Monday, 26 January 2009

Stop look and listen...and look out for giant squirrels




Friday night was a busy one . As the children’s book goes, it twas a dark and stormy night, well actuellement, to be honest it had also been a pretty dark and murky morning, afternoon and more or less pitch black evening too. We live “plein compagne”, i.e. stuck out in the middle of the nowhere with nothing but owls, deer and the odd wild boar for company, no street lights and no other houses in sight, when I say black you will appreciate I mean really black, not just a trifle on the dark side.
We tossed a coin to see who was going to trot off to have aperitifs with the “voisins” ( nearest thing we have to neighbours ) and who would have the pleasure of picking middle child up from handball and join the others for drinks later. Sort of devil and the deep blue sea choice really as one involved walking through the aforementioned pitch black clasping the hands of two children in order to navigate ones way past our boisterous Labradors ( who think anyone going out after dark is mad and thus needs barking and bouncing at) through the mud in our drive, along the lane with its beautiful, brimming, boggy drainage ditches either side (and no street lights)round the bend, up the hill and through the even muddier mud of the neighbours drive, and the other driving to the next town along roads covered in mud ( and don’t forget , no street lights) lots of interesting bends and black ice.

Now I don’t mind driving in the dark if it’s down country lanes where I can whack the lights on full beam and the only one I am going to dazzle is a passing fox. I do not mind driving though the well lit village (blink at the wrong time and you‘d miss our nearest village but at least it has lighting) but as soon as you pass the cemetery on the outskirts you are plunged into blackness and that I hate. It is like leaving a floodlit stage and walking out into nothingness. There are no road markings, (no street lights, did I mention that before?) and, as the road twists and rises, any passing traffic blinds you with their headlights even on low beam. The Bretons tend not to go out at night. The question... is this because there are no street lights or are there no street lights because they don’t go out at night?

I got to drive. So it was with a heavy heart I set out to collect sporty offspring and managed the entire journey without mishap until I turned gratefully into the area of pot holed mud which masquerades as the sports hall car park and almost squashed a pair of boys running about in the dark (ah yes you’ve guessed of course that the car park has no street lights haven’t you? There's a sort o fthem emerging isn't there?). I did a very effective emergency stop, managing to aquaplane across the puddles, missing both boys, and put my extensive vernacular French to good use by yelling at them in my very angry school teacher voice. Luckily in France this is a perfectly acceptable response to children who are being dangerously stupid and even administrating a thick ear would have been allowed, but happily before I had finished my tirade another adult emerged from the gloom and added his own selection of bon mots , which saved me from getting out and risking drowning in the mud.

The thing is that children are children and, as adults, it is our job to teach them appropriate behaviour and to teach them to be safe. I suspect that between my shouting and the angry bellwoing from avenging adult they have learnt their lesson. As it turned out my well phrased French was wasted as they little cherubs were not natives being visitors from England but at least they will go home with a firm grasp of vernacular French.

When I was a kid we had a red squirrel called Tufty to teach us road safety then there was the jolly green giant who did road crossing when he wasn’t advertising sweet corn( no honestly) and we all were given bright orange and silver arm bands to wear over our blazers. I was telling middle about this on the way home. He now thinks I am totally mad. Our kids here learn road safety in school, the police come in and teach them good practice and after which ,if they pass, the local mayor presents them with a pedestrians certificate. Its all very jolly, the parents come along and everyone has drinks and nibbles and the local press take a photo for the paper. Lots of kids coats have reflective bands on them and many kids have shiny dangly things like the Scanglo reflectors ( http://www.scanglo.co.uk/ ) actually our dogs have too but thats another story.
In England the Dft has a road safety campaign called “Tales of the Road” which they launched a few months ago, you can go to the website which even has games on it for the kids (http://talesoftheroad.direct.gov.uk/be-bright.php ). What I want to know is, dear to my heart as the topic is after my recent experience, are you and your kids aware of the Dft campaign and do you think it effective? Personally having looked at it on youtube ( http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=n-stmrbw_xg ) I think its all very Tim Burton in a gory corpses bride sort of way although I was a little disconcerted as “The girl who didn’t dress bright” is wearing my old school uniform, good gracious in my day the nuns would never have let her out looking like that!

Off now to try and master the road crossing game on the website, So far I have not managed to cross the road in a safe place once but then I think deep down I am still waiting for a jolly green giant to appear to hold my hand or perhaps I am still squirrel fixated...
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And for those too young to remember him, that at the top of the page is Tufty the red squirrel terrifying small children into behaving sensibly on the roads..well would you argue with a squirrel who was twice your size?

12 comments:

My Little Brown Book said...

The look on that little girls face (on the left) is PRICELESS!

Bless her!

LBB x

muddyboots said...

l was a member of the Tufty club. Didn't there used to there used to be a badge and magazine plus an annual. bliss.

Mrs ElderBerry said...

Hmm, l am glad to hear that french children are better behaved than their peers over here, or is the parents over here who don't know how to behave?

Pondside said...

I wouldn't yell at a naughty child over here - I'd risk a night in jail...and giving a thick ear would definitly lead to a criminal record.
We had Smoky the Bear for fire safety, but no squirrels that I can remember. That big squirel is really quite frightening.

ChrisH said...

So black even the white bits are black, eh? Don't envy you almost collecting small children as car mascots. Not a good look.

Elizabethd said...

I remember Tufty well!
I think you need to come and act as yeller at our school children, who cross the road from school with absolutely no thought for cars,pedestrians or anything. Many a time I've had to do a quick stop to avoid a small person gleefully galloping across the road. Or maybe I should jsut import Tufty?

Fennie said...

Never mind the kids. Why is it that the French can't be bothered to paint white lines down the middle of their roads or even (pause) buy some cats eyes? I mean why? They bemoan the volume of 'accidents sur la route' and yet they won't adopt such a simple (and cheap safety measure). In fact if every village as part of it's road safety campaign procured children to do the painting (under proper supervision) that might teach them something too about the difficulty that drivers have of seeing in the dark.

I am of course, far too old to remember Tufty or the Green Giant.
We had none of those aids - just stern authority figures telling us to look 'left, right and left again.' (Reverse it in France).

Tattie Weasle said...

I remember Tufty freindly chap it was that nasty Green Cross Code man who scared me witless looked like somtyhing out of a medcine cabinet!

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I haven't heard of the DFT campaign, but then I don't have children.

Debs said...

I remember Tufty, and the Green Cross Code man.

Cait O'Connor said...

Lovely descriptive post as ever.
I remember the Green Cross Code.
And thanks for help with Breton photos.

KittyB said...

Yell at children around here and you'd get beaten up by them or accused of some sort of abuse. Think I'll move to France, but it sounds about as dark as some of the back roads around here.