The first drive after a broken finger may well be the best drive in the world
The lesson? Don't break bones
On a scale of one to things to do, breaking your finger ranks pretty low. Thing is you don’t realise just how much you use all of your fingers ‘til you can’t effectively use one. Opening doors is excruciating, putting your hand in your pocket means wincing, high fives are a no no. And that’s just for a simple, set it and forget it break. When you splinter the damn thing and need surgery to pin it back in to place things become more complicated.
Why yes, it did hurt.
In late January I did just that – snapped my ring finger while I was away from London. I went for an x-ray and was told that when I got back home I should go to a proper hospital and get it looked at, keeping it strapped up in the meanwhile. This wasn’t an option, because I was due to fly to Australia the next day to drive fast cars in the outback, then on to the US to play on the coast. For three weeks. ‘If it still hurts when you get back, get it looked at,’ they said. Duly, three weeks later I went to A&E for more x-rays. A couple of weeks later my left arm was numbed, hidden behind a screen, and my ring finger opened up to be pinned back together. I wasn’t allowed to drive for at least a month.
Before the lockdown - a shiny man and a big cast on a bus.
With two cars sitting in various bits of the country, and a pandemic about to hit the UK, I wasn’t keen on my predicament. Turns out, though, with the UK on lockdown, even if I’d miraculously recovered I’d not have been able to drive if I’d wanted to. Until now.
The world is slowly starting to spin again, the month of ‘no driving’ has long gone, and I had to drive somewhere to do a job. The job was to drive to Morgan Plus Four at Morgan’s factory in Malvern (lots and lots of miles away). After a quick battery change in my Morgan Three Wheeler it was time to have my first proper drive since late February.
Suitably togged up (no roof or doors means hats and jackets are needed when the sun’s in), I flicked the starter button cover open and heard its V-twin fire in to life for the first time in an age. A familiar burble fills the air and I smiled. The car wobbles in time with the engine, the wing mirrors vibrate to the point of uselessness. I used my formerly knackered left hand to select first gear and move off.
The car feels a little unsteady, as do I. No matter how much Gran Turismo you play on lockdown, there’s a hint of ‘how does this work again?’ about heading out on your own. Yes, the big wheel thing turns the front round things, the pedal on the right makes it go fast, the middle one slows it, and the left one works in conjunction with a sticky outy thing that allows it to go faster. I need to remind myself that the Morgan doesn’t like going round corners, its brakes are a bit cack, and it’s not very fast, before I head out lest I end up understeering in to a truck.
Fresh air hit my face, London’s roads were oddly empty even for the small hours, which allows me to do the speed limit rather than sit in the usual stop/start traffic. Seeing familiar parts of my own city for the first time since March feels strange, wrong even. Being out for a valid reason is all dandy, but it’s all so… empty. The city living some sort of half life while the planet recovers from the virus trying to kill it.
The V-twin burbled, dragging the car to 30mph, then on the motorway up to 70 without any dramas. The car itself is fairly conspicuous, so other road users were waving and taking pictures. Normally I smile and wave back, but because my face was covered by a wind-deflecting scarf they couldn’t see me SCREAMING with delight. A clear run, a crisp morning, and a hand that no longer hurt to bend. The freedom of it all was overwhelming. In fact, I was grinning all the way to Malvern. And back. That drive reenergised me in a way I’d not thought possible. Each gearshift was exciting, the noise and vibration of the car felt… right. The wind in my face, battering my senses wasn’t comfortable but thanks to being away from the ‘wheel for so long it felt right. So, so right. After a couple of months without the use of my left hand, longer waiting in my flat for the world to move again, to see other parts of the world with fresh eyes was a treat.
However, driving on he comparatively empty roads needed caution. Emptier roads leads to greater temptation – the number of people doing waaaaaay over the limit was crazy, the middle lane hoggers immeasurable, risks being taken on country roads clenchingly scary, and pedestrians used to little traffic not paying attention. You need to have your wits about you to make sure you don’t land yourself in trouble. When you do get out, though, savour it. I’ve been buzzing since I got home, and hopefully you were the same.
Oh, and don’t go breaking your fingers. It really messes your life up for a while.