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‘As Nights Draw In’ by Rik Lonsdale

I don’t normally like raising my voice but sometimes, when I’m working, I have to. This is one of those days.

The clocks have been put back and it is already getting dark. The wind is high and blustery, and it’s been raining for a couple of hours. Trees sway in the wind. The last remaining brown leaves are driven into already clogged gutters creating miniature dams and large puddles along the edge of the road. Those leaves that aren’t swept into the gutter stick fast, turning the pavement into an ice rink. The tarmac glistens in the street lights.

As if the noise of water running in gutters and wind blowing the trees is not enough, traffic on the road hisses and splashes as tyres carve a path through the sodden road. The bright lights of headlights flashing past one way and hot, red tail lights in the other direction make my work doubly difficult.

And just look at the drivers. Hunched over, steering wheels gripped as tightly as the scariest fairground ride, eyes focused on the car in front. People leaving work, looking forward to the warmth and dry of their homes, not caring about anyone else.

In amongst the cars are motorcycles, mopeds, occasionally cyclists smothered in tent like capes, all jostling for position on the wet, slippery road, all intent on their own journey. Occasionally one of the drivers might glance in my direction but their gaze quickly reverts to the stream of traffic. They are supposed to be able to see me clearly with my high visibility vest, but most of them seem blind to its neon yellow.

A large van goes past blocking my view, wheels in the gutter, splashing water and sodden leaves over my shoes and trousers. It’s then that I have to shout.

‘Stop. Stop, wait there,’ I yell at the top of my voice, hoping to be heard against the traffic and weather. The movement that I had seen ceases and I push myself out. This is the most dangerous and nerve-wracking part of my work. And this is the scariest time of year, when the dark comes early. But I must do it, so I lean out beyond the kerb, wave my yellow gloved hand in front of me, hoping the drivers see me. I watch and wait until I make eye contact through the beating windscreen wipers and see the car begin to slow, brake lights spilling red onto the road.

As the first car comes to a stop I step out, white coat flapping beneath my vest. I walk to the very centre of the road and plant my pole firmly on the ground, making sure its round sign can be seen by everyone. When all the traffic has stopped only then do I give the signal. The signal that it is now safe for the children to cross. There’s never a dull moment in the life of a Lollipop Man. Sometimes I wish there were.


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