Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Up on the Downs

When I lived in London I spent a whole summer walking the entire 100-mile length of the South Downs Way and used to dream of living in the countryside. Now that I've fulfilled my dream I rarely visit the Downs. I can cite a number of excuses, but I suspect that the main reason is because they're so near. I see them every day and know that if I walked out of the front door it would take me less than half an hour to join the route.

It was the same when I lived in London. I rarely bothered to visit exhibitions or museums, but since I moved to Sussex I've become a member of the Tate Gallery and visit the centre of London more then I ever did when I lived in the suburbs.

However, when the summer arrived two months early I decided to celebrate by going for a walk along the top of the Downs for a few miles, then take the path to Charlestone Farmhouse - home of the Bloomsbury Group - and take a guided tour, followed by a visit to the teashop. As the Osmonds would say, a little bit country and a little bit rock'n'roll.

Sadly, I managed to get lost on one of the most clearly signposted routes in England and never found Charleston. I wandered aimlessly for two hours before giving up and eventually managed to find a pub where I rang for a taxi home.

Ten minutes later the taxi arrived and I felt a great sense of relief until, two minutes into the journey, the driver started to have a fit. He started groaning and wrapped his right arm around his head, which rolled around as if it had been partially severed from the neck. I was terrified: 'Oh God, this is it. He's going to crash the car and I'm going to die and I never even saw Charleston.'

Then he suddenly stopped and carried on as if nothing had happened.

I should have asked him what the f*** was going on, but being English I was more concerned about seeming rude than asking him why he'd taken leave of his senses. I contemplated saying 'Er, actually this is where I live' when I saw a desolate lay-by. Anything, rather than being driven by a man in the throes of cardiac arrest. But I remained in the car and during the next few minutes, I gradually realised that the driver had something like Tourette's Syndrome.

In hindsight he was a good driver and it was amazing how well he could drive with one hand on the wheel whilst looking over his left shoulder and groaning, but I couldn't help wondering if he was in the right job. Had his employer demonstrated an exemplary commitment to equal opportunities or were they unaware? I had mixed feelings. On the one hand I had nothing but admiration and sympathy for someone who suffered from a debilitating affliction but still managed to hold down a full-time job. But on the other hand, he scared the shit out of me and I really wondered if I was going to die. It would have helped if could he have warned me first.


Sara said...

Oh. My. God.
That is such a funny post, I actually did laugh out loud, but, seriously, how scary! I once had a manic minicab journey where myself and my twins were driven by a hurtling loon. I really wanted to ask to be let out, for our safety, but I was too flippin' polite to say. Strange this politeness eh? Not one of your top days out then!
I would assume that no matter how good a driver he is, not being able to maintain clear vision would suggest that he most certainly should not be doing the job that he does.

dovegreyknitter said...

As you lived could you please go back again and take in Charleston? I'd love to see some real blog pics not just the ones the website want you to see.