28. In the Wilds of East Anglia!

While in Suffolk I had great fun following many of the meandering country roads in the district – around every corner there’s always another wonderful sight to admire and photograph. Remember to click on a photo if you want to see more detail. (Takes a few seconds to load).

A cottage in Suffolk – what an amazing thatched roof!

An everyday cottage looking like something from a fairytale – near Lavenham.

It was on one such road that it dawned on me why the English love the TV program Top Gear. Sitting in my comfy lounge back in Brisbane I could never understand why the English would be so interested in the facts and figures re brake horsepower, 0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds etc. They only have tiny roads, I reasoned, why are they so interested in figures that would only apply if you frequented a race track or the autobahn?

A driver’s-eye view of the road ahead on a typical English country road.

The answer – they drive like rally drivers, especially on the country roads. You come round a tight bend and there slap-bang in the middle of the road is a maniacal English driver going like the clappers determined not to lose a millisecond of travelling time by slowing down or moving over to make room for anyone else while taking the corner. There’s a lot of engine noise and changing of gears as they roar past you and you’re hoping all the while that the branches sticking out from the hedge that you’ve swerved perilously close to aren’t causing too much damage to the paintwork on the side of your car.

The roaring sound reminded me of many a night watching Top Gear at home. I remember the first night my son asked if I wanted to watch the show – he said he thought I might enjoy it. I can still picture the look of utter disbelief on my face as I turned to him saying ‘But isn’t it a car show? Why would I want to watch a car show?’ I also felt a little disappointed that my son knew so little about me that he actually believed I might want to watch a show about cars. Oh well, that’s life.

Over a number of weeks I became vaguely interested in discovering what actually went on in the show as it produced as much laughter if not more than any comedy show we watched. Firstly, the humour. Secondly, the wonderful English countryside, villages and cities were on show – I couldn’t resist that. Thirdly, add to that the personal characteristics of the hosts and I was sold. I’m sure you’re familiar with them. ‘In no particular order of importance’ they are Jeremy – tall and gorgeous; Richard – not quite so tall and gorgeous; James – a little untidy and gorgeous.

The Top Gear team in 2011. Richard, Jeremy and James.

I’m still not especially interested in the car info they seem to thrive on but they’ve put together a wonderful package. I wouldn’t mind racing a car but I have to be honest and admit that all those facts and figures are lost on me. To tell you the truth I can’t tell my big end from my differential!

Nevertheless, I digress.

Where was I? Oh yes…in the wilds of East Anglia.

On this particular afternoon after leaving Lavenham I was minding my own business tootling along yet another quiet, exceedingly narrow country lane deciding what time I should strike out for London on the A12. I was on a reasonably long stretch of road (by English standards ) – that is to say I could see a car approaching in plenty of time for us to get out of each other’s way without the need for elevated blood pressure.

Narrow road made worse by high hedges. (and oops…reflection again!)

As the car approached, rapidly, I was starting to slow in preparation for both of us to slow a little, give a little ground and pass in a somewhat courteous manner. It seemed however that the other driver had different ideas and was coming fast and in the middle of the road.

Instead of taking an adult approach to this situation I instantly gave in to my baser instincts and thought to myself ’Right. We can both play this game.’ And I floored it. Approaching each other at quite a speed and giving only minimal ground (I thought my door handle might get ripped off!) we flew past each other and I glared murderously at what I assumed was some young hoon, trying to be smart. I was quite shocked to be staring into the face of a woman who looked like someone’s kind old Grandma. I guess she saw much the same thing!

Well I never!

It was those few days driving through East Anglia that helped me see the light.

The manoeuvrability of a car relative to its size and how well it corners and brakes are much more important when driving on English roads than on our wide roads back home.

With such thoughts in mind I decided it was time to head back to the big smoke as it was close to 6pm. My cunning plan of leaving Suffolk late in the day so as to miss the peak hour traffic worked a treat until just after reaching the A406 in North East London. About 10 minutes after joining the North Circular the traffic ground to a complete standstill. So much for avoiding the rush hour!!

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