From London to SalisburyBy Judy Prince
August 21, 2010
There I was in Islington, England, in 2004 BR (Before Rodent), my first time in the UK.
I had chosen Islington on the whim of it being Tony Blair’s as well as Sir Walter Ralegh’s sometimes home. My trip’s purpose was to visit sites I was writing about for a play about Shakespeare the woman.
After a brief night’s hotel sleep in Islington, I was down in the lobby awaiting a rental car to drive from London up north to Salisbury where I’d arranged a three-week stay in a B&B. The 2 ½-hour drive ended up taking 5 ½ hours—-and I was WAY alert the entire time.
The rental car deliverer handed me the key to a 5-speed Vauxhall, showed me where to put the key in the ignition and said: “You’re driving to Salisbury . . . and you’ve never driven on the left side of the road . . . seated on the right side of the car?” Exit a head-shaking rental guy.
Since the taxicabs behind me had begun blinking their headlights and honking, I did a quick seatbelt buckling, found the windshield wipers switch (it was raining, of course), headlights switch, heater switch, clutch, brake and gas pedals—-but not the gear shift lever. AH . . . on my left, of course! So I shifted up and left as the diagram showed for first gear, goosed the gas, and the car died (I later found out I’d shifted into third gear).
More big black taxicabs entered the little roundabout and piled up behind me. To get out to the street, the only way was to squeeze to the left. So I did, fully expecting a collision and arrest. Then I remembered The Rule: ALWAYS DRIVE ON THE LEFT.
Now I was at a traffic light with no car to follow and imitate. And I’d been told to turn right. Rolling down my window, I said to the poor man about to walk in front of me: “When the light turns green, can I turn right?” (I had too much pride to add: “Even though all the cars in those lanes are FACING ME!!?” He looked at the signs and said, “Yes, there are no signs prohibiting a right turn,” and walked past me as the light turned green. All I wanted was my mommy. Despite being dead, she encouraged me to proceed . . . perhaps so that I could more quickly join her.
The only way to avoid all those cars facing me on the right was to go beyond them nearly onto the pavement across the street—-which I did. I then was in the far left lane and at another light . . . again with no one to follow.
The car died again as I started up in third gear. Cars passed me (on the right) in frustration. A white van got ahead of me, and I followed its every move through central London (and several red lights) to Lewisham, where I lost it.
I’d gotten used to the strange first gear, but then became aware that I’d gone through Lewisham twice, so I stopped at a 7-11 kind of place for directions. A couple of men stood at a tall table drinking coffee.
“Does either of you gentlemen know how I can get to Salisbury?” I said.
“SAWLSBREE?” said the neatly dressed older man.
“No, Salisbury . . . spelled S A L I S B U R Y.”
“Right, Sawlsbree. I used to live there, but couldn’t tell you how to get there.”
“No problem,” said a much younger, work-uniformed man. “First take EYE TOY—-”
I had expected motorway letters and numbers, not body parts. So I pointed to my eye, and said, “EYE?”
He said, “No, no: EYE, EYE!”
“You mean “H”?” I asked.
“No, EYE!” he said.
“The first letter of the alphabet,” interrupted the other man.
“Oh! . . . ‘A’!!” I said.
“Yes, EYE TOY to M25 . . .” and the young man wrote very good directions on the back of my business card.
Then I asked where the loo was and thanked them.
On the way out I remembered not being able to get the car into reverse, so I stopped another man waiting to buy a bottle of soda.
He met me at my car and watched my futile efforts to shift up and to the left. We traded places, he fiddled around, then said, “Pull the shifter’s collar down, then do as you did.” Sure enough, it worked.
I then followed folks leaving the place (at the left exit) and aimed for EYE TOY.
I got lost several times and asked for directions, but at last, at nightfall and in vigorous rain, I was on the M1 motorway from London to Salisbury.
