I left my office early at 4pm today as I was on childcare duty. As I attempted to negotiate my way onto the A34 I found the roundabout blocked by a police outrider who was shortly joined by a series of police vehicles escorting five hearses carrying the bodies of the latest five British service personnel serving in Afghanistan. A sixth, empty hearse followed.
The convoy joined the dual carriageway pursued by a large number of cars but the police ensured that none overtook. We passed by some roadworks and a worker there respectfully removed his hard hat.
I have seen this sobering sight once before and both times it shook me. It is one thing to see the news reports or to read about the latest death but it is quite another to see the flag covered coffins pass you by.
Strangely, both occasions were around elections, the last being in June 2009, shortly after the County Council vote. The best aspect of this sad experience is that it has made me stop and think and, I hope, to put the whole election business into perspective.