Thursday, 8 December 2016


There is something slightly disturbing about fog. When it follows a period of bright, crisp December days and cold nights, the elevated temperature is not a fair trade. Fog changes everything, and is one of my most hated conditions in which to drive. The only one I dread more (other than ice) is fog at night, when a car journey becomes a long tiring test of one’s ability to discern distance and recognise everyday features as though on another planet.
Many years ago I needed to drive my (then teenage) son eight miles to a friend’s house, from where he would be taken on to a school Christmas Carol Concert rehearsal. A few hours later I would need to repeat the journey to pick him up. This is actually quite a short distance and the outward journey to the friend was fine. Although it was dark (and in Devon, winter nights can be VERY dark,) the route was clear. It was as I began to drive home that a blanket of fog descended. The route became instantly unrecognisable. As I strove to remember the location of some very sharp bends and other minor hazards, my eyes grew dry from not blinking and I thought the journey would never end. The final two miles involved turning off the main road and climbing a steep, winding and narrow minor road to the village in which we then lived. The road was bordered by Devon banks, those great mounds of earth created over centuries of farmers practising ‘hedging and ditching’ to border their fields. I wondered whether their apparently spongy covering of bracken, brambles and undergrowth would bounce me back on to the road if I strayed too close. Luckily I never needed to find out, as I eventually reached home without mishap after what felt like hours.

I dreaded the return journey which subsequently proved equally as bad. It is no fun reversing the car in such conditions in order to allow another car travelling in the opposite direction to pass. Not even sophisticated parking aids work in night fog, even if your car is fitted with them (which mine was not). I arrived slightly late at the friend’s house, where the fog appeared to be clearing, and as we drove back home again the visibility improved. The next day I had to drive the route yet again – and the fog had gone. It was daylight, visibility was sharp and familiar. The previous night’s anguish was soon forgotten.

How easily we humans adapt to our surroundings. Yes, driving through fog felt like purgatory at the time, but I managed it and I imagine if I had to endure it for a long time I would become better able to cope with it. My eyes would begin to compensate for the blurring, I would blink more normally and my sense of direction might improve. But today, when I awoke to mist and the haziness of nearby trees, I was infinitely glad not to have to be taking anyone anywhere!

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