I hugged the left lane with huge lorries, and prayed, as cars speeded past in the right lanes. Lorries passed other lorries (on the right of course) and I continued to pray. At one point I thought my panic would overcome me, but I couldn’t imagine negotiating a stop on the side of the motorway. Then I noticed right in front of me a lorry with “NORFOLK” printed on the back. I knew it was Norfolk, England, but took it as a sign of hope representing my home in Norfolk, VA.
Nothing could break my optimism after that. I arrived safely at the B&B several hours later and had a marvelous three weeks in England.
I also racked up £200 in parking fines.
Haha! This had me laughing, but also a little worried… Next week I’ll be back in the UK for the first time in two and a half years and I can’t remember what it’s like to drive on the left side of the road or to sit in the right side of the car… and a few weeks ago I had to phone a company in Scotland and couldn’t even pick the accent apart…
At last we know, sort of, where you’ll soon be, David. Where in the UK will you be?
You know, of course, the instant you get back in a car and on the road, all the old actions will kick in fine. Even if you didn’t have a store of knowings, the idea of entering a lane where cars are coming directly at you is a Really Effective reminder of where not to go.
I’m still trying to understand the dialects of those here in Darlington, Durham.
Come to think of it, I couldn’t figure out half of what Rodent’s daughter (very midlands sound) was telling me on the phone today.
Yes! where will you be?!
Haha, my housemate next year is from Newcastle. It’s not just the accent that’s a problem— they have a lot of their own slang which is unheard of down south. Durham’s lovely though. Nice cathedral.
James, it seems as if it’ll take years for me to “get” what people are saying. They must think I’m daft asking where they come from and they say, “Here in Darlington,” but they sound Scottish or Geordie. Oh, but I love to hear every one of them speak!
Darlington is still north enough to be confusing, at times.
I love those accents though. They’re very friendly. The Samaritans try and encourage Geordie’s to volunteer because they sound warmer and more reassuring.
“The Samaritans try and encourage Geordie’s to volunteer because they sound warmer and more reassuring.” So, Jamie, it’s not just me loving their sound (for reasons I don’t understand), but it’s a general feeling amongst the English? What do you think makes Geordie speech sound warmer and more reassuring? I’ve wondered, also, why I love to hear Scottish people speak. It sounds like delightful music.
On balance, though, I love every UK dialect I’ve heard.
Some people hate Geordie accents. Like, really, really hate them. The Samaritans were going by a survey. On balance people are more receptive to them.
Scottish and Geordie accents are quite similar. I’m not sure what it is. They have quite a soft sound to them. Quite deep, but soft and relaxed.
Have you heard people from Birmingham? That’s quite an unpleasant noise. Weirdly a lot of awesome rock bands/singers are from Birmingham.
I do sort of envy people with accents though. Although I also like my ‘normal’ english accent.
Oh, James, I watched all 26 (?) episodes of “When The Boat Comes In”, so Geordie speech began to sound familiar after awhile.
I just saw this from: http://confusednation.confused.com/2010/08/accent/#more-87
“The full list of the most confusing regional accents is as follows:
1. Geordie 82%
2. Scouse 81%
3. Scottish 75%
4. Welsh 70%
5. Irish 69%
6. Brummie 66%
7. Somerset 61%
8. Cockney 60%”
Rodent, a native Glaswegian, says that what the list is doing is conflating ALL Scottish accents together, while it distinguishes between different English regional accents.
I think I remember that survey coming out.
I’d been inclined to agree with it.
I used to dislike the Welsh accent, but it’s sort of won me over.
I agree on Scottish accents. There’s a huge difference between varying areas of Scotland. I think what most people think of as Scottish is Glaswegian, which is bloody confusing. The Edinburgh accent is more gentle, and much more pleasant. I mean I love the Glaswegian accent, but that’s mostly because of the detective show Taggart.
I always get ill in Scotland. Severely ill. It’s frustrating, because I love Scotland. I want to go back to Edinburgh (ear infection, aged three) because it was voted the nicest place in the UK to live. The second place was Winchester, which is where I live most of the year.
I’ll be in Scotland, lying low for a while. Probably back in St. Andrews or Dundee. I should be back on Friday morning, anyway.
