THE BLOG

Back in Blighty - Behind The Wheel

11/09/2017 12:15

I've been driving for over thirty years. I realise I'm jinxing it when I say I've never had an accident, (if you exclude the idiot in Finchley, arguing with his girlfriend and ramming me up the back end), but I haven't. The only ticket I've received was courtesy of my teen who decided a two hour parking limit was more of a suggestion than a hard and fast requirement. Pah! This blemish-free history matters not when it comes to insurance however, and I find myself insured like a 21 year old boy racer.

I also find myself getting lost almost every time I get behind the wheel. Granted, I don't know my new locale very well, but for the love of gawd, a few clues in the signage would be nice. For some reason, my village is never included in roundabout directions, although a neighbouring spot has two exits off the nearest one! Unlike my husband, who is a human compass, I've never been one for "head north at the next junction", preferring to rely on churches passed, M&S Simply Food placements and that kind of thing. Given the complete anonymity of my home base, it's coming in handy at the moment.

I've tried learning where one place lies in relation to the next, so that perhaps if I just keep bearing left I'll come full circle and not be lost forever. This doesn't take into account the fact that there are no remotely straight roads round here, unless you count the M4, which I avoid at all costs. The Romans seem to have given this place a complete miss.

Just in case anyone thinks I'm comparing British road signage unfavorably to the USA's, it's pretty terrible over there too, but in a different way. Road signs on motorways (freeways) in the USA give you street names but few other clues about your destination. Driving from Chicago to its northern suburbs, you see "Dempster", "Lake" and "Cook" (names of cross streets) but no mention of Skokie, Wilmette or Winnetka, the suburbs you're passing. They helpfully tell you that in two miles you can exit on Old Orchard Road, but they keep the name of the town a closely guarded secret. You literally have to know the street names of the place you're heading to, otherwise you go sailing past and end up in Wisconsin. If you travel south out of the city, you'll see signs for Memphis (prompting the alarmed "Where the hell am I?" question) but nothing about Tinley Park or Flossmoor. Nightmare.

And yes, Sat Nav comes immediately to mind, only I seem to have bought myself a car without one and I gather it's frowned upon to so much as touch your phone while driving. Anyway, most of the times I get lost are completely unintentional. By that I mean, I think I know where I'm going so I don't think I'll need a moving map. How hard can it be to drive two miles down a windy road to pick your son up from school? Well, if I turn back and go the same way I came, it's do-able, but if I decide to bear left round the perimeter of the school it all ends in tears. Or Staines, in my case, which I have discovered was an important Roman town called Pontes, on account of two bridges. You wouldn't know it from the roads around it though. Sigh.

(Adapted from an earlier post at the author's blog, Expat Mum.)

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