“Guillam drove languidly but fast…he moved the gear lever with a long flowing movement as if he were passing it through water. They had raced through Runnymede and begun the run up Egham Hill.”
So begins Chapter 4 of John Le Carre’s smouldering epic, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Real life places feature heavily in the Smiley novels and our very own Egham Hill is no exception. The labouring movements and whispers which provide the engine for Le Carre’s work stand in stark contrast to occasional flourishes of speedy perspicacity. This is one such instance. A similar relationship plays itself out from day to day on Egham Hill. The lifeblood of our university has seen its fair share of Peter Guillams, drivers who romanticise acceleration. However, the horrific crash, the aftermath of which I was unfortunate enough to have witnessed serves to remind, when life exists not on the page, but in the delicate danger of the here and now what precarious lines we tread.
On Monday 1st October the motorcycle driver who was severely injured at Middle Hill Junction is I understand, still alive. But fate could so easily have tipped this man’s mortality onto the wrong side of the coin, as in the past, has tragically been the case. However, I understand, and am relieved to hear of an SU representative in the community lobbying for a crossing at some point on the road. Egham Hill is a hazardous place and therefore, vigilance from all of us is absolutely necessary, even if we are, as some helpers at the scene were, subjected to abuse from motorists attempting to bypass the accident. For Egham hill is a road teeming with not only commuters, families and business vehicles but also students.
In the opening lines of Le Carre’s chapter, there is a foreboding message. Drivers of this university when on the road must shake off the dusty visage which comes from living all day in a book. Far too many times my friends and I have been privy to near scrapes merely five steps from the university front gate. After all, Le Carre goes on to say
“Smiley wondered how old Guillam was and guessed forty, but in that light he could have been an undergraduate.”
Often the stuff of fiction is far closer, and more dangerous than it seems.