365 Happy Days – A smile a day – Part 33

I’ve written before about how those of us who’ve lost a child need to let our other children fly, let them be ‘normal’ if there is any such thing.  With Alexandra living in Paris to a very large degree I don’t have sight of what she gets up to on a daily basis, but I do know that I feel much happier now she’s living with her lovely fiancé Gautier.  She’s a bit of a live wire, but I have no doubt that he’s her match and will do all he can to make sure she’s safe.

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Jake of course lives with me, his job carries an element of risk, he works on the roads, and that of course involves cars rushing by; he also has to deal with trees on a regular basis – it wasn’t the best news to hear that a rather huge one nearly fell on him one day!  He also started driving in August – I confess I didn’t push him to rush into that, but I’m pleased to say he seems to be a sensible driver.

Jake calls me pretty much every day, maybe to pass on a snippet he’s read in the paper or to tell me something that’s happened during his day.  I was out at a rugby league game on Friday and not paying too much attention to my phone – a fairly unusual phenomenon for me!  When I looked at the end of the game I saw 4 missed called from Jake.

I guess a call from Jake should always mean that he’s OK, but the worry always goes through my mind that he might not be.  I called him back to hear – ‘Did you hear about the accident in Bicknacre this morning? It was Aaron’ – Aaron is one of Jake’s closest friends – he rides a motorbike, so those words weren’t the best to hear.  What Jake should have said was that he was ok first, but that came eventually.

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Having lost his brother through a scooter accident and 2 of his best friends on a motorbike such news must be horrible for him, I think he has everything crossed that Aaron will give up motorbikes now!

It all got me thinking about how random life can be, we all take risks especially when we’re young and most of us walk away unharmed and hopefully having learnt something.  A conversation with Wendy, my childhood friend last week got me thinking about some of the risks I’ve taken over the years and got away with.

I’ve known Wendy since we were 4 years old, we started school together.  Once we were old enough we were trusted to walk to school without our Mums, the school was maybe 1.5 miles away but pretty straightforward to get to.  Part of the deal was that we were crossed over what was a reasonably busy road with the plan that the main risk was removed.

We of course had other plans, we spent the rest of the walk running backwards and forwards across the road!  Well, that was until the day I ran out in front of a car!  The car stopped in the nick of time and I was unscathed, but that could have been a very different story.  It was the end of our being really stupid on the way to school days.

After Primary School a place at an all girls Grammar School was next for both Wendy and I – we were of course stupid on the way to and from school – we were teenagers!  But as far as I can recall not in a dangerous way – with of course one exception, there was going to be one!

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A group of us decided to see how red we could make our faces by holding our breath, poor old Wendy went so far she passed out and whacked her head as she fell!  I’m appalled to recount that I laughed my socks off as she leapt up saying – ‘what happened’ – such caring things teenagers!

There was one more incredibly fear making recollection when I was still at school – I had to attend a meeting at the boys school one evening, I missed meeting up with others going so it meant I had to walk there on my own.  The school was at the end of a dark road on the edge of Epping Forest – there’d been a rapist attacking women at the time so that was to say the least foolhardy!  I made that walk in extra quick time!

I have to say that experience didn’t mark itself on my mind never to be repeated; just before Christmas I went out for the evening and decided to leave my car at home.  Arriving back at Chelmsford station to find a long queue for taxis I stupidly decided to walk home, forgetting that all the street lights are turned off after midnight.  I have to say that was one of the quickest 5km I’ve ever walked!  I was pretty much petrified!  And all for 1 glass of alcohol!

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Back to idiotic, dangerous things I did as I was growing up – my 2nd car was a Fiesta with a bit if oomph.   I was maybe 20 – Driving home one evening I decided I wouldn’t sit behind a load of traffic so started to overtake on a stretch of road called the Straight Mile.  What I hadn’t accounted for was the fact that there’s a turning on the stretch of road and a car was stopping to take it!  I crashed into the back of that car at maybe 60mph.  And walked away with barely a scratch!

My next brush with a lot of damage certainly wrote off my Dad’s company car!  Again, driving too fast, I was driving at a speed I  couldn’t handle on the A40 – a 2 lane piece of road just outside Oxford.  I was 23 this time and again in too much of a hurry, as I overtook another car I believed it was coming into my lane, in my inexperience I slammed my breaks on and swerved.  Hitting grass and breaking at speed sent the car into the air.  It rolled in the air 3 times before it landed on a crash barrier with a 20 foot drop the other side.

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That was a Bank Holiday weekend and I think my accident caused one of the biggest tailbacks of the period.  I had to be cut out of the car, they had to cut the middle pillar and peel the doors back to get me out.  But, again the only real damage was a stiff back.  To say I was lucky in my earlier years would be a total understatement!

As a driver now I’d say I don’t take any chances, I pretty much stick to the speed limit, maybe creeping above it a bit on motorways only, certainly never in 30 and 40mph areas.  Most of the things I’ve recounted have been around cars, and of course Luke lost his life after being hit by a car.

So, 2 things really from my recollections here – the 1st being that there is a basic fact in life that accidents will always happen, but the 2nd is that we really must respect the power in our hands when we drive.  So much damage can be done by a car, I often see people with their attention on anything but their driving, it’s as if it’s fine to wander off attention wise.  Respect the fact of what you have in your hands.


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