I’ve forgotten how to drive on ice.

I am not sure whether to put it down to global warming or post-recession efficiency with the gritting, but I am struggling to remember the last time I had to drive on ice. I really think it must have been the mid-90s.

So there I was, descending gratefully out of fog and blethering away with the phone on hands-free, when I lost traction on the front wheels. Not for long. In fact, by the time I’d squeaked “fuck!” into the phone I’d regained the steering and thought “Blow-out? No. Ice”. I then said “I’m ok but I’ll call you back” and started concentrating on the infuriating mixture of water and rime that I was driving over.

I am an irritatingly safe driver; the sort that always obeys urban speed limits and that will sit for as long as it takes – for three minutes, five minutes, seven minutes – waiting for a safe gap in traffic. The sort that will go round a roundabout twice rather than cut across two lanes and who will plan a route to avoid a bad junction.

I do however swear like a Big Brother contestant at anyone I think is endangering me and I run red lights on the basis that – where I live at least – every other bugger out there is running the reds which makes it more dangerous to go through on green. Actually, I prefer to run red lights than get rear-ended by the two vehicles behind me who follow me through. (Have I mentioned how much I hate tailgaters?)

It was dark as well as icy this evening, so I drove at 20 miles or so per hour in the middle of the empty country lane in case I found some black ice, skidded off to one side, ran out of tarmac and landed in a ditch, when I saw the rise and dip of another set of headlights a third of a mile or so away. So I pulled over by a farm and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then a vehicle arrived behind me and also waited.

The headlights weren’t coming any closer and I’d got my new best friend behind me so I decided to set off again but this time with a nice friendly tailgater cosying up behind me. In fairness, he wasn’t outrageously close, but I still have no idea why he hadn’t gone past me when he reached me in the first place.

We went over the brow of the hill and saw a car facing us with one wheel on the road, two wheels on the verge and the fourth in the ditch and another car behind it also facing us but more or less in the right part of the road. Since I was not following anyone, they must have both been coming towards me when one lost it and tipped off the road.

Normally I’d stop and offer to phone the police or the AA or whoever, but my tolerance for people who drive aggressively on rural back-roads is fairly low at the best of times, and my sympathy for people who try to overtake on rural back roads at night when the temperature is hovering either side of freezing dips well below freezing itself.

So I didn’t stop; I didn’t offer to phone the police or the AA or anyone else; I just drove on by and 6 minutes later I was home.

What is really odd is that I don’t actually feel like a bitch.

7 responses to “Ice

  1. Aphra, are you Scottish? Just wondering, as you used the word “blethering” which is normally a Scottish word, no? Just wondering….

  2. We had some near Stroud last year. A guy at work spun his Subaru on some of it and it a 4-wheel drive. It was one of the weedier Scoobies though. 🙂

  3. A sort of Darwinian moment – let them learn to drive like adults the hard way. Hah! And they should be heck-of-a glad that they weren’t learning it the hard hurty way.

    I grew up in mountains, and we got snow every winter, and every winter some tomfool emmet would try to drive up the snowy dirt tracks in what we used to sneeringly refer to as a ‘city car’, with no chains, and my step-Dad would have to break out the tractor, bitching all the way, and haul them out of a ditch, or in one bad case, a ravine. And we’d stand around with the waiting driver and ask him what the heck he was thinking, coming up here with no chains, and the poor chap would look bewildered and say he didn’t realise it would be that slippery, and there would be an odd moment as we looked around at the white, white wilderness and wonder what he did think snow and ice would be.

  4. Am dreading it icing up here – each year we get two or three cars upside down in the field opposite the house ad that is without it being frozen. The remains of the last one that flipped is still there and I’d rather it wasn’t joined by any more. Apart from anything else I always feel duty-bound to traipse around clutching my first aid kit and a bottle of sugary drink to make sure everyone is ok.

    I’d have ignored them too if I was you though – you could see no serious hurt had been caused so let them use their own phones to get themselves out of trouble.

  5. Not Scottish, Séverine, but I’ve hung out with Scots.

    Ah – four wheel drives on Gloucestershire roads, Alfster. My smuggest ice story involves me shimmying up the hill by the Daneway in a skittish little mini when a bloke in an Audi fecked it up so badly he had to give up. Mind you, in those days if you were going to get stuck in a dip then the Daneway was the place to do it.

    Reed – I love your mountain stories. Will you ever give us the unabridged collection of your mountain stories?

    Kelli – you live on the flat! – How on earth do people flip cars there? And I thought it was such a nice area you lived in.

    Thanks, everyone, for skidding by.


  6. I don’t know how they manage it Aphra, but there are enough of them to suggest some quirk of a bend in the road on the very slight rise must contribute somehow. Plus the relative straightness and flatness of the road as you leave the village (and the increase to a 50mph zone) tempts idiots into rash overtaking manoeuvres. It is quite depressing how often somebody does it – although it happens slightly less often than high vehicles hitting the railway bridge a bit further up, blocking the road routes into the village and stopping the trains running.

    Have you thawed yet? Our snow lasted for about 2 hours.

  7. A couple of morning frosts and that’s been about it, thanks, kelli.


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