Tuesday, 8 March 2016


It was Nathan's best friend's father's funeral today in Oxfordshire. It's horrible to think that this has become the era of parental misfortune. So many of my friends' parents are getting ill, or having falls, or losing loved ones. It's just awful...

The funeral happened in Carterton, the town where Nathan grew up. It was hugely well-attended, and a really very lovely send off.

Sadly we missed most of it. The first half of our journey west had been absolutely wonderful. The sun was shining and scores of red kites were filling the skies. We counted 44 between Stokenchurch and the Oxford turn off on the M40. The introduction of red kites in Oxfordshire has been the most extraordinary success story.

There are lots of theories as to why so many kites are spotted from motorways. The first is obvious. Many more people drive along the motorways than hang about in the fields and hillsides around them, so there are more people to spot the birds from the roads.

Other theories revolve around the idea that overgrown motorway verges are full of tasty treats for kites, but my favourite theory is that the birds are actually using roads as navigational tools.

Anyway, that's all by the by, and none of it explains why we missed half of our dear friend's father's funeral.

We needed to leave the M40 at the junction with the A40, but got rather stuck in the outside lane due to lorries crawling along on our inside. In the end we had to pull into the inside lane between two lorries. The space between them was smallish, but not ludicrous, so we changed lanes, and, for twenty seconds or so the articulated lorry behind us travelled as the same speed.

We pulled off onto the A40 slip road, and the lorry behind us pulled closer and started driving threateningly. I assume he was angry with us for pulling into his path. Nathan gently slowed up by maybe five miles per hour as a warning to the lorry to pull back and to show him that he was welcome to over take us if he wanted to go faster.

Horrified, I watched in the wing mirror as the lorry got closer and closer before ramming into the back of our car. It was terrifying. There was a crunch and a bang, and our car was shunted forwards.

We pulled into the hard shoulder and the lorry pulled in behind us. I instantly panicked. We didn't know whether to get out of the car to survey the damage or wait to see what he was going to do. We thought perhaps he was mad.

I decided I needed to film the scene, but, in my panic, couldn't find my phone. I tried to write the lorry's number plate on the back of a cardboard box, but my hands started shaking.

Nathan got out of the car in the end, and I filmed him as he approached the lorry driver, who casually wound up his window and refused to swap insurance details.

In the end, because he was refusing to cooperate, we were forced to call the police. Of course the driver switched on the charm as soon as the police arrived. He hadn't seen us, he said, although he made it clear he HAD seen us cutting into the gap in front of him before we pulled onto the A40 slip road. He spouted a mass of contradictions, but the police seemed to buy it, and basically accused Nathan of dangerous driving. Apparently we ought to have started to accelerate on the slip road rather than slightly slowing down. It was all very strange, and when I tried to explain what had actually happened, the policeman told me not to interrupt. I felt like I'd felt when the judge summed up his evidence the time I lost my court case. My face must have glowed red with a similar sense of injustice. I have to say, the majority of my brushes with the law makers of this country have been somewhat unsatisfactory. I always feel judged for some reason. A little helpless.

In the end, insurance details were swapped, and we were sent on our merry way. Heaven knows how everything will pan out. I'm pretty convinced the driver rammed us deliberately. If he hadn't seen us, he would have rushed out of his car to check if we were okay rather than sat aggressively in his cab refusing to acknowledge us. It was all horrible. My back still hurts because I tensed myself ready for the impact as I saw the lorry slowly moving closer and closer.

Anyway, that's enough of that. Today was all about looking after Philip. The "wake", which was far more appropriately labelled "a celebration of the life of Leon." It took place in a golf club on the outskirts of Carterton. There were red tulips on a window ledge which caught the late afternoon sun and glowed like rubies.

We spent the night chatting and laughing in a pub in the town itself. Carterton is a funny, rather "non" town, which grew up around the airbase at Brize Norton. It's nothing but a cross roads, really, covered in buildings which seem a little hastily thrown-up and somewhat transient. Rather American, I suppose. I think Brize Norton was once an American airbase, so maybe there's a link there. Who knows.

Anyway. We're home now. Nathan is struggling with his knitting. He's making a hat. It's not going too well. Or at least it wasn't until he started saying "aha." He may well have solved his problem.

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