It was late, almost midnight-late, and we’d had a long day on the road, through Romania, across a rather bizarre border into Bulgaria and pushed on, well past our bedtime. Earlier in the day we’d witness the sneaky local police, hiding behind a bush with a speed camera. But we’d had the flash of headlights from a friendly local and slowed to the 30km/h snails-pace of a speed limit. We caught the cop’s look of curiosity as we passed, but this was quite normal by now, with our red banger covered in stickers sticking out like a sore thumb. In fact, we had to pass the traffic cop again a few minutes later, as we were forced to double back on ourselves after filling up at the local petrol station. And the second time we caught his look of confusion.
Anyway, we’re still driving and it’s almost midnight, as we enter a rather strangely named town, which tickles my fancy so much that I have to stop and grab a photo.
A few minutes later we come up behind an incredibly slow moving fiat-126, with a police light on top. Now I’m saying it’s a fiat-126 because that’s what it looked like to me, but it could well have been one of any number of teeny-tiny cars that frequent these parts, but I’m sure you get my gist. Anyway, we match his speed and follow for a minute or two. Is-it? isn’t-it? We debate, decide it most likely is, and ponder why it’s going so slow. Are they freewheeling to save fuel? Asleep? Drunk? Breaking down? Who knows, but the last thing we want is to get pulled over in the middle of the night, and in the middle of what may as well be nowhere. We weigh up the options. Do we turn off and stop or overtake? Options for turning off weren’t very inviting though.
Overtaking while abroad, in a right-hand-drive car, isn’t a manoeuvre I’m happy with at the best of times, never mind when it’s past a badly driven police car in the middle of the night. Julie sits up straight to get a better view of the road ahead, as two pairs of eyes are better than one, and she’s on the best side of the car for overtaking. I gently press the accelerator and our 1 litre engine summons up another couple of horsepower as I ease out and slowly pass the miniature cop car. Too scared to look across to see who’s driving, I stare straight ahead, trying to balance overtaking at what they might consider a safe speed, with getting back to the correct side of the road as quickly as possible. At 25 miles-per-hour it seems to be taking forever. Trying not to make eye contact, I grip the steering wheel tighter. I’m sure he’s staring at me. My heart is racing.
Then a miracle happens. Usually when you think “miracle” you think of loaves & fishes or parting the seas. But in our case it was nowhere near as significant, though just as unexplainable. Quite why our rear-view mirror, which had been securely attached to a bracket on the roof for the last seventeen years, chose this exact moment to break free and bounce off the dashboard, clatter off the gear stick and slam on to the floor, I’ll never know. Quite why, after a long tiring drive, in the middle of the night, while neck-and-neck in a precarious overtaking manoeuvre with miniature badly-driven police car, it chose this exact moment to scare the living daylights out of us, I’ll never know. But it did.
Needless to say, there were many a new swear word invented that night.