All my life I’ve lived at a place accessible only by travelling down a narrow lane. But because our lane meets the main road at both ends, we do get passing traffic. Not a lot because intelligent people know that if you’re in a hurry, a single track road is not going to be a reliable short cut.
Over the years we’re had many interesting or even amusing moments because of it. Like, for example the time my mother was pretty seriously unwell. She was sitting in the front room, looking out over the road, and a couple of her sisters came to visit. They were sitting chatting and suddenly my mother went quiet and was staring at the road. They wondered if her meds had just kicked in. Indeed my mother wondered if her meds had just kicked in, because she could see a bus driving past our gate.
Fortunately her sisters turned in time, saw the bus, and she had witnesses to support her claim. But we reckon it’s the first bus in at least seventy years. We still haven’t a clue what it was doing them.
Another game we used to play when silaging was ‘how many cars did you get to reverse.’ The thing about carting silage is that you’re pulling a trailer that pretty well blocks visibility. Now being a competent tractor driver you can reverse it. You can see the hedges on both sides and with care and not rushing you can quietly back down the lane. What you cannot see is anything actually in the lane. So you don’t back a silage trailer in the lane without somebody acting as a ‘banksman’ to ensure that there isn’t a car, a motorbike, a mum with a pram or a lass on a pony, trapped in the lane behind you.
So when you’re carting silage down the lane and meet a car, the car driver has two options. They can reverse out of your way, or they can stop the car. Get out, help you reverse, walk back to their car and drive on.
So the person carting would normally get back to the pit and say to the person with the buckrake, ‘Two,’ or even ‘Three’. This was the number of cars that had had to reverse that trip.
Eventually I did the equivalent of getting a maximum break in Snooker. We used to get a lot of the ‘eleven car treasure hunts.’ From memory I think the rule was that if you had fewer than twelve cars involved in an event, you didn’t need to inform the police when you were organising it. The good ones were genuine treasure hunts, follow the clues, do some thinking, work out where to go next. The bad ones were just ad hoc rallies where you got the excuse to tear round narrow lanes at dangerously high speeds. On this occasion, as I drove along the lane, I found myself facing all eleven cars coming the other way. There was no way I could reverse so all eleven had to. But what really made my day was the lad in the eleventh car. He’d got this battered old banger; everybody else was driving reasonably smart cars. He backed his into a gate way, let the other ten back past him and as I drove past him I got a big grin and a thumbs up from him and his girl friend as they pulled back out into the lane and set off to exploit their unexpected lead.
The other ten were less enthused.
The other thing that can happen is that the main road gets blocked. At this point some clown almost inevitably diverts traffic down our lane. It might not matter too much if they only diverted them down in one direction, but when they send them down in two directions it’s madness. On one occasion the postman was caught in the chaos and it took him an hour and a half to get out.
It happened again last week. Somebody knocked on our door. They were local and knew me and asked if we could put cars in our yard to get them off the lane. We did, watched the queue snake past, and then unleashed the contents of the yard into the lane, only for them to meet the next queue forty yards further on.
We did what we normally do in these circumstances. Phone the police and ask them to block one end.
But even when they do this, it can still be stimulating. A few years back now we were fetching cows home to milk and oldest daughter stood in the lane to turn the cows down towards home as the dog and I brought them out of the field. As the dog and I were doing this a queue of cars was building up and I could hear somebody in the queue shouting and blowing their horn.
Anyway there wasn’t anything I could do about it, so we just quietly got all the cows out onto the lane and they walked placidly towards home, ignoring shouting and horn blowing idiots. I closed the gate after them, stepped out into the road and suddenly there was total silence.
Amazing the number of people who’ll insult a young lass but shut up when her Dad appears isn’t it.
What do I know? Just ask the dog.
As a reviewer commented, “This is a delightful collection of gentle rants and witty reminiscences about life in a quiet corner of South Cumbria. Lots of sheep, cattle and collie dogs, but also wisdom, poetic insight, and humour. It was James Herriot who told us that ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’ but Jim Webster beautifully demonstrates that it usually happened to the farmer too, but far less money changed hands.
I, for one, am hoping that this short collection of blogs finds a wide and generous audience – not least because I’m sure there’s more where this came from. And at 99p you can’t go wrong!”