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I was joking with an older nurse colleague that there 'should' be thousands of ghosts in the hospital where we work, and that they must be very lazy if we'd never seen a single one. She asked me if I believed in ghosts and I said that I found most supposed ghost stories unconvincing for various reasons, with the exception of one account I heard a few years ago. She mostly felt the same way, but had had one experience which was so vivid that she couldn't explain or dismiss it. This is what happened:

She was driving her car in the middle of a sunny day along the A2300 towards Burgess Hill, here in Sussex. Her little dog was riding in the front seat next to her, as was his habit. Then suddenly the light in the car became inexplicably dappled. She found this very strange. It was the kind of flickering you might experience if you were driving in the shadow of leafy trees, except there were no trees to cast such a shadow. At that same moment her dog vacated the front seat and climbed into the back. She's not sure why, but she found herself saying aloud, half to the dog, half to herself "has someone just joined us?". Then, to her great astonishment, a figure materialised in the seat next to her. It was a very small female, about 4ft tall, wearing an old fashioned blouse and long blue skirt, her head turned away, looking out of the side window. My colleague continued driving, unsure how to react, for about two miles, and then the apparition simply disappeared.
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It is a warm Saturday and, as I push the baby around our ovoid housing estate, several men are in evidence diligently polishing their cars.

I'm not sure I see the point in polishing cars. They stay outside all the time anyway, exposed to the elements. It's like polishing a house. We only wash our car if the moss growth starts to threaten its aerodynamics.

One of the polishing men I observed was down to the last corner of his vehicle. "Perfect", I joked.

"Not quite" he half-joked back.
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Ooops.

13/10/07 22:11
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Despite the miraculously car-free countryside it seems that no visit I make to the Czech Republic is complete without witnessing, or being involved in, a spectacular vehicle collision of some sort. I snapped this one today as we were driving to the airport. I think the two guys standing there were in that squashed car. Now, how on earth did they get they get it into that posture? There's no sharp bend and there was no ice. Were they trying some 'trick driving' on two wheels?

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The incident with [profile] raywelly and the police to which I alluded last week. My dear wife thought it was too funny not to photograph. I'm in the white shirt. Apparently Ray's motorbike's number plate was smaller than the legal size; too small to be read by police recognition devices. The polite policeman explained that a crack down was necessary because (and he really said this) "Al-Qaeda could orchestrate a terrorist attack and then escape untraced on motorbikes with small number plates", and no doubt also on a fleet of unicycles, penny-farthings, pogo-sticks, space hoppers and other 'stealth' vehicles without number plates.
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Look what we found outside our back door this morning! No, not the polystyrene box....all the SNOW! We don't get much of it in the south of England so it does tend to bring out the child in me. The wife was thrilled too. Snow reminds her of home and, no doubt, all those long months she spent helping Father Christmas build wooden toys in his workshop. As an extra treat we got to see the Great British Motorist trying to deal with an inch of snow all day. Most of the larger vans couldn't manage the 3 degree incline outside our flat. Many serious faces were glimpsed through windscreens as they grappled with the hazardous task of driving slowly. The wife observed that "English people can't drive in snow".
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Hurrah! Sold our poxy old car on ebay for £251!!

Goodbye car. You were 'born' in 1989, when I was a miserable teenager. You were noisy, stinking, dirty and French. I despised driving you. In fact, I despised even being a passenger in you. I felt like a mouse trapped inside an old, unwashed baked bean tin. You were a hideous eyesore (all cars are). You ate hundreds of pounds of our meagre income every year, even when we were only using you to go to the supermarket once a week.  But you never actually broke down,  you were cheaper than public transport, and my wife liked you. So, grudgingly, I must thank you, car.

Bah!
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As I finished my driving lesson today I told my instructor "I've all but conquered my fear of driving now. It's great feeling, because it's been hanging over me for many years."

"That's excellent" he replied and then, as he climbed back into his car, he added "all we've got to do now is deal with your guilt"
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Driven

4/10/06 07:51
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I had another terrifying driving lesson yesterday evening, in the rain. Terrifying for me but not my instructor. Nothing frightens him. He's an ex-policeman with the shaven-headed appearance of a nightclub bouncer and manner of a skilled psychotherapist. It is a small mystery to why I am so frightened of driving. I'm not afraid of looking after very ill people in the hospital or public speaking or facing down authority. It's hardly as if the permanent traffic jam that is daytime south-east England moves fast enough to kill even the most reckless would-be racing driver, let alone snails like me. There are barely any cyclists left to kill either, because they've long since surrendered the roads entirely to cars. In the few places where traffic moves fast I'm not actually afraid. It's the slow stuff that gets me shaking. Fear of stalling on a busy roundabout and causing some huge mess, and insurance claims. I think that's it. Fear of humiliation. I've seen some of the younger students at college become paralysed with fear of public speaking when all they're doing is reading some stuff off a sheet in front of 20 people they already know. They act as if they're in actual physical danger. Fear of appearing incapable which, paradoxically, just renders them actually incapable. That's me trying to drive. The other element is the controlability of cars. I'm okay on a bike, they're so simple they respond as if they are an extension to your own body. In a car it's all more vague. Pedals and buttons. It's like playing a church organ. It doesn't feel entirely in control. However last night it dawned on me; that's actually how it is for everybody. Cars really are that shit. That's why they crash so often. Nobody cares. That's all I have to do. Stop caring so much.
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My old Hong Kong schoolfriend, Matthew, has just returned there for a little holiday and took this picture from his hotel window. This road junction was almost within sight of my bedroom window when I was a teenager. I used to walk past it often on the way to school. That yellow box was a great place for car crashes. I remember once going down there and finding several smashed up vehicles, including half a taxi with a (whole) driver still sitting in it, totally unscathed, looking really pissed off and talking into his CB radio. He was polite enough to give us a little blow by blow account of the whole incident. Haha. Happy days.
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We went to Gatwick airport to pick up my Czech mother-in-law last night. She’ll be staying with us for ten days. When we got back to our car in the airport multi-storey we found another car halfway up a ramp nearby with its engine still running….and on fire! I thought there were people still in it. But then this pretty, bemused-looking girl with a French-African accent appeared and asked. “Is it safe?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Safe to get my bag and phone out. They’re still in there. Do you think it’ll blow up?” My mother-inlaw was in frantic mode by this time; shouting in Czech:
“Call the police! Do something!”
“Probably best to forget your bag” I told the girl, who smiled weakly as the carpark began to fill with thick, acrid smoke. Then orange flames leaped from the car’s engine and, bizarrely, it came to life, as if with a mind of its own, and started flashing its lights and crawling slowly up the ramp.

Tee Hee!

We left them to it and went home.