Thursday, 31 January 2008

The way home

Journeys here in Guernsey are short: on a good day, it takes only half an hour to drive from one end of the island to the other.

They are safe: the top speed limit is 35 miles per hour, and in many places this is lowered to 25 mph. There is no fear of accidents, road rage, or car jacking.

Yet they are often not at all straightforward.

The roads here are so narrow that road repairs entail - road closures. For days. For weeks. For months - one road was closed for more than 6 whole months last year. So going from A to B often means a detour via C and probably D, E and F. It is necessary to follow the diversion signs at every twist or turn in order to avoid becoming hopelessly lost. (Of course, eventually all roads lead to the sea, but it can take an awful lot of driving and a huge amount of frustration and bad temper.)

Even uninterrupted journeys have their hazards. Mine this morning seemed to include every type of road user in existence.

First of all, I rounded a bend to be confronted by a tractor. Just a tractor. No trailer, nothing. In the scarcely dark early morning light. The lane was so narrow that I had to be content to trundle along at tractor speed. Which was just as well, for no sooner had he turned off than I had to stop. In front of me was a 'pooh truck'. Or, to give it its proper name, a sewage disposal lorry, busy pumping out effluent from a septic tank. The choice was a ten minute wait or a quick reverse and follow the tractor. I chose the latter. Curiously enough, I never caught up with him.

Next was a runner, in fluorescent vest and tracksuit. Speed before passing: an impressive 15 mph. Almost catching up the bicycle toiling up the hill in front of him. Timing again was everything: I had to wait to overtake, as one of our island buses swept around the corner, and we all squeezed in alongside a granite wall.

Other moving hazards included the posse of 50 cc mopeds which swept pass me, almost skimming my wing mirror, and then a huge motorcycle, its rider sitting back as nonchalantly as if he had been in an armchair at home.

At the traffic lights, the runner whizzed past me on the pavement while the cyclist overtook the line of stationary cars. A lesson in transport.

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