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With the country in lockdown and our space at Cirencester Antiques Centre closed we are still running our ebay store, but as things are quiet I thought that I would have a clear out in the office. One thing that surfaced was the set off photos that go with this post. A salutary reminder of the truism that you can’t relax on a journey until you have parked the car at your destination.

I had been working in Chesterfield and had left home at around 0600. In was the Friday before one of the May bank holidays and I jknew that the run home to Swindon would be a tough one regardless of which route I took. Getting away in the early afternoon helped and I chose to come back M1/M42/M40/M5 and then the A417/9 back to Swindon. It was a bright day and my Mondeo estate was running nicely. I had no ‘phone calls come in and was doing quite nicely as I peeled off the M5 at Gloucester and ran up the first half of Birdlip Hill, the Western escarpment of the Cotswolds.

As I swung around the Air Balloon roundabout to start the second half of the steep climb I reckoned that I was around 30 minutes from home all being well. This stretch is a short three lane one with two lanes climbing the hill and one coming down separated by just a pair of solid white lines. I had a green Peugeot 407 about 4 lengths behind me as I cleared one artic and closed on the next, a flatbed trailer. I had plenty of speed advantage to clear him before the road narrowed at the top of the hill and there should have been room for the Peugeot to get through too if I got on with it.

But as I closed to about a car length from the back of the trailer the rig swung out to straddle both lanes. With a solid line of cars queuing downhill for the roundabout I had no option buy to lift and dab the brakes. My attention was focused on avoiding the back corner of the trailer when: Bang! The back of my car came up off the road and all hell let loose around me. I hit my right temple on the A pillar, went back into the seat so hard that I snapped the recline mechanism and then come back up and hit the steering wheel.

Both I and the guy who had hit me, the green Peugeot managed to get across to the side of the road and stopped to sort things out. As we did so an elderly man in full Tour de France lycra struggled past us, then another, then another. Was one of their companions what the truck had pulled out to avoid? Who knows. It was bank holiday Friday and two of us had bent motors. Fortunately we were both, on face value, OK although a couple of weeks later my back went and I was diagnosed with various whiplash injuries.

The photos show the Mondeo back home where it was first recovered to.

Half an hour from home, what could go wrong? I didn’t lapse my concentration fortunately, but got whacked anyway. At least I was not creamed head on into one of the poor souls queueing down the hill.

The Peugeot 407 must have left an impression on me as well as on the Ford because it was with a 407 that I replaced the Mondeo later that year (1999).

For some years after I did my best to avoid Birdlip Hill and even now I will use the slightest excuse to go a different way. Daft really, but there you go.

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