In Sickness and in Health: As autumn arrives, more of us should wear high-vis clothes

Earlier this year, Rebecca’s husband, Nick, was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the  aftermath of his accident

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The Independent Online

As much as I love the crisp air, orange-edged leaves and new-pencil-case vibe that are September’s special features, I hate the evenings getting incrementally darker. I dread the months of gloom ahead, the times when it’s dark at 4pm and I have to tell myself that this isn’t for ever, that one day the sky will stay soft until 9pm, as though it’s a mantra. The rising dark is giving me extra conniptions this year because it has so many new, dread things hiding in its folds.

Lurking in the onward marching shadows is the fact that another season is coming that I’ll have to live through without Nick at my side. Then there’s all that darkness that shrinks my world to places where I feel safe going on my own on foot. The garden becomes a redundant place, a patch of balefulness giving me muddy evil eyes through the kitchen window as I try to ignore it until spring. And there’s my special dread of driving at night. Seriously, I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s frightening as well as being a terrible idea.

All those glaring headlights in the rearview mirror. The kaleidoscope hell of looking for a gap in three lanes of fast-moving traffic, when all I can see is Mysterons going at full pelt. Idiots who leave their lights on full beam; numpties who have forgotten to put their lights on at all. Cyclists with no lights, or the equivalent of a glow worm fixed to their handlebars. Pedestrians wearing black with the self-preservation of lemmings as they blithely step on to zebra crossings without a turn of the head, or hover in the middle of a road because they can’t be bothered to walk to the traffic lights further up. These pedestrians particularly get to me, of course, because every one of them is a Nick waiting to happen.

A couple of years ago I got a fair bit of stick from one of my colleagues when I bought a silver reflective belt and attached it to my winter coat (I actually thought is looked quite cool). My thinking was that when I nipped over the road to buy our nightly rations, I’d be spotted rather than squashed. After all, I said larkily, I didn’t want to end my days under the wheels of the number 24 bus when I planned be shot to death by a jealous wife at the age of 97. I wish I’d bought Nick one. I wish I could buy one for everyone. 

Until hi-vis outerwear becomes compulsory (it’s right up there in my royal edicts, along with three-day weekends and the outlawing of leggings worn as trousers), I’m working hard at being brave behind the wheel after dark and keeping as vigilant as possible. Hell, I’ve had to deal with all sorts of terrors in recent months – enormous spiders that the cat thinks are fun, furry friends rather than foes, the Halifax bank, the prospect of my husband dying or being left in a vegetative state for decades – I’ll learn to become a night driver, too. But I’ll also be accessorising this year’s coat with some serious reflective bling and keeping my eyes peeled. And if everyone else could make the same effort, it’ll certainly cut down on  the admin after my coronation.


Twitter: @rebeccaj