Our most recent trip to our little house in Le Grand-Pressigny was affected by motoring incidents.
To begin with, we were held up on the M25 by a serious accident. We left home at 4 am (having got out of bed at 3 am) and made good progress south. So much so, that we were probably going to arrive very early at Eurotunnel, with the strong possibility of getting on an earlier train than the one we had booked. We got onto the M25 at about 6.15 am but soon were at a standstill, not far from the Dartford crossing.
We were stationary on the motorway for two hours.
I have heard of this kind of thing many times on the news : "motorway closed". This conjours up images of an empty motorway with nobody about, but the reality is completely different. What it actually means is three lanes of solid traffic and hundreds of motorists trapped in one place while the police do whatever they have to do after some idiot does something really stupid and causes a fatality.
We plan our journeys to avoid the M25 at its busiest. Indeed, on that morning, traffic, although not exactly light, was not heavy and flowing perfectly smoothly with everybody behaving themselves. No drastic speeding, no dangerous manoeuvres. But obviously about half an hour before we got there, it just took one driver, maybe two, to change everything. One person was killed and another person was critically injured, probably meaning that their life has changed for the worse, forever.
In the standing traffic, we had no idea what was happening. Time ticked by. People got out of their cars and walked around a bit, looking for clues as to what was going on and how long we might be there. Lines of stationery vehicles stretched for miles in front and behind us, while traffic moved freely on the northbound side.
For me there was a particular problem. The cup of tea we had before we left home was making its presence felt. I was needing the loo. After one hour I was desperate, after two hours I was considering how I could go about doing what I had to do with minimal offence to onlookers and minimal embarrassment to myself. If it seems funny, just try it for yourself. Get to the point where you need the loo and see how you feel two hours later, still in need but with the added anxiety of not knowing when you will be able to find a loo. Not funny at all.
Then, luckily, someone in official uniform created a gap in the lorries in the inside lane and directed the nearest cars to enter the gap, drive down the hard shoulder the wrong way, then down the slip road back onto the roundabout and freedom. How lucky we were that we were near to that junction when we came to a standstill.
Then what? Now we were somewhere in the middle of a north London suburb, having missed our train, not sure exactly where we were or how to get to where we needed to go. Speaking of which, we were surrounded by houses, all presumably with bathrooms. Dare I knock on a door and ask?
I decided against it, fearing rejection and wasting time. So we followed what looked like a main road in roughly the right direction and found a handy supermarket. Supermarkets come with loos these days.
According to one of the reports I have since read, three people have been arrested for causing death by dangerous driving at 5.40 am and the road was closed from then until 12.15 pm. I feel very sorry for the people who were unable to leave the motorway as we did, in what now seems to be a reasonable time. I wonder how many people missed their trains, ferries, airoplanes, important meetings, hospital appointments, weddings, funerals, holidays of a lifetime, etc.
Motorway madness. The disease of driving in the UK. The more you use the motorways, the more likely you are to become a statistic.