13. Oh to be in Croydon, now that April’s there!

Where was I?…….Oh, that’s right….. the tail-gating in England  (with a couple of shots from the Chelsea Flower Show for good measure).

OK so they’re up behind you very, very close then someone in a side road on the left wants to join the traffic so drives right up to the side of your car and urges into the traffic. Because you let this car in, the driver behind gets crappy and decides you’re a bad driver, drives out into the on-coming traffic and pushes in between you and the car you’ve just let in. If, at that moment, you happen to be approaching a green traffic light, like as not, any number of pedestrians, fed up with waiting, will surge out onto the road and try to cross in front of you against the lights.

Once that nightmare of slamming brakes and cursing is over there’s still the horror of having fast-moving cars and trucks break out of the line of on-coming traffic and hurtle towards you – on your side of the road – so they can pass a car that they think isn’t travelling fast enough. It’s heart-stopping stuff until you realise they’ve mercifully pushed their way back into the line of traffic and are now happily one whole car-length further ahead than they were before, seemingly unaware that they’ve performed a very dangerous manoeuvre to get there.

All this as well as people, market stalls and double-parked vans invading the road space is a recipe for a very big headache indeed. I decided to duck down a side-street in Norbury as I couldn’t stand the traffic anymore and thankfully found my way to Pollards Wood Road – another house of happy memories.

Surprisingly, it was one of the few streets in the area where there were places to park on the side of the road. Most of the houses had yards and garages. What was not so fortunate was the human drama occurring right outside my old house. A mother had a baby in a pram and was stopped in front of the house screaming at 2 shame-faced toddlers on the footpath. I waited a while but there were no signs of the torrent of abuse abating so I drove away to look over the area and came back after what I thought would be a suitable interval, giving her time to move on.

She had other ideas though and as I was starting to feel the need for food (not to mention the use of a loo) I decided to press on to Croydon, stop at the shopping centre (there HAD to be one didn’t there) and visit Pollards Wood Road again when I was feeling more refreshed after lunch (and screaming Mum and offspring were long gone).

Orchids

I headed off and chose to drive past a couple of other places I’d lived in before rejoining the main road.

Well I chose to TRY.

Silverleigh Road was as bad as any road with the roadside parking and after a couple of goes trying to drive down the street – which is VERY long and lacking in cross-streets – I settled for a fast drive past the old house and was happy that at least I had SEEN the place. So much for all those hours I’d spent sorting through photos and carefully deciding which ones to take with me – as well as imagining the interested and appreciative comments that these photos would undoubtedly generate.  Photos of the garden ( Ooh, what lovely flowers!), the back shed (Yes, we built that!), before and after shots of the dining room and the kitchen (Gosh, you did a lovely decorating job!).

Then it was on to Headcorn Road – the last place on my list. I spotted the house at about the same time as I spotted a small blue car literally barrelling towards me. I had nowhere to go – reversing was not going to save the day here – not enough time! AND there’s nowhere to pull over AND I’m hemmed in on all sides by bloody parked cars!

As I start swerving to my left and await impact she (yes it’s a she) swerves to her left, slams on her brakes and mounts the footpath. I notice in passing that there’s an elderly gentleman walking along the footpath on her side of the road. I quickly wonder if he will die today. Slowly it dawns on me there’s been no metallic crunch of impact anywhere and as I’m marvelling at this and wondering if the old man is still alive I notice a number of things. The woman is driving an impossibly short car – I’ve never set eyes on such a short car before – and has managed to squeeze enough of the car between 2 parked cars in a miraculous fashion sufficient to avoid a collision. (I am later to learn when my son visits Italy that the car is about half the length of an average sedan).

She’s done this before, I think to myself. Also the old man is alive and well, if a little dazed, and resuming his walk somewhat shakily. The most amazing thing I see though is that the other driver is shouting at me from inside her closed car and, mercifully, I can’t hear her. The look on her distorted face seems to indicate that she is in a hurry and will I please get out of her way (this being an approximation of course as I don’t want to scare off any readers by relating a more accurate version). It seems as though this is a regular occurrence for her and she has no time for shocked drivers who sit there like stunned mullet while she shouts at them. We go our separate ways and I wish I could pull over and have a short rest from this dreadful trip.

But..there’s nowhere to pull over…ever.

I still hadn’t found a loo or anywhere to stop, park and have a drink or a bite to eat. I pulled myself together and struck out for Croydon full of hope as I used to shop there in the good old days and knew the area was full of places where I could find lunch and freshen up.

I was soon back out on the main road but in no time I found that the traffic was moving at a snail’s pace rather than the slow walk it had been before. Finally we ground to a halt and only inched forward occasionally as if in the worst of peak hour traffic – and it was only the middle of the day. Way up ahead now I could see that there were road works – only one lane of traffic moving– and I began to think about the fact that it was 1 o’clock and I still hadn’t reached Croydon having set out at 10 o’clock. Up ahead I could see that the situation was even worse (impossible though it seemed) as other traffic was joining our road. I had a slight moment of panic. I could see myself trapped in this #$% traffic for hours more if I didn’t turn down a tiny side street I’d just past on the left. I had a feeling as I drove past the turn that perhaps I should turn into it and try to escape this traffic madness. Only the fact that I knew I’d have no idea where to go next had prevented me from leaving the main road. But what to do? I was half a block past the turn already. Then I noticed an interesting thing. There was some sort of traffic hold-up behind me. There was a gap that extended right back to the side street at least. The lights back further were changing and any second now the waiting cars would race each other to fill up the gap so they could wait for hours for the next inching forward that kept the hope alive that they would eventually get to where-ever they were going.

I hesitated. Was I judging the distance correctly? The side street was about halfway back to the lights. Would I get to the corner before the ravening beasts were upon me? (well….they were drivers who’d been held up for hours and this was their first opportunity to accelerate even if only for a very short distance). I knew I’d be given no quarter.

I went for it. I reefed it into reverse and gunned it. I almost stood on the pedal. I knew I couldn’t afford the luxury of losing time and distance by doing sine curves backwards up the road, so fast and straight it was and just in time, and, as approaching drivers flashed their lights at me, I threw it into first and squealed around the corner.

Phew!

No time to congratulate myself, though, on the precision of the manoeuvre or the fact that I’d succeeded in NOT gaining the attention of a number of policeman who were in the offing. Let’s find somewhere to pull over and get my bearings.

Do you see what I mean??

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson.  But no, I hadn’t.

It takes a second to dawn on me yet again.

THERE’S NOWHERE TO PULL OVER…EVER!!!!

But I’ve GOT to pullover …….I don’t know where I am or how to get to somewhere else!!

I’m not sure any more where I want to go. Croydon is hopeless. The traffic is impossible. As I’m thinking this I see a break in the parked cars – quick pull in. Oops!  A school driveway – but what choice do I have?

I park in the school driveway and open the A to Z.

Bonzai

When I see my predicament re getting anywhere else I make a quick decision to head home. So then my only priority became getting back out on the main road but facing north instead of south.

To cut a very long story short I ditched the idea of eating, drinking, going to the loo or even stretching my legs and retraced my steps back to Ealing getting there two and a half hours later.

I’m sure I must have creaked as I got out of the car for the first time in five and a half hours; my legs were stiff and sore and I was a bit of a nervous wreck as I staggered back into the house. I gratefully collapsed in a heap on the bed – it was so marvellous to be able to straighten my legs again.

I raided the fridge, tried to unwind and watched the snooker on telly. That young Aussie bloke Robertson sure can play.

Later as I crawled into bed I felt I had achieved little all day and yet been totally exhausted by the experience.

BUT ……..tomorrow is another day.

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