Brian Viner: 'Why is it that cars turn perfectly ordinary people into pitiless bastards?'

Home And Away

Share

My colleague John Walsh wrote with his customary flair earlier this week about his search for a pastoral idyll, somewhere in the English countryside where he could let the myriad stresses of city life flutter away on the breeze. I confess that I began reading in a spirit of mild indignation, for John's first destination was Burford in Oxfordshire, an architectural delight to be sure, but overloaded like so many Cotswolds towns and villages with traffic, tourists, and expensive tat. I found myself urging John westwards towards the Welsh Marches, far lovelier than the Cotswolds, and significantly less blighted by traffic, tourists and tat. Reassuringly, he reached the same conclusion, finding his nirvana in Church Stretton in Shropshire, just a short tootle up the A49 from us, in fact I'm slightly offended that he didn't drop in for tea and scones, to which in these rural parts we sit down every afternoon at 4pm, or would if we weren't so bloody stressed by the rising costs of living in the country.

The latest source of stress is our seven-year-old Volvo, which gave up the ghost on Monday not three months after we had remortgaged our house, enabling us finally to clear our debts with Volvo Finance. My mother was visiting and Jane had driven her to Ludlow for some gentle ambling round the shops on a day of typical spring-like conditions, namely gale-force winds and driving rain. On their way home the car simply conked out, with what we now know to be a terminally-ill gearbox that will cost £4,150.35 including VAT to replace. The alternative to spending so much on a car with 150,000 miles on the clock is to rekindle our marriage with Volvo Finance. Mind you, I'm not sure I want another Volvo. Who wants a gearbox with a seven-year hitch?

Whatever, to make matters even worse, there had been a crash on the A49 with so much traffic being re-routed along the B4361 into Ludlow that the town could almost have been mistaken for somewhere in the Cotswolds. This crawling traffic had to pull out to pass the stricken Volvo, with a depressing number of drivers gesticulating angrily at Jane, as if she and my mum had stopped for a flask of tomato soup and some egg sandwiches.

Why do cars turn ordinary people into pitiless bastards? When I arrived an hour or so later in the Mini, so that Jane and my mum could get home leaving me to wait for the RAC, I started to perform a three-point turn, encroaching by a couple of feet at most onto a private driveway. Then there was a rap on my window, issued by a man with flushed cheeks. I could somehow tell that he was not about to compliment me on my driving skills. "What are you doing?" he barked. "I'm turning round," I said, about to explain that my wife and mother were stranded 50 yards away in a broken-down car. "Not in my drive you're not," he snapped. I was lost for words, even four-letter ones.

Still, a friendly face soon materialised in the form of my good friend Ian, who pulled over to see if he could help. With what in the circumstances was rather stoical larkiness I told him I needed £100 to get to London, and offered him a ball-bearing I had found rolling around in the boot, which I said was actually an amethyst. This was a cheeky reference to a con perpetrated on Ian a couple of years ago, also just outside Ludlow, coincidentally, by a foreign-sounding man who flagged him down and explained that he needed money for fuel to propel his car, containing a suitably anxious-looking wife and several wide-eyed children, to London. He showed Ian his chunky gold ring and asked if he would pay £100 in cash for it. Ian had only three £20 notes in his wallet, but coughed up the £60 and took the ring. It turned out to be made of brass, worth about 50p. I suppose Ian should have been more of a pitiless bastard, and told him to sod off.

Anyway, stress is a relative concept, but my point is that nobody, not even John Walsh, should think that the countryside is free of it. We have confidence tricks, road rage, traffic diversions and knackered gearboxes to contend with out here just as city folk do, although John is right in ways that he perhaps doesn't realise to identify Church Stretton as a particularly fine place to find relief. It's the only small town I know in these parts with a shop specialising in sex toys.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory