Well, here goes, and I hope it's cathartic, it can't really make me feel any worse.
A long stretch of my usual regular route in the direction of St Brieuc and everything on the way, including one of my coaching jobs, has been closed for roadworks for a very long time. I've taken the recommended diversion route when I can, though it's a great deal further and the other evening a normal forty minute trip took me nearly an hour and a half. But when it comes to the teaching job, out in the country, just for an hour early afternoon, this is just so out of the way that it's barely worthwhile going. At lunchtimes, and after five o'clock, I frequently followed the example of numerous other drivers, not all of whom were residents, including the school bus, and drove around the route barrée signs, going carefully round the ruts and bumps and potholes, to no ill effect.
Then one evening a couple of weeks ago, at about five-thirty, a small posse of gendarmes stopped me, told me off for driving on it when I didn't live there, let me off magnanimously but told me not to do it again, or else, a fine and points. If they caught me. But I'm not one to push my luck, as I thought, so I sussed out a back route of winding lanes which brought me satisfactorily to my destination.
I set out yesterday, nice weather, feeling fine, stopped at a tricky junction, pootled at sensible speed - you really can't do anything else in my car - round a downward sloping bend, and was confronted by a large white van coming at speed in the middle of the muddy road down the opposite slope. I braked and tried to move over, as you do, but there was so much mud and so little time that the brake turned into a skid and I hit the side of the van, who was veering to avoid me. Without the skid I'd just have made it through the gap, but only just.
I removed a length of his trim and gave him a bit of a scratch, he trashed most of the front of my car. I was shaking, he was somewhat discomposed. He repeated several times what a hurry he was in for work - he was delivering medical and pharmaceutical supplies - he asked for my address and details and I had the presence of mind to get his off him before he hurried away - he'd not have given them of his own accord, though he did make sure my car was still drivable before he left, yanking at the stoved-in bumper and wing that was fouling the wheel. I called Tom, who offered to come out, but I said I'd turn round and come straight back. I hadn't really registered how bad the damage was, but I didn't want to wait around there anyway. I cancelled my lesson and limped homeward, every rightward turn of the wheel drawing protesting scraping noises from the car.
Dear old Monsieur Turbin, our long time garagiste, sometimes rather rough in his humour but very reliable, a trailer-truck always at the ready, conveniently situated on our way home and his number always on our mobiles, has just taken his retirement, without having found a buyer for the business. He recommended a friend with a Citroen garage in Ploeuc, but that's in the opposite direction, and not somewhere we go very often. On the last leg, it became quite apparent that this car really needed to be in a garage, and if I got it home I wouldn't want to take it out again, so I turned towards Tredaniel, where I knew there was a general garage who had occasionally been helpful in the past, and I drew in there, having phoned Tom and told him what I was going to do so he could come and get us (Mol being with me throughout).
The people there, at that moment a young female receptionist and young male mechanic, were incredibly nice, kind and sympathetic and competent. They said I should never have driven it home, they would have come and fetched it, and I felt they were rooting for me from the start; the young woman helped me talk through it and gave me really good advice about dealing with the situation. Tom did what turned out to be a sensible thing, and insisted that once we'd just looked in at home to confirm that our insurers - who have also just retired, closed the local office and the agency has moved to Ploeuc also - were indeed closed on Wednesdays, we go out shopping as I had planned to do after my lesson and try to get on with our day.
Just as I was going out of the door, the phone went, and it was the other driver, who asked if he could come round that evening after work to fill out the constat amiable for the insurance. We stopped at the garage to finish emptying the car, and I told the young woman, who encouraged me to stick to my guns, he was at least partly to blame and it would go harder on me than him anyway, since I'd lost my car already and didn't need to be further penalised by the insurance any more than necessary, when for him it was just a question of relatively light damage and his employing company's insurance.
Shopping was OK, except Tom took me for a cup of tea in the supermarket bar and they were playing a fairly indifferent version of Leonard Cohen's Alleluya, which was nevertheless quite enough to undo me.
