Driving home tonight in a downpour, a relentless curtain of water, in the dark, and aquaplaning merrily through flood after flood, I had a mad and dangerous thought: “I’m so tired, how lovely it would be to close my eyes, just for a second or two.”
The idiocy of the thought was enough to scare me and I knew I had to stop , right there and then, to snatch a few minutes sleep. But that road snakes through a forest, barely enough room for cars to pass each other on the Z bends, and there was steady stream of blinding headlights coming towards me and a tail of headlights behind me. Nowhere to stop. I did all the usual things, prayed, wound the windows down, sang, coughed, ran my fingers through my hair (did you know that’s an ‘awakening’ thing?), shouted. No good. I just wanted to sleep. My tyres hit the verge, I trundled wildly in the rut for a few yards and then back up onto the road. That’s the second time in a month I’ve nearly left the road in monsoon rain (OK, I exaggerate. Whatcher gonna do?) What to do? I couldn’t stop, there would have been an instant pile-up.What to do?
Which bend was that? Am I at the start of the forest or in the middle? How far until I can pull off? So tired I don’t recognise the road, the curve of the verge, the camber, where does that ‘danger – rock fall’ sign come? Is it near the top of the hill or at the bottom? Where am I? I could be anywhere. Where am I?
And then, up ahead, I saw the sky a shade lighter. Here in West Wales we have no light pollution, our night skies are black velvet, so if there’s the faintest hint of a town below, we see it when we’re miles away. Hang on, Luce. Stay awake another five minutes, check the speed… down to 35 but I daren’t speed up, sorry fellow drivers. My driving is shocking. This woman is in trouble.
And then, thank God, ‘Welcome to Newcastle Emlyn’ and a deep and unlit lay-by. Lurch to a halt. And sleep. Lovely deep sleep. Sleep crawling across my skull, leadening my eyes, slowing my breath, as I sink into it so gratefully.
Thank you for keeping my fellow motorists safe, thank you for keeping me safe, thank you for this dark pull-off by a big old dairy next to some horrible factory. Thank you for an unlikely little haven, a spot of heaven.