About five o’clock one morning last week I was woken by strange noises outside. Rattling and thumping, high-pitched whistling, a kind of roaring which ebbed and flowed in irregular bursts. The storm forecast earlier had arrived. Nothing like the Great Storm of 1987 which reached over 130mph gusts; no, a small seedling of maybe 50/60mph, which would soon blow itself out. The UK rarely suffers more than the tail end of the hurricanes other parts of the world experience, but even little puffs like these are enough to shake our house which sits in the mouth of a funnel formed by the river valley. The noise kept me in that state between sleep and waking, neither one nor the other, the helpless state, where irrational fears easily get a foothold.
Suddenly I was engulfed by terror. I saw the road I was to drive in the morning as an insurmountable obstacle course, the many twists and turns across some very minor hills filled with danger. There is a short stretch of road called the gander’s neck, rather narrow, the bends tight and close together, which always requires the driver’s full attention. I saw myself entering the first bend, coming up against storm broken trees blocking the road and being unable to turn back. One side of the gander’s neck falls steeply off into the valley below and on the other side the hillside rises equally steeply. I was swept into helpless imagination of every detail of the road like a film before me, the damaged trees, the narrow road, my car slewed sideways, other cars about to crash into me. Frantically I worked out what to do. Leave the car, walk back to the beginning of the curve, put up a hazard sign? Wave down other drivers? My heart was pounding, I was literally paralysed by anxiety, lying there in my warm and comfortable bed.
Forcing myself to come fully awake I got up, switched on the lights, had a drink of water, went to the bathroom, told myself not to be silly. Nothing worked, my pulse raced and afraid of going back to bed still in the grip of this irrational anxiety I popped a Lorazepam from my secret stash.
This is a nothing story about a non-event but driving that road for real later that same day the night-time fear was still hanging around and I drove more carefully than at any other time.