I have had several car accidents. Only one of those was my fault. Most of them have had someone else to blame. These range from the woman who drove into the back of me as I turned off a roundabout to the tiny old woman in a BMW who sideswiped my car because, I guess, she could barely see over the steering wheel.
The first of these happened in slightly surreal circumstances, though. I was about ten years old. It was during my very brief spell as a member of 2nd Lillington Scout Troop and, for reasons which I have still yet to understand, we were on a trip to the local sewage farm.
Getting to the sewage farm meant piling all of the scouts into however many cars were available and driving us the mile or so to where we needed to be. This was the days before mandatory seatbelt wear in the front of cars, let alone the back. And there were certainly no laws against packing as many boy scouts as you could into the back of a car, or even the boot of it.
We were on our way back when the accident happened. I was squashed into the back of a car driven by the deputy leader, Dave Phipps. Quite how many of us were in there I cannot now recall. I have blotted out many memories of my scouting years, which I still regard as the biggest waste of a Thursday evening (and occasional Sunday morning) ever, and therefore most of the names of the other scouts, too.
The general squashed-ness meant that I didn’t actually see what happened. I remember turning right out of a junction and then Dave shouting, before the car was hit at the front.
We were told to get out of the car. I was on the driver’s side, as I recall. One of the boys was limping, and Dave had cuts to his face from the windscreen glass, but aside from that we all seemed unhurt. Indeed, as the sort of kid who spent his entire time with his head in the clouds, and coming from a family which didn’t own a car, I don’t think I knew that I chould have been hurt.
I don’t remember how I eventually got home. I do remember a policeman coming to our house to take a statement from me, and being surprised that he wrote all of the surnames in capitals. But that seemed to be that. Dave stopped being one of our leaders shortly afterwards and it was never spoken of again. I now wonder whether the two were connected, and the fact that the car was so overloaded with children was something of an issue – even though that overloading probably saved us all from injury.