Now, as I said, my first BIG mistake was to assume there’d be somewhere to pull over and consult the road map.
THERE IS NOWHERE TO PULL OVER ……………EVER!!!!!!!!!!!
– and it was a mistake that I would go on repeating most of the time I was in the UK. (Who says I’m stupid?)
Heading for London from Heathrow, once I was in the line of traffic that pressed ever forward in a claustrophobic fashion on the A4 I was there for life – or so it seemed.
EVERYONE ELSE knew when the right-turn lanes were coming up a mile ahead but I was often left stranded behind a million cars that wanted to turn right. No-one was going to let me into the left hand lane to get past them.
Mind you, the fact that time and time again when I wanted to move into the left lane I flicked on the windscreen wipers rather than the left indicator might have contributed somewhat to the problem. These controls are round the other way on my car back home and I felt like a right idiot as I began my brave push into the left lane while simultaneously starting the windscreen wipers. To make matters worse I had no idea how to turn the damn things off.! My glasses were in my bag somewhere and I didn’t improve the situation as my blind frantic fiddling with the control on the other side of the steering column caused the wipers to scrape violently at great speed across the windscreen. Then, for good measure, I added a burst of water that was smeared across in a thin film in front of me.
Couldn’t see a thing!
My stress levels were not helped by the fact that I was driving a manual car for the first time in years.
I hoped that the hire firm didn’t have hidden cameras fitted as I heard myself calling the locals some very rude names and realised I was actually turning red in the face! Oh, the frustration of it all.
Finally I’d had enough and decided I needed to get off the main road, find a nice, quiet back road and pull over and wait for the traffic madness to subside.
This was my second BIG mistake.
THERE IS NOWHERE TO PULL OVER……….EVER!!!!!!!!!
Admittedly it’s the same mistake I’d made earlier but the consequences were more far-reaching this time. I found myself in a labyrinth of lanes and roundabouts where the traffic was either moving at a snail’s pace or stationary.
WHY did I leave the main road???
Now I was in a bigger pickle than before and – what was worse – because it was an overcast day I got to a point where I didn’t know if I was heading North, South, East or West. Something had happened to my sense of direction in the northern hemisphere. At least when I wasn’t moving on the A4 I knew the car was pointed in the right direction!
I simply had to keep driving – I knew not where – till I saw a sign for London and the A4. Not as easy as you might think but at last I found myself actually welcoming the sight of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the A4. Thank God I’m on a road that I know for sure is heading where I want to go.
I learned another lesson that morning – tailgating is mandatory on English roads. If I so much as THOUGHT that I might leave a civilized gap between my car and the one in front of me another small silver/grey car would pass me and push its nose in in front of me and force me to let it into the line of traffic. I don’t mind letting other drivers in occasionally but this was ridiculous! It seemed to be taken as some sign of weakness or timidity on my part. You must be no more than a hair’s breadth behind the car in front or you’ve had it.
What’s more amazing is that the age, sex, race or creed of the other driver makes no difference. It’s not just the young testosterone-charged males – oh no! – it’s the grannies as well. It added up to quite a different England from the one I left 21 years ago. The consideration for others has declined dramatically. It seems to be more of a dog-eat-dog environment these days – although my trips outside of London reassured me that the old civility still exists away from the big city – EXCEPT……. on the roads.
So I made the most of having the car pointing in the right direction and let the flow carry me towards London. At some point nearer the city, exactly where remains a blur to this day, I joined the M4 so that I could make use of the directions I’d memorised at home and, although it took a while, I was quite relaxed now as I knew for sure where I was and where I was headed. I reached the place I was renting about 10am .
Good old London had plenty more in store for me.
Will keep you informed!