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The War upon the Motorcar

October 4, 2013

[This could be the first chapter of the novel I promised for this year. Please give thumbs ups or down, so I can judge if this is worth continuing.
The usual caution about characters and names being fictional applies.]

The War upon the Motorcar

CHAPTER ONE

If one uses a bicycle as one’s main means of transportation in a little town like Southampton there is great pleasure to be had from the innumerable opportunities to overtake supposedly superior vehicles – at the many stops for traffic lights, weaving through traffic jams, dodging along bus lanes, through very occasional cycle only areas, or even by shrewd and judicious use of the pavement. Motor cars, always in a tearing hurry, rush past the cyclist, only to come to a halt at the next obstruction, allowing the two wheeled to catch up and more often than not keep going past them. This tortoise and hare like reversal, in combination with the desire to repay the unthinking arrogance of the majority of motorists can, in a certain type of cyclist, inspire a haughty disdain, a lofty contempt for all petrol vehicles and their drivers, when they consider the cost to the environment, the impact on urban space, the toll of injury and death, the wars fought in aid of maintaining ever more expensive supplies of petrol. The priority given to the private motor, while the public transport system is neglected or split between various companies, and the evidence of ongoing devastation – in news reports and in pathetic little notes and bouquets attached to crash barriers near where loved ones have been killed – can also feed a sense of resentment.

The discreet might keep their thoughts to themselves. Jason Walker prided himself on his lack of discretion.

“Congratulations!” Jason would call, as he sailed by some reckless motorist who, seconds earlier, had only just resisted the temptation to quite literally knock the likes of Jason and his bike out of the way.

“Get off and milk it!” was his mocking cry to those who, for whatever reason, proved unable to maintain their lead over him, despite their vehicle’s ability to achieve speeds that far exceeded any sensible limit.

It got so Jason maintained a continual dialogue with fellow road users – deriding the vanity of their choice of car, as in “Yeah, mate, that groovy little runabout takes years off you. How do you manage to squeeze yourself inside it?”; criticising every detail of everybody’s driving – “Get in lane!”, “Dip your lights!”, “Turn that awful music down!” and generally doing his best to make himself as unpleasant and oppressive to other road users as he found their constant life threatening presence on the roads all around was to him.

He got away with it most of the time, as drivers are usually too wrapped up in thoughts of where they want to get to and too snugly encased in their metallic cages to pay any attention to anybody except someone who obstructs them. However, a memorable exception to this occurred when a BMW driven by a surprisingly young looking Asian man pulled up at the lights in front of the Jet garage on Northam Road in front of Jason and his bike.

This vehicle and it’s driver exacerbated the offence Jason would feel normally, the former by being an open topped model and the latter by having his music playing full blast, something loud and incoherent directed at the young and impressionable that probably contained offensive remarks, whilst, incredibly, carrying on a shouted mobile phone conversation at the same time.

Jason, as was his wont, improvised a few choice remarks directed at this young driver, raising his own voice just to keep up, and basing his comments on the assumption that such a person must be or aspire to be some sort of “pimp” and or “drug dealer”.

“Yeah, man, get me a couple of bags of brown and be quick about it!” Jason, just getting into his verbal stride, was yelling in a horribly inaccurate parody of today’s street talk, just as the young man’s phone conversation and the music track stopped simultaneously, which enabled the driver to catch Jason’s comment and reference to “brown”, and to make the sad assumption based on his experience of life in Southampton, that he was being racially abused.

A tense exchange of looks and gestures ensued, as motorist and cyclist worked out the other’s meaning, and for a couple of seconds Jason could see he was in danger of getting engaged in a major road rage incident, before he was saved by the green light and the driver’s decision to go with that, putting his foot down and channelling his annoyance into driving into town at high speed.

Jason was sensitive enough to hate the thought of being considered a racist, and coward enough to be mildly shaken by the possibility of getting involved in a silly fight.

He did consider moderating his behaviour, but the habit of detesting motorists is hard to shake.

It is just possible that Jason’s resentment of motorists was slightly exacerbated by the fact that his wife, Clara, did have a driving license and, as part of her preparation for the birth of their first child, a car.

Jason moaned that Clara’s ‘Rallye Red’ Honda Civic – which she’d christened Scarlet O’Highway – was too expensive to run, while Clara insisted that a car was essential for any parent, and tended to win this argument by getting more out of the short term job market because of her licensed driver status.

So, while Clara was away performing care work, tutoring or cover teaching roles, Jason would stay home with their rapidly growing son, Darren, or plonk him on one of those front fitting bike seats and take him out for excursions to the common, the shops or even as far as Weston Shore for a glimpse of what he assured the youngster was the sea. Jason would, of course, use these rides as an opportunity to teach his boy the art of mocking motorists, and father and son would have a lot of harmless fun shouting derision after speeding drivers as soon as they’d got a safe distance away.

