I understand that, when a driver turns seventy in this country, they get sent a form.
On this form, they are asked to tick boxes regarding their general health and implied ability to maintain control of a car.
I don’t think everyone who completes that form is, with the best of respect, telling the truth. I only know of one chap who did, and they took his license away. Rightly so.
Honest to a fault, he told them: his vision was failing, he suspected he might be suffering from narcolepsy, his memory was weak at best, he’d had a stroke or two and couldn’t recall if he had told them about it. Yoink, license revoked.
When he was driving, he had gone into town for a bit of shopping, and wound up reporting his car as stolen.
Shockingly, it did take the authorities some weeks to find it.
Strangely enough, his car was where he’d parked it.
It had been a busy day in town and, unable to get into his favoured car park, he had used an unfamiliar one, done his shopping, met with a friend for lunch, gone back to his usual parking lot and couldn’t find his car.
He was a lovely chap who used to travel in ladies’ underwear. By which I mean, he was a travelling salesman who specialised in lingerie. When I met him, he must have been retired for twenty-some years, but he would look wistfully through the blown double-glazing at the Club and recount blurry tales of the countless times he auditioned young women to be his models.
Every inch the ladies’ man, it seemed quite certain he had seen more women in underwear than out of it. No small boast. He had at least one euphemistically-named “lady friend” well into his nineties. We were all a little jealous.
When I was at school, the boys used to push back against their desks, and dawdle and hover on the back legs of their chairs. It’s that look of casual cool that warrants a cigarette. Until I arrived at the Legion, I didn’t know that bum-down, leg-a-dangle, chair-riding continued into later life. My man who travelled in ladies’ underwear did it every lunchtime.
Telling us all a story of a hotel room in Brighton, sometime in the late sixties, he got so caught up he leaned a degree too far, stayed stock still, and landed lightly in a puddle with his Merlot on the carpet. I’m sure he noticed that he had fallen. Certainly, we all did. There was quite a wave of panic in the air as golfers in their later middle-age dashed to his side to put him upright again. The reverie had taken him back to that hotel room. He hadn’t felt a thing.
I live on the corner of two roads. There was a lady who had intended to turn at my corner, missed it but carried on turning the steering wheel, and drove her car into my garden, leaving it with a decent covering of overgrown tree and one wheel dangling dangerously over the edge of the stream. I made a lot of sweet tea that afternoon.
We have gullies, deep dips at the edges of the roads, to allow excess water to run from the tarmac into the nearest waterways. Even with the gullies, when we have a monster storm, the roads run with rain. The house that backs onto my property was owned by an obsessively keen golfer. He had his lawn trimmed short enough for putting practise: it was like bright green paint, such was its shortness. When it rains, that beautifully shorn lawn turns into a river, running alongside the stream.
An astonishing number of cars have run aground in the gullies. It seems, the only answer when this happens, is to have a burly passenger stand on the back bumper, make them grip the roof rack for dear life, and bounce around a bit, more shimmy than twerking, while you slide into reverse and rev the hell out of the engine. To my shame, I’ve watched it happen more than once.
We had a heavy snow one year. I have since been told by friends in the north that what we actually had was a frost. Apparently, unless you could lose a Mini Cooper in it, it’s not snow. However, as the closest we got to it, I have no choice but to call it snow.
A friend of mine used to live up the road from me and, failing to steer with sufficient grip in the wintery conditions, turned his car and grounded it straight across the road, just shy of the top of the hill. Panic ensued. Any car coming up or down the hill would come bumper to car door before they could think to manoeuvre.
I was watching from the kitchen window, aware I should do something. His wife glanced down the hill. Distantly, eye to eye, choice became void and I went out of the front door straight into a blizzard.
My buddy stayed in the car, because someone had to steer. His spindly wife started digging with a shovel from the back seat, and handed me what I can only describe as a hand-trowel tied not especially tightly onto a bamboo stick. I was about as useful as a burp in the wind.
I made a lot of tea that day, too.