I’m sure driving and accents will prove no real problem.
That’s wonderful, David. An early “Welcome Home!”, then!
“Home” isn’t the right word, methinks… But thank you for the welcome!
David, Rodent read your ” ‘Home’ isn’t the right word, methinks…” and, exposing his Glaswegian predilections, he remarked: “Dave Willis speaks proper language because he comes from Scotland.”
Mind you, the Rodent always assumes that God speaks in a Glasgow accent.
I recall the wild mix of strong feelings I had when returning to the USA after a year in Taiwan. I was sooooo relieved to hear English, understand jokes, and once again have familiar food.
This was hilarious!
I never thought that the gear shift would be in reverse there.
There is no way on God’s Green Earth
that I could drive a standard transmission car
with backwards gear shift
on the wrong side of the road
especially with all those
You are a brave, brave soul, my friend Judy!
Thanks, Irene, our Comedy Queen!
Not so much courage on my part, but rather I’m blessed with ignorance, and that makes me eager to fulfill my urges for adventure. Turns out that those very adventures are often what I remember and cherish the most. I’m fortunate now to be co-adventuring. Just as you are.
My mum used to live in Islington before she met my dad.
A proper comment to follow…
So forgive my ignorance, but is the entire car an exact mirror image? So first gear is closest to the driver, top gear is farthest? Gas on inside, clutch on outside? Or are the controls just moved over, intact in their aspect to one another?
Just be glad I’m not asking you how to play bass, dwoz. But I would love to know how.
Re the car, as you say, the controls are just moved over, not an exact mirror image; hence, starting at the left in UK cars is the driver’s seat beneath which the pedals are placed as they’d be in a non-UK car; the gear shifter; then the passenger’s seat. The various controls are, as in non-UK cars, up on the dashboard.
The shifting’s the same as in non-UK cars, as well. Maybe I couldn’t get the “feel” of that particular gearbox shifting, because now when I drive Rodent’s UK car, a Ford Fiesta, I have no prob managing the gearshifting (even using my old second to fourth gear way).
Oops, correction, dwoz: ” . . . starting at the RIGHT in UK cars is the driver’s seat beneath which the pedals are placed as they’d be in a non-UK car; the gear shifter; then the passenger’s seat. The various controls are, as in non-UK cars, up on the dashboard.
I’ve never driven in England, largely because I don’t have a license and I’d probably be arrested and charged with various crimes ranging from vehicle theft, driving without a licensce, driving without insurance and generally just being a bit of a nuisance.
I’m guessing though that the EYE TOY was the A2.
I mentioned before that my mum lived in Islington. But I was also born fairly near Salisbury. Which is confusing. It should be sallis-berry, but it isn’t. Because language is as confusing as it is fun.
Anyway, did you come across the Wiltshire accent? Essentially the West Country accent. One of the main reasons my dad moved us all out of Wiltshire was so that my brother and I didn’t grow up with the accent.
Islington is quite nice. I’m not supposed to like it for football related reasons. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Darlington though. I might have been though it. In fact I’m fairly sure I have on a train up to ‘THE NORTH.’
Always fun to read a piece about England at TNB.
“I’m guessing though that the EYE TOY was the A2.” You may be correct, James; I’ve never maply checked it out.
I’m so glad you like to read pieces about England at TNB. I do, too!
Only in Islington half a day, to sleep, I know nothing about the place experientially, and I’m ignorant of football. And though I was in Wiltshire (Salisbury for three weeks and Wilton the next year for two months), I can’t recall a particular Wiltshire sound.
We’re taking the train up to York (just 20 minutes away) tomorrow because I want to see the Minster and Rodent wants to take books back to the library at U of York. We were in York a month ago and found the city wall, the historic buildings beautiful. Yesterday we drove a few minutes away from Darlington to a truly historic town called Barnard’s Castle.
Was it in London? The EYE TOY? I’m basing my guess on it being a London sort of accent. Although actually it would fit the Birmingham accent more.
