I accompanied my husband yesterday evening to fetch the sheep. We got into our little Renault 5, a 20 year old heap, bequeathed to us by my brother-in-law when he couldn’t sell it; and set off up the mountain, to the pastures on the other side of the farm. As we climbed, following the dirt track upwards, cross country, my husband gave me the usual speech about driving, knowing that it would be me who would be bringing the car back.
“…if you see a rock in the middle and can’t avoid it, then don’t brake because the car will tip forwards and you’ll catch the underneath…”
I gazed at the rabbits scampering out of the way of the car. The dog in the back whined indignantly, nose pressed to the window, insulted that her favourite pastime should be having life so easy.
“…if it’s steep like this, then give it full throttle or you won’t make it to the top… are you listening?”
I grunted the affirmative, paying him as much attention as my kids do when I tell them to do their homework. Why is it that men always feel like they are God’s gift to the motoring world once they get behind the wheel of a car? Yellow flowered broom flashed by and the sun was setting. I devoured the scenery, surprised as usual, at how the mountain opposite, that I knew so well down in the valley could look so strange from our higher view point. It was like seeing a person, with whom you were well acquainted, in a completely different light and hardly recognising them.
My husband swung the car round the hairpin bends effortlessly, avoiding the large rocks that littered the track with skilled precision. I clung to the handle above the door, only letting go when we stopped for a few seconds to watch a roe deer hotfoot it out of one of the fields. It jumped easily over the electric fence that had been erected to keep it and the wild boar at bay.
“…if you happen to stall, try not to flood it this time, or you’ll never get it started again…”
I looked at him exasperated; I had been driving as long as him after all. We started our descent and suddenly the flock appeared before us. Almost three hundred pairs of eyes looked up simultaneously at our indiscreet approach. My husband turned the car round, and leapt out with Flossy following. I watched them wistfully as they vanished down the mountain with the sheep, taking the direct route back to farm.
I clambered across into the driver’s seat and looked confidently back at the track. My eyes followed it slowly upwards, as it ascended seemingly vertically. Grass grew two foot high down the middle and rocky outcrops protruded sporadically along the edges. I suddenly had a doubt. I quickly rifled through the database in my memory, looking for the driving instructions that corresponded with this type of situation, but drew a blank. I reassured myself that driving was only mind over matter and searched my soul for the boy racer that I was sure was hidden within, but I found no hint.
At somewhat of a loss, I decided that I would have to play it by ear. I put my foot gingerly on the accelerator, hesitated, then, taking a deep breath, I floored it.