Monday, March 17, 2008
Rallying Point (2)
So here I was stuck at the top of this windy wilderness, with a carrier bag, warrant card and instruction leaflet clutched between my stiff little (rapidly numbing) mitts, in desperate need of a pee, and nervously wondering when the race was about to start.
I guessed my first priority should be to cordon off these two roads of mine, so I trudged along and cast about to find them. Sure enough, there as promised, I found the lengths of rope next to the entrance that needed securing. I dutifully tied it off, and set about finding the other one.
It wasn't there.
At least not where they'd told me it should be. Oh, bugger.
It had to be here somewhere. I walked up further, tried the other side of the track. Nada - nothing. Becoming a trifle anxious, I walked back to where I'd started, heading down the way now, scanning for any hidden lane or concealed entrance I may have overlooked. Nothing. With visions of a tractor rounding the bend and slamming up the death rate,I put more urgency into my hunt.
It simply wasn't there.
Stemming my rising panic, I thought maybe I should phone the emergency number, ask what to do? I got dialing. The pillocks had only gone and switched it over to the answer phone, hadn't they? Well sod it, I'd tried. Consoling myself it was probably nothing to worry about (well, what was the point in fretting?), I focused on the other pressing matter of whether or not I had enough time to risk a quick crouch behind a bush.
The sheep looked a tad too friendly to my liking, so I opted for the field opposite, a rather more exposed venue than preferred, but it's not as though there were many available options.
Mid-way through the biggest relief of my day, my ears tuned in to the unmistakable sound of an approaching engine. Oh, for goodness sake! Talk about having a bad day.. I hastily fought to finish up, barely managing to pull up my drawers before a packed car load of teenagers pulled up behind the cordoned off barrier. I scrambled back to my post and tried to look nonchalant.
"Bloomin' heck, where did you spring from?"
As if I was about to tell him. With a nod and a smile, I willed them gone. Guess I looked official enough for them to think I had some clue as to what was going on, because the spokesman of the group, with his mates following in tow, ducked under the cordon to cross over to join me.
"Er, you're not s'posed to do that, you know - " (That told them.)
"Has Jo Bloggs passed yet?" (Nah, he didn't really ask about Joe Bloggs, but he might as well have, I wouldn't recognise a rally driver if he squished me beneath his wheels.) Since no one had passed, I was knowledgeable enough to answer him no. This was good news, they had time to pick out a better vantage point.
"Oiy, what do you think you're doing? Get back here!" I watched them disappear around the bend of the road.
"I could arrest you for that, you know." I bravely whispered. (Well, let's be honest, even assuming they would allow me to, what was I likely to do with them if I did.. tie them to the nearest sheep until help arrived?)
I decided to read the leaflet, see if I could pick up a tip or two - Lord knew I was in sore need of some. The opening paragraph hardly inspired confidence:-
"Marshals must carry a fire-extinguisher and a sharp knife with them at all times." Those rotten sods hadn't issued me with so much as a butter knife. Not that it mattered, reading further, I realised I was in the wrong job.
"In the event of a crash, extinguish any flames and pull the driver clear of the vehicle- "
Yeah, as if I'm about to dive in to an explosion. In the event of a crash, you can count on me diving for the nearest ditch, dialing a message for the emergency answer phone to hurry up and get me the hell away from there.
"Use an appropriate flag to signal the road closure."
Where were these flags I was supposed to brandish? They could at least have given me a flag or two, don't you think? Sheesh! Bunch of bloody amateurs..
I broke off reading to witness the first car swiftly approaching. Gee, this guy must be good, he'd shaken off all the other guys already! Didn't look as though it was going to be much of a race though.. I waited, counting the seconds between his lead. I kept counting. Two full minutes later, another lone car shot past. Two minutes after, another. Never slow on the uptake, I began to catch on. Oh boy, unlike the Super bike's, rally cars are not that big on over-taking. (Big girls blouses.)
I started to explore if I could unpick the sewn up pockets of my jacket, but my frozen fingers were too numb to cooperate. That's when I felt the first wet splats against my forehead. Could life get any better? The fat, cold water bombs increased in tempo, giving on to a torrential downpour. Ever the optimist, I began to cheer up, surely the race would be called off now? I fished the phone out and dialed up the emergency number. Glory be, someone actually answered (telling me in no uncertain terms to stay put,and to quit tying up the line). Charmed, I'm sure.
To stave off the onslaught of hypothermia, I considered lunch. Peeking ino the carrier bag, I found a bag of marmite crisps, a cherry diet coke, and an anonymous tin foil package. Who the hell these days makes up sardine sandwiches? I fed them to a friendly sheep, (upon closer inspection he turned out to be a ram) in return for bending his ear over the next hour. He was very sympathetic.
Ten minutes after the last car splattered me in back spray, I gave up looking for the Head Marshall's car, wiped the mud from off my lips and dialed for home. Two hours and half a tank lighter in petrol, they finally managed to locate where Billy and I were holed up, huddled together under a dry-stone built wall. I felt quite emotional bidding my little Billy farewell.
Chalking it up to experience, I'm thankful that - more down to pure chance than good planning - at least no one actually died on my watch. I'll never, ever, ever put myself through all that again. If my experience is anything to go by, it's little wonder there is so much carnage over our racing season. I know the rules have been tightened since last year, and that the bike marshalls at least now have to attend a two day training course. But for an island that relies so heavily on the revenue which these races bring in, it's high time we stopped depending upon the good will of volunteers, and to instead find the approriate funding to safely police them.
(nb. I let Sam keep the orange vest, I reckon I'd earned it.)