelerator and managed to pull ahead of him before he tried to hit me again.
By this time we were rapidly approaching the turn off, so I steadied myself, checked to ensure there were no other vehicles around, and managed to take the near 45 degree corner at about thirty miles per hour, with no skids or panic.
I checked my rear view mirror and for a second I thought I'd lost him, but then I heard a roar of an engine and there he was, heading straight for me as fast as he could.
The thought that went through my brain rhymed with 'clucking bell' and I prayed that a police car would suddenly turn up from nowhere, but as is the way of things, of course there were none to be seen.***
So there I was, on my own in my car, with a maniac behind me trying to ram me off the road for gods alone knew what reason and I was doing about 50mph and rapidly approaching a very narrow width restriction that takes you through to a roundabout on an adverse camber.


And indeed, hoo.

Stopping my car and asking him what the problem was, did not seem to be a good idea, and neither did slowing down so that I might possibly try to 'undertake' him before we got to the width restriction, so I did the only thing I could think of to do under the circumstances and put my foot down.

I went through the width restriction at just over 50 mph, bounced over the sleeping policeman, and easily managed to control Turpin as we leaped over the hump-backed bridge and hung a right at the roundabout...

But as I went through the width restriction, all I heard above the revving engines was a very satisfying sort of


I didn't stop to look, but I don't think he made it through the gap somehow...

I reported the incident to the police when I got to the boyfriend's place, but all they found was a black BMW that was well on its way to the Great Scrapyard in the Sky.
I still don't know what happened to the arsehole that was driving it, but I hope the experience put him off driving for a very, very long time!

*A lot.
** A cookie for the first person who knows why I called my car by that name.
*** Why is it that if you fail to indicate or miss a right hand turn only sign you can be hauled into court for driving without undue care and attention and charged with dangerous driving, even though it's only 06:30 am and there are no other drivers on the road, but when someone is trying to ram your car when you're in it, there are no coppers within a ten mile radius, eh?