6.Hiring the car

I further find that there is no queue at the counter – I am attended to by a very courteous man of Italian origin and in no time at all I’m handing over vast sums of money for the car rental.

As I write this I am becoming aware of my obsession with a person’s ethnic background. While most of the people I write about here are English I notice that I refer to them as ‘of Italian origin’, ‘of West-Indian origin’, ‘of Pakastani origin’. In most cases these descriptions are accurate as I often ask people about their background and I tell them about mine. These folk may well be British – far more British than I am – as a lot of them were born there. I don’t mean to question this; I simply find it fascinating to observe how someone looks, how they speak, how they move…. and my comments are meant to reflect just that.

If someone (rather unkindly) referred to me as an old, fat Caucasian woman I wouldn’t take that as a racial slur. It’s just a statement of fact. I remember recently at home in Australia I exchanged a few words with a couple who spoke with an unmistakable Yorkshire accent and after a few sentences I couldn’t help enquiring about where they were from. ‘York’ they said beaming broadly at me ‘but we’ve lived in Brisbane for the past 40 years’.  I commented on how they’d not lost their wonderful accents and this led to a delightful discussion about our backgrounds, travels and the UK.

Now I’d have missed out on all that if I’d simply kept quiet about noticing their accent. I believe that mentioning it is a celebration of the fact that we’re all different rather than being a negative comment. I have exceptional hearing and can detect an accent at a hundred paces  – long may it be so.

But…I’m wandering…back to paying for the hire car.

It really is less painful spending money using a credit card – and so much more convenient. I even took the maximum car insurance in spite of a slightly uncomfortable feeling that maybe I was being too careful and ‘old’ – but a few days of driving on English roads made me realise I had been very wise indeed.

While dealing with the chap at the hire counter I find it hard to overcome the feeling that I’m being duped (old family influences die hard) because

  • I can’t remember the exchange rate,
  • I’m very, very tired, and
  • the chap behind the counter is a fast talker.

He’s also aware that

  • I probably don’t know the exchange rate
  • I’m very, very tired, and
  • he’s a fast talker

I’m sure if he’d asked me for 3 times what I was due to pay I would have given my signature with only the vaguest worry somewhere in the back of my mind that perhaps all wasn’t well. It would then have taken a few days of mulling over the events plus huge amounts of sleep before I realised what had happened and rung the hire mob to give them a razzing and demand my money back.

Fortunately nothing untoward has occurred and soon all my luggage is stowed and I’m settled into my almost new small silver/grey car. Don’t ask me what sort of car because, to me, a car is something with 4 wheels that transports me from place to place while keeping me warm and dry.  To that end my only stipulation was that it had air-con…..well, and a roof, obviously. I hired the cheapest car with air-con that I could find.

On request I had been given an A to Z road guide for London – similar to our Refidex or UBD in Australia – and had been advised that I should forget about my original idea of using the M4 to reach London as at this time of day the morning peak-hour traffic on the motorway would be almost at a standstill. I was directed instead on to the A4 to London (‘A’ roads are a category below the motorways) which followed a similar route.  Now before I left Australia I had carefully noted my M4/ North Circular trip to Ealing Common on my laptop but I had no idea of how changing to the A4 would affect things.

No probs, I thought to myself – as I get closer to town I’ll pull over and use the A to Z to get my bearings.

This was my first BIG mistake.

THERE IS NOWHERE TO PULL OVER ……………EVER!!!!!!!!!!!

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