When there’s fun to be had in other cities, a girl has to get there.
creative partner Sue Blundell
One of just ten black kids in the whole of the city – that was me, growing up in Edinburgh. It was really tough at times. Now I’ve made it into my twenties, and I’m out to enjoy myself. Gallus, they call me in Scotland. A wee bit reckless.
There’s a party in Newcastle. That’s not far, I’m hiring a car.
Two days to go, and one of my pals visits a clairvoyant in Portobello.
‘I can see a red car. Look out! It’s going to crash!’
Not to worry. I’m down for a white Mini Metro.
But the next morning it crosses my mind to switch to a vehicle with a bit more room. Fate, you might call it. Waste of effort too, because at the last minute two of my mates decide to cancel. There’ll only be three of us.
The new car is a red Austin Metro.
To be honest, we don’t give it much thought. We have a wicked time in Newcastle, and by two in the morning we’re back on the road to Edinburgh. Rain’s lashing down. That’s OK, I can cope.
My two mates are fast asleep. Alex the six-footer is beside me, seatbelt fastened, chair reclining. Lorraine’s in the back, with her seatbelt undone. Suddenly, as we get near Berwick, everything goes white. Fog, out of nowhere. I can’t see a thing.
‘Don’t panic, Linda,’ I say to myself. ‘You’re a great driver. Christ Almighty!’ All at once, the rain has quadrupled.
‘The car’s going to skid!’
I steer into it, just like I’ve been taught. No effect whatsoever.
The car spins once, twice, a third time, like an out-of-control ballet-dancer, right in front of the oncoming traffic. My mates are still sleeping, but from somewhere I can hear a voice.
‘Who are you?’
So now I’m coiled up under the steering-wheel, and we’re careering over the verge … through a fence … doing three back-flips …
‘I can’t open my eyes. Yes you can. Oh no, I’m in my coffin!’
Actually, we’ve come to a stop in the middle of a cornfield, and the roof of the car is grazing my forehead. There’s smoke belching from the engine.
‘Get your pals out!’ I squeeze through a gap. But where’s the car disappeared to?
The roof’s been flattened right down to where the door handles used to be. I reach in to turn off the engine, and toss the keys into the corn. It’s still pouring with rain. Water’s running down my face.
Alex is lying flat, and bleeding badly. I manage to drag him out.
‘No sign of Lorraine. LORRAINE!! Where are you?’
I’m searching and sobbing. I know her Mum. How can I go home to Edinburgh, and tell her, ‘I’m sorry, it was me driving, and Lorraine …’
Then I see her, standing up in the cornfield. She’s been catapulted out of the car.
Ambulances. Sirens. In Berwick hospital Alex and Lorraine are brought back from the dead. Later a police inspector takes us to the local breakers yard, and shows us a pile of twisted metal.
‘Twenty-three years I’ve been in this job,’ he says. ‘I’ve seen plenty of crashes, fatal some of them. But I’ve never seen anyone walk away from something as bad as this. Remember that, the next time you fancy a drive.’
You’re lucky to be alive, that’s what he means. And through all the bad stuff that happens to me later, I never forget that. I move to London and become one of only twenty women bus drivers in a garage of 800 men. I’m still very good behind a wheel, but I’m not quite so gallus.