I was run over in Midhurst today.
Thank you for your concern, but I’m fine. It’s the second time I’ve been run over in Midhurst in the last year, and there may be something of a pattern emerging.
Midhurst is a sleepy town where not much happens. There is more outrage in Midhurst when Tesco runs out of the Saturday Times or the Cowdray Farm Shop of their bespoke winter slaw than there is over the idea that global warming is going to bring the world as we know it to a halt in 72 years time. Judging by the shops in our town, we are a population that make our purchases in charity shops, and spend our time in coffee bars. The most exciting thing round here is the new Kurdish barber, who singes the hair out of the ears of men of a certain age. My age.
I was crossing West Street at lunchtime with a load of sandwiches for the office when it happened. I was raised on the Tufty Club and specifically on the Tufty Fluffytail concept of ‘Stop, Look, Listen, Think’ which I have discovered tends to work better in that, rather than the reverse order. When it came to thinking, all I could get my head around was that it was raining, and I wanted to be in my car, which was illegally parked afew hundred yards to the south. Looking and listening can be over-rated, and I tend not to do it until I am somewhere in the stream of traffic, and feeling insecure. Then I stop, look and listen. And it was in the listening department that my downfall came. Because what I was listening for- the full throated roar of a Ducati, or the smug pulse of a 12 cylinder Brexit-busting Audi- wasn’t what was coming my way.
What was coming my way was a hybrid Kia Optima in electric mode, and it was making no more noise than the quiet rotation of its 185/80 R14 tyres on the road surface. One minute, I was looking westwards at a yellow DHL van bearing down on me, and trying to judge its speed. The next, I heard a screech of brakes and the Kia coming from the opposite direction came to a rest with its number plate resting against my eastern calf.
After which, lots of simultaneous bits of Britishness happened.
First, the driver of the Kia, whose fault this incident could not possibly have been, climbed out and apologized profusely for driving carefully and attentively, and managing not to cripple me.
Secondly, a passing woman who I suspect had done an unrequited St John’s Ambulance first aid course a few decades ago, started to insist that I was in shock, and should sit down and wait till help had been called. Despite the fact that I was still standing up, and still clutching the tray of sandwiches.
Thirdly, a white van delivery man of the type that Labour front bencher Emily Thornberry so spectacularly insulted a few years ago, wound down his window and told us to ‘get a fucking move on; what’s the fucking issue with you lot?’
And finally, me. Having caused the incident, all I wanted was to be nowhere near it, and just to let it unscramble itself at its own sweet pace. I didn’t want apologies. I didn’t want treatment. I didn’t want to be shouted at by a lippy South Londoner. I just wanted to be back in the office pretending that nothing had happened.
So the four of us quickly went back in time. The Kia driver climbed back in his car and gently glided westwards towards the disguised delights of Budgens out there beyond the street lights; the red cross lady huffed and puffed a good bit before telling me that ‘if I wanted to disregard her, it was up to me’; and the van driver got back on his hands-definitely-not-free phone and told someone at the other end of the line words to the effect that they were a wanker.
As for me, I just walked southwards towards my car with my tray of sandwiches, trying to convey the air of a man who had more important things to do with his life than be run over.
All of which was marginally better than nine months ago when some vicious old lady on a mobility scooter sent me flying as I walked out of Boots where I had ironically been buying a tube of Arnica Gel.
Because whatever else Tufty knew, he knew the square root of sod all about silent cars and high speed vehicles on pavements. If he were alive now, he would probably be fulminating about what had happened to the age of deference, and wondering why there were no longer white dog turds on the footpaths.