The Wilthsire accent sort of varies depending on where about you are… the further west the stronger it is. Possibly Salisbury isn’t quite west enough. Where I was born, Swindon, it’s fairly mild but still noticeable.
York is absolutely beautiful. I love York. I think that’s probably when I went through Darlington, because we went on a holiday taking in York, Manchester and Liverpool before we went to Ireland.
I haven’t travelled around England enough. There are some stunningly beautiful sites to be seen here. I went to Cornwall last year, right down to Land’s End because I’d never been. I was blown away by it. It’s almost a different country. It’s so, so pretty. As pretty as any little Italian village.
I’m moving to Cambrigeshire tomorrow. Never been there before. I can’t wait.
James, is it near Cambridge? I’ve not been to Cambridge even though Cambridge is close to where we lived in Loughborough, Leicestershire. Rodent has often said he’d like to live in Cambridge, but naturally the prices, as in London, are way out of our spending league.
We’re just now buying a place here in Darlington, and the prices are about 2/3rds of those in Loughborough.
I’m always aware how close to nature (fields of crops, grazing lambs, cows and horses) much of England is, as opposed to in the USA. Also, the cloud formations are spectacularly beautiful, mesmerising. And the weather is temperate all year round.
James, regarding York, we were able to get a wonderful “deal” on Expedia for staying at Cedar Court Grand Hotel York, alongside York’s ancient city wall and near the River Ouse and the magnificent Minster.
The hotel opened recently after complete refurbishing and redecorating from its former impressive incarnation as the Grade II 1906 building headquartering North East Rail. It retains the handsome features of the original building—its high ceilings, thick, sound-proof walls, spacious rooms and long sweeping windows revealing historic city views.
That said, I also loved the look of Oxford.
Cambridgeshire? Cambridgeshire in the county Cambridge is in. I’m actually going to be living about an hour away from the city of Cambridge. It’s a village near Ely (home to a stunning cathedral) which has seemingly inappropriate road names. It used to be an inland island, but it isn’t anymore. It’s called Littleport, but without the water it isn’t really a port any these days.
I’ve been near Loughborough on a boating holiday. We only moored there for a night.
House prices are much cheaper up north, apparently.
I quite like the English weather. I used to fantasize frequently about living in California, but a recent heat wave has reminded me that I don’t cope well with consistent warmth.
Anyway, apparently I have to leave this house immediately so I’ll be offline for a few days.
I just took a wiki look at Ely Cathedral—-stunning, indeed, James.
Best of luck moving house tomorrow; we’ll “hear” you when you’re sorted out nicely in Cambridgeshire, then.
I’ve now been to Ely Cathedral! It really is quite something.
I’m now in my small house in Littleport, Cambridgeshire and finally back online.
The house is an absolute hovel. My parents call it ‘a project.’ I sleep in the utility room under the stairs.
You’re sleeping in the understairs utility room, Irwin? EGAD!
Must be a huge downer, especially after viewing Ely Cathedral.
Is the small house in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, *your* project—-or your parents’ project?
If it’s just you and p’raps a roommate staying there, that could be great, lots of hammering and nailing and wallpapering and painting and such. But if it’s a True Hovel, a falling-down sinkhole of Lilliputian proportions…..well….not so good.
It’s a fairly large utility room. Well, big enough for my bed, the family fridge and two boxes of my stuff.
It’s my parents project.
It’s not so bad. It could be worse, and it has recently begun to look like a house rather than a crack den… and at least the area is lovely…
Oh well, not so bad as it seemed for your initial description, Irwin.
I’ve never seen an understairs room that was larger than a closet, so yours must be unique.
Now that I think about it, a bed and a fridge and a couple boxes is all a person needs anyway for a bedroom.
Judy, Judy, Judy! What a riot! Yes, driving in the UK is absolutely harrowing. Glad you made it out alive, and got what you needed. Surely the extra bit of adrenaline from the driving helped you along. Pictures?
