I cut through the lanes across the Romney Marsh until I get to the Texaco garage where I buy two Red Bull Lights and some fuel for the motor. I text my girlfriend to tell her I will be back in London in 95 minutes and then I put my foot down.
The last time we’d travelled down together we’d left the car, which was being fixed, and took the train. It was so relaxing. No traffic jams, no lane dodging, no speed cams, no snappiness from the driver. Lots to chat about eye-to-eye, great countryside to share and a funny cab driver to take us to and from the station. The girlfriend kept highlighting how much nicer I was on the train, how more relaxing she found it and how my son would prefer it. She even offered to buy a sedan car to leave at the cottage and the train station so we could have transport down there without me doing time trials to get down there.
I get obsessed about the time it takes me to get anywhere. It’s not just about beating the time but just knowing how long it will take. I become frustrated and fretful if it goes wrong, irritable if it’s really slowed down, and dangerous if I’m racing a record. Not too dangerous but I once broke some eggs hitting speed humps in London at 60 miles an hour.
And so I had considered she was right but just this once I would drive the decorator mate of mine down with his equipment and come back leisurely at my own pace. Which is fast and loud in the dark.
Legend has it that the motorway concerned has little police presence because it’s one of the roads continental visitors travel on if they come through the channel tunnel and therefore European driving speeds would take a while to slow down from. But that’s an excuse I guess. Even before we hit the motorway we have 22 minutes of well tarmacced, spacious two and sometime four lane roads that are scattered with signs warning motorbike racers to be careful. There are no speed cams and no noticeable grave stones or bunches of flowers so I guess the area only attracts the very best bike riders.
Driving across Romney Marsh, guided by the moon, it’s hard not to think of Dr Syn, the famous fictional smuggler of these parts. The marsh is eerie, the car must look like horizontal lightning streaking through the fields. I lower the windows and listen to the night beyond the wind. It’s cold and chilly and dark and just demands to be bombed across. These are the fields the Battle of Britain was launched from. Tiny airfields still pepper the landscape. The area was built for speed.
As I power past the main town and onto the motorway I select a playlist for the iPod that I’d made for my son and wonder what the hell I was doing introducing an 8 year old to the Sex Pistols. I insert the head phones and just kick it up. There are two sets of lights and then we’re on, bumper to bumper with lorries until you can break into the outer lanes and begin to ride the curving undulating black top. Lights screaming off into the distance, the car hugging the undulation. The gliding power. The moment. Listening to Another Girl Another Planet by The Only Ones four times in a row, thinking about the love song it appears to be and the heroin song it’s believed to be.
The road is wide, bold and like all the best bits of a Scalectrix track stuck together to make one long twisting line back to the capital. 9.30 at night it’s often nearly empty. There’s space to fly right past 110mph without worrying anyone. I can see the two empty Light cans rolling back and forth in the passengers footwell but I can’t hear them. It’s just the road, the music and night. It feels like I’m flying. Press the ‘back’ arrow on the iPod and have another three minutes of heaven.