I hope your 2016 has started swimmingly and – 11 days in – those resolutions to marry Harry, get a promotion or learn how to programme your boiler so it doesn’t just come on between 2am-3am, are in full swing.
Given it’s a brand new, shiny year, my disaster brain was, naturally, jogged back to other new years; years that began with the best intentions and resolutions.
On New Year’s Day 2010 I was giving a bunch of friends a lift home the morning after a beautifully debauched house party up in Suffolk. A party hosted by none other than Mr and Mrs Poo-em if you want to read that story.
The party don’t start ‘til I walk in
Everyone secretly thinks they’re a brilliant driver, don’t they? I’m no different. My dangerous driving conviction, speeding points and various vehicular misdemeanours don’t mean I’m a bad driver. Just different. My friends used to joke about needing a crash helmet before getting in my car, and one poor bloke – hi Ben – even screamed like a schoolgirl when I u-turned on the motorway to get back to the exit I’d just missed. But in my defence the roads were pretty empty.
But, no, overall I actually think I’m a pretty proficient driver and I don’t deserve the bad rap I’ve had since I was 17. I mean my first crash was only two days after my 17th birthday but, again, in my defence, I’d only had ONE poxy driving lesson so who was I to say which pedal was the brake and which was the accelerator? My mum – who’d been shouting “BRAKE! BRAKE! BRAKE!” in the passenger seat – refused to drive with me again for at least a year. The neighbour who’d watched from behind her wheel as I sped up our quiet suburban street into the side of her car – and who was briefly hospitalised with shock – never did ask me to babysit again.
But back to that New Year’s Day lift I was giving my (brave? foolish?) pals. There they sat nursing their hangovers while I helped bring them back to peak health by, no doubt, wailing my heart out to No Doubt.
Don’t speaaaak, I know just what you’re saaaaaaying
No seriously don’t speaaaaak guys, I’m trying to sing along to Gwen Stefaaaniii
Early on in the two-hour drive back to London a pheasant suddenly popped up ahead in the road. He was such a little Houdini bird, appearing magically out of nowhere, that I didn’t have time to swerve.
Britain’s Next Top Pheasant
There was a horrible bump – the unmistakable shudder of bird-meets-car – and we all swung round to see what state our poor feathered friend was in. Well I say we all swung round; I of course looked briefly and Highway Code-abidingly in my rear view mirror.
None of us could see a body.
“That’s weird”, we commented aloud to each other.
“He must have flown off”, came one optimistic voice.
“…or be under another car”, chimed in a realist.
After a few respectful moments of silence for Phil the Pheasant – whatever his fate – the singing resumed; a couple of hours later we were back at my flat in Vauxhall. Remembering the shuddering impact I’d felt from the bird, I went round the front to check if the bumper was damaged.
Oh my EYES.
I’m sure you’ve already guessed what I saw.
The poor feathered friend we’d bumped into back on the A11 had actually accompanied us – albeit against his will – all the way to London. And he was wedged in the grille of my little Nissan Micra. And slightly grilled.
I let out a yelp.
And then I did what any self-respecting twentysomething woman would do in that situation: I phoned my dad. It’s usually dads who know what to do in these car-disaster-type-situations. Dad came over clad in leather gloves (think he’s watched too many Godfather films), and expertly extricated bird from bonnet, giving him a good and proper burial by chucking him in our communal bins.
It seemed so unjust. New Year’s Day of ALL days. I felt terrible. This creature’s life had been snatched away in one moment. And I felt sure that if Phil the Pheasant had ever imagined going home to The Heavenly Bird Sanctuary in the Sky “via car” he would have dreamt of a vintage Aston Martin…not a bashed up Nissan Micra.
What little pheasant kids did Phil have? What hot pheasant wife? What hopes? What pleasant, pheasant dreams? I just hoped that whatever New Year’s resolutions poor Phil had made for 2010, he managed to achieve them all before noon, day one.