MILITANT cyclists sometimes have pious stickers on their bicycles reading: “One less car on the road.” Perhaps I should have one on my car that says: “One more car on the road – sorry about that.”
You see, I never intended to be someone who drives a longish way to work. The cycle commute was more my thing. Now I drive 20 miles to Howden for my shifts at the Press Association, and a little further than that during term time to Leeds Trinity University, which is close to Leeds Bradford Airport.
Sometimes there are compensations in driving. After a dramatic journey last week, I posted something on Facebook. This is reproduced below as it appeared:
“Weird weather report. Walked to the distant car park in Howden in heavy rain. Sun shone, a rainbow formed a smudgy arc, and the air felt like a hundred other people breathed it first. The car was baking. Set off in a thunderstorm, then everything quietened for a while. The sky looked like a bruise. The fields of wheat glowed. The wind turbines barely turned. All rather scenic. By Elvington the road was a river more or less. Some drivers pulled over but those of made of sterner, stupider stuff carried on. Dry at home, the house hot and dark.”
Looking back, I’d edit out that “more or less”, but never mind.
The drama is of a different order the next evening. It is 9pm when the late shift ends. The weather has its back to the day. A nothing night. Warm, cloudy, dull.
Ten minutes into the journey, there is a straight mile before North Duffield where you can hit 60mph. The 40mph sign for the village comes into view. Beyond that there is second sign that flashes. I try to avoid a flashing after a speeding ticket in Leeds last year.
I slow to 40mph. My head is full of nothing much, other than wondering how I became the sort of man who drives a longish way to work. Fleetwood Mac are on the CD player. I know, hopelessly MOR and all that, but I spotted the ‘best of’ in the CD rack and remembered the days when I was the sort of student who sat around listening to Rumours.
Just before the village, a deer appears at the side of the road. It is quite large and reddish in colour. The animal looks at me, at the car, then does the dash. My hunk of commuting metal is doing 40mph. The deer is made of flesh and blood – and something else, ancient daring perhaps. It springs forward and dashes over the road.
My heart thumps. That would have been a big bang and a bigger mess. A few years ago, a friend bought a book on cooking roadkill and tried a few recipes. He would have been impressed if I’d turned up with that deer for his pot. Not that I would have known what to do.
I drive home nervy but glad the deer escaped. If you must drive to work, the commute between York and Howden is pleasant, taking in country lanes, but I’d still rather cycle, although not 20 miles there and 20 miles back.
Unusually this week there are four shifts, four commutes. A lot of there are back in that car. Not ideal, but necessary. You do what you do. Or to borrow from that TV scriptwriter’s cliché of the moment: “It is what it is.”
More often to be found on that CD player is We All Want The Same Things by Craig Finn. It came out a couple of months ago and is the third solo album from the Hold Steady singer.
Here’s a recommendation from a man who doesn’t usually listen to Fleetwood Mac – buy the Finn album, it’s great. Finn coins a lyric in the “it is what it is” mould. The words run: “The one thing that I’ve heard about love is that it hits when it hits.”
It hits when it hits… five short words that say much.
I pull the car into the drive. It hits when it hits could be a car and deer scenario, too. But here I am, home in one piece.