This week I have already been stuck in two horrendous traffic jams – one of which made me forty minutes late for an appointment with some garden designers (oh yes, my cunning plan is working – we have moved on from rotivators to getting someone else to do it – Yay!)
And I nearly peed my pants, due to not having factored in having to sit for forty minutes in a traffic jam on the way home.
It was a close run thing.
The second traffic jam left me stranded across a very large traffic island which is notorious in Leicester as being very fucking scary indeed. For those in the know it is the Pork Pie island roundabout.
It is not called the Pork Pie island because it is made of pork pies (sadly). It is called that because of the very large library that sits along one edge of the island, which is shaped like a pork pie.
If you ask people from Leicester what the most iconic building in Leicester is, they will probably say the Clock Tower, which is where most people meet up in town for every important occasion from buying new pants to going out on the lash.
For me it will forever be the Pork Pie Library.
The island that sits near it is not as terrifying as it used to be before they introduced traffic lights to stop the hideous number of accidents there, but it’s still hairy.
One of my earliest memories is being with my Aunty Penny (my mum’s younger sister) in her Mini coming from Leicester, presumably to go home to my house. I can’t have been much more than two or three. There was a proper fog. What people who like to be a bit Dickensian call, a real pea souper. You couldn’t see more than about a foot in front of you.
We were driving from Saffron Lane, one of the major roads that sits near the island, up to the island. We were crawling along until we got to the island itself, which you could not see, because of the fog. I remember someone coming out of the stygian murk, and helping my aunt, by walking in front of the car with their arms out, much in the manner of a sleep walker, to make sure that when she got onto the island, she wouldn’t kill us. I have no idea who the person was, but it was an incredibly brave thing to do.
I don’t have many memories from when I was that young, but I think I remember that because it was terrifying and surreal in equal measure.
It may have been my earliest brush with a sense of my own mortality.
This morning the traffic was awful. They have been digging up one of the major roads on my daily route in and out of the city for the entire duration of the summer holidays. As soon as school started all the bollards and cones and whatnot disappeared, and we all cheered. The road works have been so debilitating that over the holidays it once took me an hour to do what is normally a fifteen minute journey. It has not been pleasant.
For some reason, as yet unclear, but undoubtedly due to something entirely unrelated to the welfare of the road and its users, the cones have started creeping back, and one lane of traffic has been coned off , just up from the island I was stuck on, at another nasty junction I have to cross.
I get onto the island via the beautifully named Attlee Way (can you tell we are a staunch Labour council). I have to get on to Glen Hills Boulevard. This is the third exit off the roundabout from where I am, but in the middle, between these exits the road splits into three and has a mini set of traffic lights all to itself, just to add to the confusion. As well as that, the two exits I pass, in order to get to my third exit, fan out into two or three lane roads themselves, so you have cars sort of peeling off in every direction, which you are trying to navigate through before the lights change.
And the lights are on a very short timing rotation.
As I am describing this to you I wonder to myself why I am so nervous of driving in London? Surely the Pork Pie island is just as hairy as say, navigating down Edgeware Road on a Sunday night?
I shall approach London with renewed vigour next time I am called upon to drive there.
I shall drive full pelt, with the windows down screaming: ‘I survived the Pork Pie island – suckers!’
So this morning the traffic on Glen Hills Road was just not moving.
But the lights at the island kept changing, and more and more cars were coming onto the island, but not being able to get off.
I had a chain of irate drivers behind me, ready to kill me if I didn’t move forward at the earliest opportunity, so when it looked like things might be moving, and the lights were in my favour, I crept forth onto the roundabout.
I was between the first exit and the road which splits into three with its own mini lights, when the mini lights changed to red.
I was about to nudge forward, so I wasn’t blocking the exit, and the cars to the right of me could move off the roundabout, when a white van driver with a trailer swept round, crossed lanes and parked in front of me, meaning I could go nowhere.
Then an old lady in a blue Corsa tried to get by me in order to get off the first exit, and missed me by a whisker.
At this point my language was rather choice. Oscar and Tallulah were thrilled.
At the next green light I managed to move forward approximately a foot, but not necessarily in the direction I wanted to go, as the white van man was doing his best to take me out with his trailer, which was swaying gently in the breeze and generally causing mayhem. Not to mention all the bloody idiots who were trying to weave in and around me, like moths round a lightbulb.
It took me two more rotations of the lights to get off the roundabout.
It probably only took about fifteen minutes in all, but it was a long fifteen minutes, and I was yet again reminded of my own mortality.
When they make the film of my life, the Pork Pie island is going to feature as a metaphorical way marker on my journey to a dusty death…
…accompanied by the sound of frantic horn blaring and a Dave Allen string of expletives.
N.B. I have only just realised, after writing this, that it is the pie round of the Great British Bake Off this evening.
Which just goes to prove that God Moves In Mysterious Ways His Wonders To Perform.