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Cocktail of despair and smugness

28 Sep 2006 / in Oxfordshire, Swinford toll bridge
Yet another fatality on the A40 caused chaos on the roads around Oxford this morning. The A40 was closed for several hours and inevitably traffic diverted over the Swinford Toll Bridge, just outside Eynsham where I live.

Longstanding readers already know about my hatred of the toll collection on that bridge, as earlier this year and mounted a one-woman campaign to get the tolls scrapped. Once I had spoken to all the politicians and decision makers, I could go no further with the campaign on my own.

I needed a bunch of active supporters, and to devote every moment of my so-called ‘free’ time to it. I could have mustered a bunch of angry bridge users fairly easily. But devoting my free time? My free time is essentially my painting time, which as it is I don’t have enough of. I would have had to stop painting. I couldn’t do that. I needed to find another answer.

The answer was the purchase of my small orange motorcycle, which renders traffic jams an irrelevence and waiting frustratedly at bus stops a distant memory.

So when I started my bike this morning at 8 o’clock for the 20 minute ride into town (the journey used to take me 40 to 60 minutes) and saw the traffic queuing right back up into the village, my heart sank. ‘You poor sods’ I thought, knowing exactly the feelings of frustration of those stuck in cars, vans and buses. ‘You poor sods’ I thought as I rode effortlessly past at a steady 30mph, grateful to drivers who use their rear-view mirrors and pull over a bit to ease my overtaking. ‘You poor sods’ I thought, as I had to stop to let an oncoming vehicle pass, grateful for the opportunity to flick a bit of hair out of my eye. ‘You poor sods’ I thought, all that wasted time.

The toll bridge staff were still collecting tolls, causing a needless bottleneck, profitting out of the additional traffic. It makes my blood boil that this highway robbery is not illegal.

But while I was whizzing along on my virtually non-stop 20 minute ride, feeling sorry for all my fellow road-users caught up in the chaos, an strange, uncomfortable feeling decended on me. A curl of smile appeared on my lips. I felt smug. Smug as a really smug thing in a smugtown. How I love my tiny orange motorcycle!

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