She might have puzzled over certain comments Darren made about his day’s activities with Daddy, but Clara was usually too tired by whatever she’d spent the day doing and by the prospect of what she planned to do that evening to pay much attention, until the day when, from his vantage point at the top of a slide in their housing estate’s toddler’s playground, Darren saw a taxi taking the favoured short cut through the estate at more than usually reckless speed and suddenly came out and screamed,

“Hang on mate, we’ll just get the chequered flag out for you!”

Clara laughed at first, while Jason was still glaring hatred at the disappearing cab, but after a moment her mother’s protective instincts led her to turn to Jason.

“What is that about, Jason?”

“What?”

“Darren, do you want to go and have a go at the roundabout?”

“Okay.”

“You heard! Why is our son shouting at motor cars?”

Now Jason was grinning, because his interpretation of this discussion was influenced by his resentment of his wife’s being a motorist herself, which he would always consider an ecologically inconsiderate choice, and because of the superior economic and social status which she inevitably enjoyed because of that.

“Well, the taxi was going too fast. They often do round here, and they shouldn’t be round here anyway, taking up all the spare parking and speeding round every corner. You’ve said it yourself often enough.”

“Of course I have, but why is my son shouting at passing cars? Who has taught him to do that, Jason?”

“Everybody should be shouting at cars, especially the inconsiderate ones.”

“Yes, of course, but it’s not the cars, is it, it’s the drivers!”

“What?”

“Don’t act innocent, you know what I mean. You’ve been teaching Darren to carry on your silly little war against motorcars, haven’t you?”

They both looked at their son, now on the other side of the roundabout, near the gate, but with a mum and kids they knew and safe enough.

“It’s not silly; cars are a menace.”

“Indeed they are, but that is your problem, not Darren’s!”

Jason couldn’t yet understand why Clara was so upset, but he tried to lighten the mood,

“Well, you know what I think about cars, darling, it’s not my fault if the boy’s picking up on that.”

“You’ve been deliberately training him to shout mockery at passing cars. Can’t you see how dangerous that can be? What about that incident you told me about at the traffic lights?”

This reminder helped Jason to understand that Clara did have a point, but, as men often do, he tried to resist the truth with ever more ingenious arguments.

“Of course I know what you mean, but if Darren’s learning the lesson that cars are nasty and dangerous then that’s good, isn’t it?”

“And what about my car? Are you telling Darren that his mummy’s car is nasty and dangerous?”

“No of course not! That’s different; he’s usually on the inside of that car, getting driven where he wants to go by his loving mother.”

“As are you, Jason. You don’t mind cars so much when you’re getting me to drive you where you want to go, do you?”

“Clara! That doesn’t happen that often, does it? I can get to most places by bicycle, even when I have to take Darren with me.”

“Unless you want to get to that useless allotment.”

“It’s the other side of Bitterne Hill! I’m not going to be fit to do any gardening if I’ve had to cycle up that thing, am I?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know, Jason, you’re the expert on allotments, just like you’re the expert on everything, even cars, not that you’ve ever driven one!”

“I wouldn’t want to drive one, not that I’ve ever been able to afford one anyway!”

“Ha! So much for your moral crusade; you’re just jealous of anyone who’s got it together to get a motor, including me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! You know about the awful damage cars are doing to the world, the ozone layer, the global economy, petrol wars; it’s not just me!”

“Fine! Just don’t try and drag my son into it prematurely!”

“Our son, he’s our son. Darren?”

Sometimes little children can be just as scary and unpredictable as cars. Upset by his parents shouting in the distance and attracted by the roar of a car coming round the corner, Darren had unexpectedly taken advantage of a moment’s inattention, run out through the playground gate and into the road, straight into its path.

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From → Writer

5 Comments
  1. eer yes, was engrossed from very very early…. continue, edit first para to be as snappy as everything which follows and continue boldly and bravely please!

    Like

    • Thanks Natasha, great to hear from you. Lacked snap this week as I’m giving up tobacco for Black History Month, but will accept encouragement and hope to continue this tale in the right spirit. Thanks for egging me on!

      Like

      • You are welcome! my struggles with nicotine are documented under Blue twirly things

        Like

        • Started following your blog and reading eggstracts. May try new egg recipes but will try to avoid nicotine, even when it’s blue and twirly. Tried an ecig, pulling too hard and it nearly killed me with a massive overdose! Have seen fancier ones, that produce an elegant puff of steam and have a blue light at the end, which is tempting but no, I’m determined to abstain completely for just another 21 days. Hope you stick with your resolutions and, just maybe, post again before too long?

          Like

  2. FREDERIC VINCENT permalink

    Great stuff!

    In link below the author I’m reading at the moment.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Giono

    Date: Fri, 4 Oct 2013 17:44:48 +0000 To: sotonteach@hotmail.com

    Like

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