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6:07pm on Monday, 9th April, 2007:

The A46


We came back home to Essex today from Yorkshire, taking the A15 and A46. The A15 is single-carriageway, and sure enoug hwe were stuck behind a large, slow container truck for the entire length of it that we travelled. The A46 used to be single-carriageway, but it's now dual -carriageway. This is why we went that way: if it had still been single-carriageway, we'd have avoided it.

The reason we would have avoided it was because of a particularly bad experience on it once, when we were stuck for almost an hour behind a caravan. The car pulling it was underpowered and couldn't go more than about 25mph down hill, and an enormous tail of frustrated motorists built up behind it. Overtaking was impossible because of the volume of traffic coming the other direction and the nature of the road (dips and bends). We were 6-8 cars back behind the caravan, bemoaning our fate like everyone else, and cursing the caravan's owner for not pullig over to let everyone past (and that "everyone" was perhaps 50-100 vehicles — the line in my rear-view mirror stretched off so far I never saw the end).

Suddenly, one of the drivers about 20 places back snapped. He shot out, put his foot down and took off like a rocket! Everyone was willing him on, you could sense it, the entire line was rooting for him to get past that caravan and take his break to freedom!

But something was coming the other way: a fairly slow car at the head of another long line, which had given him the clear space of road to use to overtake. We were sure we were about to see a ghastly accident, but the reckless overtaking maniac managed to zoom out of the way just in time, and ahead of the caravan! However, in so doing, he clipped the front of the car towing it. He pulled over into a lay-by, the caravan pulled over to discuss insurance claims, and the rest of us sped merrily by.

This was maybe 20 years ago when it happened, but it's stayed with me all that time. What greater deed can a man do, but to sacrifice himself for others?

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).