I was in the barber’s shop when I heard the news report on the radio. Some guy in a white van had gone crazy in Cardiff, using his vehicle as a weapon. He’d done four seemingly random hit and run attacks, and had even got out of the van at some point to assault his victims. One woman was dead, and the youngest casualty wasn’t quite two years old. The man had been arrested.
I was getting the usual haircut: no. 4 at the sides and a scissor cut for the top. I was well used to the woman who was cutting my hair, and we usually would chat a bit, but this time we hadn’t said much; I wasn’t really feeling like making the customary small talk about kids, holidays, weather. The bulletin changed that. She got in before me: Mad that, isn’t it? We discussed various aspects of the story, theorised about the motives of the killer. She switched scissors and moved the conversation to more local issues: she’d been opening up the shop one morning when joyriders in a stolen Jeep had driven along the pavement at high speed to get away from the peelers who were chasing them through the morning traffic. Thank God the schools were off, or who knows what might have happened. Wee kids walking to school an all. Reciprocating, I shared my story:
You know the big junction up at Forestside, where the road down from Sainsbury’s meets the Ormeau, and there’s a wee island at the traffic lights for pedestrians to cross over the road? So I was there, coming down from the supermarket, yes – in my car, stopped at the lights, ready to turn right and head down the way. The lights were red on the Ormeau Road too, so nothing was moving. I remember it was really quiet; probably a Sunday. There was this hippy on the island, waiting to cross. He’d just lit a rollup and was waiting for the green man so he could cross over. He was holding his fag in his right hand, and it was hanging down by his side. All of a sudden, a car, hatchback, doing maybe 50, flew through the lights, coming from my right. Aye, they must have gone up the wrong side to get round the other cars.
So just then they lost control of the car, and instead of going straight up the empty road they shot across the island, somehow squeezing the car between the posts of the traffic lights. I know; you couldn’t do it if you tried. On the other side they hit the kerb, then raced off up the road. It was still deadly quiet. There was just this wheel hub rolling across the road, which settled in the opposite gutter. I wasn’t sure if the hippy had even noticed what’d happened till he went to lift his fag. The car had knocked it out of his hand. You know, if they’d hit him…
Crazy. He was one lucky boy. She held up the mirror. That alright for you?