Magazine article The Spectator

A Dog's Life

Magazine article The Spectator

A Dog's Life

Article excerpt

One of the main drawbacks to living on the south Devon coast is the number of drivers on the road who are over 80. I'm not saying they shouldn't be there. I just wish they'd speed up a bit. The lanes around here are narrow and winding. Overtaking opportunities are rare. Get stuck behind a 90-year-old creeping along at 15 miles an hour in the latest Vauxhall Vectra, and if you aren't prepared to overtake on a blind bend then there's not a lot you can do about it other than perform yogic breathing exercises to try to suppress the urge to shunt their car into the hedge, leap out and repeatedly get a knife into them.

Most of the road accidents in this part of Devon, I'd guess, are caused either by bizarre malfunctions of these elderly drivers' brains, or by frustrated drivers attempting dangerous manoeuvres to try to overtake them.

Last week the narrow country lane leading to our village was blocked by a double-decker school bus. The bus had been diverted from its usual route along the coast road because that road was blocked by the debris of a three-car accident.

Cause of accident: Margery, a neighbour of ours aged 88. Margery really shouldn't be on the road.

She can't hear, can't see, can't remember.

She's small and bent and seen from behind when driving it appears that there's no one at the wheel. When we have her to lunch on Sundays, she always bangs on about how she learnt to drive before the war and how determined she is, because she loves it so much, to go on driving until the day she dies.

Which was nearly last week, when, by her own admission, she stamped on the accelerator instead of the brake. Result: three written-off cars, the coast road blocked for four hours, double-decker school buses diverted down unsuitable country lanes causing even more traffic chaos, local radio bulletins every 15 minutes, two other people besides her in hospital, and my having to look after her flaming dog until she either dies of her wounds or recovers.

Why me? Well, I've read somewhere that in the past it was customary for tramps and tinkers to leave an inconspicuous but recognisable chalk mark on houses belonging to people they regarded as a soft touch. I've searched in vain for the chalk mark on ours, but it's there somewhere, I know it is.

A house key was duly delivered from the hospital and I went down to Margery's house on the cliff to collect the dog. …

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