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Sunday, August 16, 2015

August 17 - Fast Car - Tracey Chapman

Last week I received an e-mail from 'The Pack' informing me that I would receive an e-mail from a third party, to check my driving licence details, so that I could use the World Cup vehicles to fetch and carry and respond to emergencies etc. I hope that emergency will be South Africa running out of Powerade. Needless to say, the e-mail did n't come and there was a close deadline for the 2 stage process. I contacted 'The Pack' who told me to contact the third party. Eventually the e-mail came, and I submitted my licence details. Stage 2 was an online training and testing module, that you have to pass.

Anyone in the West Midlands will know what happened last Friday. I saw it start to build up outside the office. Traffic was stationary at 1.30 in the afternoon. With the 3 sets of roadworks within 5 miles of the office that I have to navigate each night, my heart sank. Idiot alert on the M6 or Aston Expressway. A quick check on the net revealed a lorry had gone through the central reservation which had closed the M6 in both directions until 10 that night.

My cunning plan kicked in. I would leave the office and go southwards to pick up some more of the colourful owls around Birmingham. The gauntlet has been laid by the Big Hoot, 89 large owls, 120 small ones, and I had to get the lot as photos on my phone. There were some outlying owls that I could pick up if I followed the ring road out of Birmingham and away from the accident.

Driving around the ring road I timed my arrival at Birmingham Central Mosque at the end of prayers. This meant pedestrians crossing at the pelican crossing at the roundabout, people getting into cars that were parked on the roundabout (I kid you not!), and just the congestion of people trying to get home. 20 minutes later I got over the roundabout and the road was clear. Oh how I felt smug. I'd beaten the traffic, so drove to the Airport to photograph 3 outlying owlets - small owls designed by schools local to the airport. £4.50, 19 minutes, and 3 photographs later I jumped into my car to go home.

The M42 was stationary, so I thought "I know what I can do to beat the traffic, I'll go up the A446". Why did I think that no one else would have that idea? I didn't move for 20 minutes, and 90 minute later, I had travelled about 9 miles. Once I got over the roundabout where all the traffic was being directed away from the M6, and the redirected A446 traffic southwards, I contemplated why 4 hours after I had noticed the traffic building up, the road was still shut. Is there no way of putting a giant curtain around the scene, to stop rubber necking but keep the road open? When I arrived home 3 hours 45 minutes after I left, I didn't care if I ever got in a car again, let alone fetch Powerade for any of the International Rugby teams.

The next day, I jumped back in the car to finish off the owl hunt, only 2 large ones, and 4 locations of smaller owlets I looked forward to having the next weekend free of driving. Alas I failed miserably. I didn't want to do the hunt the 'App' way, with directions and guidance on numbers etc., I wanted to have an adventure and use my investigative skills, so was doing it a lot more slowly than I could have done. I arrived 15 minutes late to pick up the last 2 owlets, so next weekend, on the way to the next training module, I will finally finish at Sutton Park Donkey Sanctuary. (the driver who caused the chaos will be in there, along with the Law. ('the Law is an Ass' - Geddit?)

Today I have spent about 4 hours running through all the driver training modules, including the voluntary ones. I suppose it would have been easier had I read the Highway Code somewhere along the way since I passed my test at 17 years, 5 months and 3 days old. However, I've learnt that a speed limit is not a target, that driver error accounts for 95% of all accidents and it is perfectly legal for motorbikes to weave through traffic, but cars can't undertake. (Please explain the difference, other than the former is harder to police). I did the lot, because if there is the chance of me putting Powerade in the changing rooms, I want to take it!

PS was there ever a better driving song to listen to on a rare sunny day, on an even rarer open road than Tracey Chapman's Fast Car?

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