Thursday, 17 March 2011

Pottinger's Law

One of the lesser known axioms from the canon on “temptations of the fates” is Pottinger’s Law. As against the more generalised decrees promulgated by the ‘doom mongers of destiny’, this one is directly associated with roads and those who use them.

First brought to the attention of the general public, or more specifically the BBC Radio Four public, by the efforts of the late John Peel. Mr Pottinger, unlike a racially derogatory Irishman or the more generic ‘lump of turf’, is a particular, identifiable person. An Orcadian, acting as the islands’ BBC weather broadcaster, he noted that if two cars are motoring towards each other, they would inevitably meet at the narrow bridge. Simple and specific. It’s also remarkably accurate, and if you substitute bridge with dog walker, horse, cyclist or sheep for example, then the rate of incidence increases proportionately.

Saturday morning, the traffic is slight to negligible, we’re approaching El Cholar, visibility and sight lines are measurable in kilometres. A pick-up with it’s tethered, attendant plume of dust is in my rear view mirror, in front are three gauchos with a posse of dogs spread across the road, behind them another pick-up. Along with ourselves, we are the mobile imponderables, now fit in the one tangible fixed asset. A single lane bridge. You can see the inevitable unfolding.
Of course we all meet at once. As with ‘sail before steam’, so with ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ - our wheels counting as legs, dogs, horses and bikes assert their precedence and we all pass in a wave of good humoured greetings. A perfect Pottinger