Brush with death

January 23, 2011

The lazy blogger resumes …

I was driving back from Cumbria the other week, when I lost my way, not in a dangerous fashion, and besides, the scenery was beautiful. I just added thirty minutes to the trip. I went through Sedbergh, and only with an extreme effort of will (because it’s advertised as a book-town) stopped myself from parking up and losing every last penny in my pockets on new purchases. My bedside is stacked up enough as it is. The road brings you back to the road to Brough, which in turn, when you turn right, ¬†connects you to the A66, and so to Darlington. Where the road from Sedbergh joins up with the Brough road, there is a steep incline as you come to a junction. The road on which you are about to turn is quite heavy, in both directions, with traffic.

In front of me on the road was a very long lorry, loaded with pale green girders. It was going to take some time for it to find a gap in the traffic. For a moment, unbidden, an image flashed into my head (I don’t know why) of a girder slipping off the back of the lorry, and passing through my windscreen and decapitating me. I don’t normally go in for these lurid daydreams. And anyway, a second thought erased the first. If I drew alongside the lorry (since there was space), I would not have to wait so long. When it made its lumbering break for the far side of the road, I would be able to sidle into its slipstream, rather than wait my turn at what would be by then the front of the queue. So I moved my hands on the wheel, and pulled over to its left.

After five minutes (it seemed), the traffic did one of those coincidental both-way breaks, and the lorry found its gap. I duly drew out to the left of it, and slowly drew in behind it as it started to grind slowly into the distance. I was about thirty feet behind it, about to start on the journey east. And at that point, a girder did unfix itself, and crashed through the air towards my car. It landed in front of my car with a thump. I hit the brakes, but since I was hardly moving, this was easy. The girder landed six to nine inches in front of my bumper with a clatter. I got out to look at the car. I hadn’t heard anything, but it seemed possible that it had hit the front of my car, hit a light, hit a bumper, hit a tyre. But it hadn’t. The car behind me had squealed to a stop. I had to reverse a little to pull back out and round the lorry. The lorry-driver was too focused on the girder to do much more than wave vaguely at me.

It wasn’t really till I was back on the road, maybe past Brough and on the A66, that I realised that, had I not pulled to the lorry’s side, I would probably have been driving right behind it when the girder detached itself (and its trajectory was the driver’s side of my car). I suppose there’s a bit too much in that ‘probably’. It was a strange evasion though: a moment of precognition. I saw what might happen, and it happened. Enough to make me wonder about how many different meanings there are to the word ‘luck’.