On the garage woman's advice, I filled in the constat fairly minimally, and roughed out a statement of events as I recalled them. The guy arrived, in another van, and he had done likewise, but he refused to agree that he had been travelling fast down the middle of the road. I'll spare you the ins and outs of the argument, we remained civil but neither of us was prepared to budge. We both professed our good faith, but he said quite plainly that if he were to say anything that put him at all in the wrong, he would suffer for it at work. So we concluded there was no point discussing it further, filled out all the relevant information, noted that we were not in agreement on the events, and didn't sign it, which one is at liberty to do.
I don't know whether it will do me any good; the fact that I undeniably lost control of the car, despite the fact that I was, as I saw and still see it, forced to brake to avoid a worse accident, will probably count against me. Both the garage people and our insurance agent were wide-eyed at his statement about how he couldn't accept any responsibility because he'd be penalised at work, and they both said, of course he was in too much of a hurry, those van drivers for those businesses always are. The agent says she'll talk to the insurance company, photocopied and sent my statement, and we must wait and see. The refusal to agree means it may go 50/50, if I'm lucky.
So there it is. Everyone around me so far has been wonderful, they always are, and I'm weathering it, just, but I'm tired. Tired of having to deliver another car-related tale of woe, tired of my poor friends and family having to find more sympathetic words when the fact that I have written off two cars in less than four years clearly indicates that I am an incompetent, unfit to belong to the adult world. Despite reassuring myself that this time, it wasn't entirely my fault, I'm still going over all the ways it might not have happened, could have been avoided - braving the gendarmes and their fines would have turned out cheaper. I'm tired of the insomnia and bad dreams and waves of tears and panic and despondency that keep washing over me, that I know aren't finished with me yet, and the dark fears and sense of imminence of future, worse loss and trauma that any loss and trauma calls up. I'm fairly bloody tired of trying to count my blessings and be grateful it wasn't worse and look on the bright side. While I'm very well aware I have a blissfully easy life compared to most normal people, I'm tired of having to sort out problems and find ways through, though I perfectly well know that that's life, and it doesn't stop till life does. And I ache with that kind of ache that flowers up from between the shoulder blades and grabs at the throat. I'm overall quite tired of myself. It's all so tedious.
And I'm heart-broken because I loved that car. Much more than the old BX even though we'd had that a long time and it had lots of memories, because it never really quite fit me and I never quite trusted it, it was under-built and over-powered. The Saxo was perfect, small and compact yet a bit rough round the edges, it ran on a cupful of petrol, the colour stood up to all the mud and dirt we can't avoid round here, and to me it was the small dark green thread that stitched together so many of the individually insignificant elements of my life and made them into a satisfying patchwork whole, and now that seems all ripped apart. I know it's not sensible to get so fond of a car, but it was special in ways that would come across as altogether sentimental, superstitious or fanciful if I were to outline them. I shall never be that fond of a car again, and I had it for just three and a half years.
Anyway, we think we may have found its slightly bigger sister to take its place in Lamballe; another Saxo of the same vintage, and the same colour, but with four doors, which I guess is a bit more practical, especially for Mol to get in and out, and Tom's happy about it. It's got lots of funny little naff details like a Cosworth fin and a snazzy steering wheel with Saxo in funky letters and flowery seat covers, which I'm hoping indicates a loving and caring owner, who says she's only selling it because she now needs to drive many more miles for work and needs something more substantial. The price is pretty good without being suspiciously cheap. The main difference is that it's left hand drive, because it seems now really must be the time when I bite the bullet and learn how to drive one, I've wimped out about it long enough. I don't really feel very much like rising to any more challenges, but I hope by next week I might. I'll build up to it slowly, go out with Tom for practise drives at first and make sure we don't fall out. It also means Tom can drive it, as we've always had a policy of he drives only his LHD car and I drive my RHD one, but that's rather limiting of options sometimes. If it's good we'll buy it, and our friendly new garage people will help us with it.
But it won't be the same.