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The Secret Cevennes - articles by Samantha David


Toad on the Road  

      I have to confess that behind the wheel I have a tendency to mania: Hoorah, the open road!  Hooray, let's go fast!  Toot toot!

      I do know this wrong: irresponsible, dangerous, childish and generally reprehensible.  I even fight against it, heaving my foot off the accelerator and forcing myself to slow down and drive properly instead of screaming through the countryside like a racing driver on acid.

      But the tendency lurks in my bloodstream like a virus just waiting for an excuse to break out again.  Yes, under the skin I'm at least 50% pure Toad of Toad Hall.

      Which of course used to be one of the guilty pleasures of living in France.  When we first moved here everyone seemed to drive as fast as they could - and unless there was a crash the police turned a blind eye. 

      Not any more.  Guess what?  I've got a speeding ticket.  From the approach to the Tunnel du Pas de l'Escalette just north of Lodève.  Boo hoo.  It's such a fabby bit of road - just wavy enough that you can't drive a straight line through it, but almost straight enough to do so if you use the verges and the emergency stop carriageway.  A dream.  Driving down there is like waltzing.  Do it fast enough and it's almost like flying.

      Okay, okay I know... guilty as charged Lord Copper.  Yes, I am the miserable Toad.  No, I shall never do it again... well, fingers crossed I don't get caught again anyway.  Oops, what am I saying?  Naturally I won't do it again.  Well, not on that bit of road anyway.

      I'm torn.  Given an empty motorway and a modern car, the temptation to floor the accelerator is very strong.  Strong enough to understand exactly why people buy devices to warn them if there's a radar in the area.

      On the other hand, we all know that speeding is Bad.  Speeding is dangerous, expensive and makes ordinary accidents into fatal ones.  So it's a good thing that the French authorities are cracking down on speed-maniacs like me.  The radars, the fines, the police files and the points off your driving licence will all lead to less deaths on the road - which is obviously a Very Good Thing.

      But it isn't only about radars on motorways.  The current campaign extends even up here into the mountains, where the latest fashion accessory for any self-respecting village is a posse of sleeping policemen.  They've got them down the valley in St-Marie-de-Moisson, and there's gossip that they're installing them in M-le-Cèbe, too. 

      But the funniest story is about Moisson-le-Grand where they installed a whole stationful of sleeping policemen just before the tourist season and have been sued as a result.  Apparently, all those Parisians, driving round the Cévennes like Toad on a good day, have been smashing their suspensions up on the speed humps.

      So what's the result of this legal action?  Fines all round?  Parisians driving sensibly?  Huge speed humps in all the villages?

      Nope.  The powers-that-be in Moisson-Le-Grand are making the sleeping policemen less humpy - so you can drive over them at speed without damaging your car.







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