History rattles across the points... Another driver fails to see you, commits to turning in front of you. It's far too late to brake and you feel the disgusting crunch of plastic and metal. I wasn't going nearly fast enough to be worried about anything other than the vast mountain of admin that half-a-second's worth of misjudgement (by someone else!) has created for me. No airbag, no injury, just that sick feeling that even though you've done nothing wrong it's still going to cost you money and time just to get back to where you started. One person I was talking to added that the scrutiny of officialdom is in itself stressful: walk past a police officer on the street, and be condemned to a full three minutes of wondering what precisely they could do you for, even if the answer is, realistically, absolutely nothing.
I wrote yesterday about mattering. A car accident is interesting enough to get a response from people if you talk about it. You get sympathy, you usually get an offer of a lift - today, both my dad and one of my wise, kind work colleagues stepped in - and you get the shared lament of accidents others have been involved in or the desperate ballache that is dealing with insurance claims. You get a sense that there are people to whom you matter, these little hummocks in the road (an ill-chosen metaphor, given the circumstances) that throw everything up in the air a bit seeming to just nudge people into considering the much worse consequences that weren't the result, but could have been. You get an occasional glimpse of another person's thoughts, usually well-hidden, as they react. My own parents' first reaction was a combination of world-weary resignation (to the paperwork, the possible cost, the time) and judgement (the other driver's likely invention of plausible circumstances that shift the blame away from him), but there was also that little bit of 'are you all right?' that comes from kindness and caring.
It's thoroughly British to hide how much someone matters to you. I sometimes wish I could, without fear of transgressing social norms, prod people into being more honest with each other, or saying the things they want to say but keep back in their own fear of transgressing. And then, I remember that bit of me that thinks 'therapy culture' is faintly ridiculous, and that the notion that you should share your feelings is just not the done thing. That part of me is still there, but quieter than it has been in the past, I think. I write at some length about a character who repeatedly does the highly un-British thing of revealing his feelings to a load of people, including his friends but also in some instances relative (or complete) strangers. He, of course, does not worry about the consequences of those revelations, although perhaps he should, if not for himself, then for the woman with whom he is so in love. History limits my options on Elizabeth's future. Where Strelley ends up next is still to be decided, that loose end of thread refusing to be tied up by any planning effort on my part. But that's a matter for book V. I've got de Winter, Longshawe and Pike to wrap up in book IV, first. Watch this space.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought