travel with me from SAHM to working mum….
The outside world has pierced the Domestic Bubble this week. Actually it’s been more rocked or crashed into. I returned home from a cosy coffee morning to find the road maintenance workers who had arrived early that morning were still digging. Their truck was partially blocking the road causing cars to take it in turns to manoeuvre around it. As I got closer to my driveway the traffic frustratingly slowed, then stopped. Craning my neck to peer around the car in front I realised that there were two obstructions, the second being a loading truck which was hoisting a car up from the pavement. In the moment that I registered this, a police 4×4 appeared from behind the loader, drew level with the highway maintenance truck turning at an angle to block the road.
Great, I thought. Inches from my doorstep. What to do? The cars ahead would not be going anywhere soon so I got out and wondered over to investigate.
Sure enough, someone had driven into our wall. Again. Now it’s only happened once before. A quiet day in May, while we were entertaining another family over Sunday lunch, we heard a huge crash. Going outside to check it out we found a car had hit our wall, ricocheted across the road, hit another wall before stopping about 50m away. The driver had reached down to pick up a map form the floor, next thing – BANG! Don’t take your eyes off the road, keep both hands on the steering wheel and perhaps sit in an upright position.
Today the driver had done a similar thing: come around the temporary road works, hit our wall and rebounded across the road to the opposite pavement. The driver of the loader told me how dangerous my 150 yr old wall was, jutting out into the road like that.
‘It’s caused two accidents in 10 minutes!’
Really. TWO! And only one in the previous five years. It must have been in a bad mood, drinking, maybe at its great age a little unsteady on its feet, or perhaps its gender makes it unpredictable.
One of the traffic police approached me.
‘Are you the homeowner?’ – Gulp, the owner of the temperamental wall.
‘I’ve put a card through your door but if you’re around now then we’ll have a word.’
And, sure enough, my wall, which does jut out a little (don’t we all sag with age?) is being fingered as a cause of these accidents. But, is it to blame? The road works were temporary (in fact, when I went out to photograph them they’d been completed – fastest hole dug and filled in the history of the Surrey Hills). The low winter sun and wet roads are not uncommon and we’ve only had one accident in 5 years (actually, there was an elderly lady who hit the wall one dark, wintery evening, so, two). The man from the vehicle recovery team is certain the wall is at fault, but his truck was also narrowing the road when the second smack occurred. Highway maintenance are also covering their potentially culpable backs.
When I commented to the traffic policeman that drivers hare up and down our residential lane he explained that neighbourhoods often complain about traffic speed. When the police investigate in unmarked cars they find that the speed limit is rarely exceeded. It’s just the perception of the pedestrians.
Our neighbourhood has started a campaign. We have seven schools and nurseries within an area approx 1km2. Some of the roads have no pavements, like our section, as the village has grown from agricultural land over several hundred years and many old walls and awkward bends remain. Nomenclature of the roads reveals its history: lane, farm, vale, field. So why is the speed limit set at 30mph? I’m no driving angel, and will admit to exceeding the limit occasionally, but when the limit is this (perceptively) high accidents will happen within it. What if my 8yr old had been standing in the sunlight by the wet road and the jutting wall, which forms our boundary, perhaps putting out the recycling, a job he likes to do? Would he have been bashed into? And who would have been to blame?
If you are driving a car then you must be responsible. If there’s an obstruction, road works, a distraction or dangerous conditions then regulate your speed and pay attention. Twenty’s plenty in residential areas – and sometimes even that is too fast.