Friday, 13 January 2012

The Young Immortals

I often find myself driving down darkened rural roads, usually it is the crawl home after a day out working and more often than not it is a chore and not a delight. Earlier this week I left a clients office after sunset and began my homeward journey through the hills of the peak district. As I climbed one of the hills I looked over the dry stone wall to see the spectacular full moon flanked by the illuminated cloud. I have seen such a sight hundreds of times before but it never ceases to make me smile. Familiar miles began to roll by as I passed through the quieter lanes into the glaring lights of the towns marking the half way point of the journey and back onto the rural roads as I began the descent down towards the river valley.

For a while the traffic was light and I found myself chugging along with the tarmac and hedges lit up by both moonlight and headlights, for that short while driving was a pleasure and I could understand something of the obsession the modern person has for the motor car. Inevitably I was not alone for long, other headlights appeared in my rear mirror and soon I  had the familiar sight of a car tailgating me and weaving on the road as he looked for an opportunity to overtake. On a straight stretch he took his chance and in a rasping roar of an overworked and poorly maintained engine, a modified boy racer renault struggled by sporting the usual array of customised wheel arches, oversized bean tin exhaust, budget spoiler and blacked out rear windows. He was shortly followed by a motor cycle bearing the same traits as the car but with an even more impressive noise to poor power ratio!

I had to smile, I remember the freedom transport afforded me as a youth and the excitement. Even if it gave the impression of tastelessness and poor judgement. The vehicles headed off into the distance but it was not long before I had caught up with them behind a line of traffic. The young drivers were obviously toying with each other. They would overtake each other but not the traffic in front of them, repeatedly dropping into lower gears and over revving the engines, they used their vehicles to obstruct each other and their overtaking became more erratic. There was certainly a chance this was going to end badly. The motorcyclist finally threw caution to the wind and undertook the car. He squeezed through the narrow gap between the car and the kerb at nearly 60mph and appeared briefly in front of the car before slowing down too much and being overtaken again.

As we reached a roundabout I found myself in the left lane, clear of traffic I gently chugged past onto another road leaving the duelists to their journey. In my younger years I could remember the excitement of fooling around and the feeling that nothing bad would happen, or if it did someone would help. I have my own experiences of close calls together with moments of horror and realisation to draw on. I consider myself lucky to have survived them and learned from them.

I wonder if the young lads on that journey will have such a privilege or if they will have the life torn out of them on a darkened road by the forces of speed and the ferocity of the elements.

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