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Fen Fatale

by sue n 

Posted: 03 December 2004
Word Count: 360
Summary: Death on the roads. Written for Richard

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Fen Fatale

I thought they were over - all those years of worry as each child in turn reached the age-of-the-car. As the dreaded honk outside the front door summoned them to roar off into the unknown, I was left sick with anxiety that they may never return. First it was assorted heaps of ageing hatchbacks that carried them away, to be upgraded into gutteral souped-up saloons, finally mutating into third rate sports cars or powerful status boosters - each one a potential threat against my beautiful children.

The long straight stretches of fen road lined by dykes look benign but are peppered with the odd chicane worthy of any Grand Prix, and end in acute bends round rectangular fields. Add rain, frost or mud to a second's loss of concentration and 'bang'.

I'd thought we'd all survived - only a few near misses and the odd write-off that bruised the ego as much as the body.

The frightening screech of burning rubber outside my house, which lies on a corner of the boy racer's nightly circuit through my Fenland city, isn't quite so immediate, for these youngsters are the next generation. My kids and their band of friends were now scattered to the winds, absorbed in careers, travelling, partners - grown-up pursuits.

But I'd become complacent.

I was with my daughter when the phone call came. One of the gang, home between travelling adventures, tempted back into boyhood by the familiar yet treacherous roads, had met his death in the violent impact of car and tree. I grieved for his parents, who too must have thought they'd escaped.
Instead there was one more promising life cut short, one more name to join the ever-growing roll of dead fenland youth.

What's the answer? To make teenage boys be sensible is against nature. Mix power and speed with the exuberance of youth, wind in the hair, the driving beat of the music, girls and mates to impress and you have a limitless arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

There's no Sassoon or Owen for this lost generation, no glory in their mangled bodies, only a despair that the carnage seems unstoppable.

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 06:44 on 04 December 2004  Report this post
Sue, this is beautifully written and tragic. You mention poets at the end - this piece is almost a poem in that it's concise and the descriptions and imagery are rich.

I guess this piece is what they call creative non-fiction. As for publication - a filler or reader's letter, perhaps?

I like the title too, particularly as girls are a factor in the equation.


SamMorris at 09:57 on 04 December 2004  Report this post
Hi Sue,

I thought this was very poignant and went straight to the heart of the matter. If you look at any school year photo there's a good chance that at least one of the faces would be involved in a fatal road accident. Driving cars stupidly fast round country lanes is almost seem as a rite of passage when you are a young lad, no matter your background or where you live.

I was wondering, if you wanted to expand, if you could discuss any possible solutions to the problem - is there a solution? It's very effective left as it is, but I thought you have touched on a really engaging issue here, and there was room for more if you wanted.

All the best


sue n at 11:44 on 05 December 2004  Report this post
Thanks Sam and Elspeth
That's a good suggestion Sam, I will work on it.
I wouldn't know where to place this appart from letters. All my attempts at journalism so far have been rather personal. I will have to try something objective next.

halfwayharry at 22:47 on 05 December 2004  Report this post
I really liked this.

'The frightening screech of burning rubber outside my house'

This line really made me 'sit up' and anchored the piece in my imagination.


Richard Brown at 12:13 on 06 December 2004  Report this post
I concur absolutely with the words of praise; indeed a poetic piece.
And it is extraordinary that thousands die each year on the roads, a perpetual epidemic without apparent antidote. Better engineering? improved driver education? - but risk-taking can be so thrilling.

As for publication - the WW Directory shows that the 'Good Motoring' magazine features road safety. I have no experience of the publication but it might be worth a try, especially if you do decide to expand the piece and suggest changes to the way we do things.


Account Closed at 14:00 on 06 December 2004  Report this post
Far be it for me to disagree with you Richard, but I did a bit of research into the motoring/car mags with my French piece in mind and found them very technical/performance gadgety. I think this piece would be better in a woman's/parenting mag as the emotional content is high.
Winning readers' letters can get up to 50 which is not to be laughed at!!
Otherwise, you'd have to make it far more factual with statistics etc so the poetry element would be lost, i fear.


Richard Brown at 18:54 on 06 December 2004  Report this post
Fair enough!


sue n at 19:14 on 06 December 2004  Report this post
Thanks for all the comments,
I think I will suggest a few antidotes.
I am flattered at the 'poetic' references - it was written the night of Richard's funeral and I wouldn't want to lose that immediacy.
I never really considered any publishing potential.

Isn't that a wonderful thing about this site - that you can post up something written out of the need to put pen to paper so to speak.
Sue n

Sue H at 19:26 on 06 December 2004  Report this post

This definitely should be published as it strikes a chord with everyone. There is a road just like this near my sister's house in Dorset and there are fatalaties. Needless to say no one will do anything about it - more road signs, whatever - as apparently you have to reach a certain number of deaths before the council will take action. As if one death wasn't enough!

This is very powerful and I hope you manage to get it published.


scoops at 12:01 on 07 December 2004  Report this post
Sue, This is a beautiful piece of writing. I'm useless at grammar but I think it should be 'might' and not 'may', and I think the word 'immediate' is the wrong one in the sentence about the new generation. Your writing is compelling. I know it's factual, but it's far too poetic to be published in its current form. It could, however, be the introduction to a longer creative piece because your use of language is terrific. I'm only covering what others have said before, but it made my heart clutch with anxiety for my daughters:-( Shyama

sue n at 22:20 on 07 December 2004  Report this post
Thanks Shyama
I will think about 'immediate'. I reread the piece about 3 times searching for the 'may'until I realised it wasn't in my bit!
I'm still considering extending the article but something is stopping me going back to it.Maybe in a little while.

aitchison21 at 14:17 on 03 January 2005  Report this post
Hi Sue

I am dreading this stage for my two boys who are coming up for 10 and 8, long way to go but a long time is short enough.

It really struck a chord and i have known people who have died this way.

Very well written, although as mentioned it would need expanded upon to make it a proper article.


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