This far south, the price of lighter evenings in the winter is earlier darkness in the summer. Although it is only the beginning of August, very little light remains at 9.30 pm. Staring out across the fading landscape, a dark grey long wheeled base Land Rover went down the road. It was fitted with a roof rack and three young men, perhaps eighteen or nineteen years of age, were sat on the roof, holding onto the roof rack and chatting as they went along.
Having once ridden on the roof of a bus in the Philippines, holding onto whatever metal could be reached as it lurched its way along mud tracks that were considered mountain roads, tracks with perilous drops to the downward side, I have to say that riding on the roof of a vehicle on a public road whilst holding onto a roof rack is something very dangerous, and is, of course, completely illegal. Yet the sight of the three young men brought happy memories from childhood.
Encounters with policemen were far more frequent, stations were dotted all around the district, but perhaps the local constables felt they had more important things to do than speak to small boys who balanced beside the driver’s seat of grey Massey Ferguson tractors as they journeyed between farm and field, or sat on top of loads of hay bales or wheat sheaves as they were driven back to the barns.
Had the boys being carried along been asked about what they were doing, they would have admitted that they knew it was illegal. The word among us was that a trailer had to have sides at least six inches high for people to be legally able to ride in it. None of us knew where this “law” might be written, and all of us knew that none of the trailers on which we rode would have been considered legal: they invariably lacked brake lights, indicators and number plates – but so did the tractors.
There is a positive lesson in breaking the law. Behaving like the three young men creates an awareness of risk, it compels a judgement regarding what can be considered and what should be avoided. It enables an understanding of why it is advisable to obey laws. Maybe it even creates citizens who are less inclined to be litigious when suffering minor mishaps, those encountering real risks are more likely to recognise real risks. (It is difficult to imagine the three young men behaving like an Irish politician who sought to sue a hotel for not warning her that she might fall off a swing when holding a wine bottle in one hand and a glass in the other).