As someone who can’t really drive a stick shift, I have no business driving such a car, let alone on the left side of the road. But on a recent trip back to Ireland, I gamely offered to pick up some of the driving from my then-girlfriend. In the space of five minutes, I had taken two side mirrors off of two different cars, entered a parking lot going the wrong way in, and became so enraged at my inadequacy that I pulled over and surrendered the keys to my companion, who could not for the life of her stop laughing. Take a guess what effect her laughing had on my mood. 🙂
Thanks for the fun read and the great story!
Thanks, Joe, for the kind words.
You get the prize for side mirror rip-offs, my fellow traveler: I only ripped off one on that car. Maybe it’s our Chicago-style driving…. 😉
Glad you showed up just now because last week I’d truly hooted listening to your Scottish road experiences again; wanted to comment later but couldn’t find the audio post again. I still giggle at the “suitcase” part! And the tire rolling off! HAHAHAHA!
Me wondering if you want to return to Scotland and/or Ireland. And driving there. heh.
“All I wanted was my mommy. Despite being dead, she encouraged me to proceed . . . perhaps so that I could more quickly join her.”
Oh dear – do we never get over our need for our mothers to get us out of tight spots? I laughed when I read this part of your story!
Congratulations on surviving what sounds like a particularly harrowing trip – not only having to work a car that you’re not used to, but to decipher accents as well!
Jude, how right you are about mommy-need! Somehow I felt my mommy was hanging around sympathetically (and with a bit of amusement). She used to say about my adventures, “Well, if I don’t hear from you, I trust you’re doing fine.” Poor self-deluding mommy! 😉 I never had the heart to set her straight on that issue.
Your experience makes a good case for personal levitation. If you could levitate then you wouldn’t have had to deal with all those British rules and restrictions while driving. Woof. I think I would’ve gone nuts having to deal with what you went through.
I suppose a good GPS system would’ve helped as well. And a benefactor to pay for all those fines…
Good point, Rich. I often watch birds on their fascinating sky roads, doing what we wish we could do, just zinging around up there. Reminds me that most folks have had dreams about flying, and when they awaken they feel as if they’d really been flying around the room. Yup, it would’ve gotten me out of some tight spots, indeed. I have the feeling that you actually DO levitate, Rich! And I’m not joking. Oh, I finally paid those fines figuring that if I didn’t they might not let me back in the UK.
Driving under duress like that is the worst. It reminds me of being 16 and driving by myself for the first time. Everything seemed like such a blur. Now, generally, I want to kill every other driver on the road for their inadequacy. 😉
I don’t know why but this line really made me laugh. I suppose for it’s simplicity:
““The first letter of the alphabet,” interrupted the other man.”
“Now, generally, I want to kill every other driver on the road for their inadequacy.” Totally yes, Richard. Actually, I generally feel like killing every driver on the road just for their being in my way.
Re ” ‘The first letter of the alphabet,” interrupted the other man,” I’m glad you got a laugh out of it! Those two guys were a comic act waiting to happen. I’d’ve loved to stay and chat with them.
Your entire story is hilarious and stresses me out. I don’t think I could ever drive in the UK, let alone with a stick shift. You got much further than I ever could’ve gone!
Wow, my thanks for your lovely compliment, Gregory.
I’m sorry to have stressed you out, but of course you could do all those things you now think you could not.
A wise writer friend of mine used to say, probably paraphrasing his elders: “Can’t go ’round it, can’t go over it, can’t go under it. You have to go through it.”
So many times—-obviously, totally unforeseen and certainly unplanned—-we get into such fixes. And we succeed wonderfully . . . forgetting to credit ourselves with our success.
You write about such times, and I love your openness and subtle wit in making us laugh out loud at your “fixes.”
I’ve never driven in the U.K., and with luck, I’ll never have to. I mean, I’m a very good driver, but quite frankly I don’t need this level of stress.
The only other foreign country I’ve driven in is Mexico–which, when you’re 17, is an exercise in controlled chaos. Near as I can tell, the notion of obeying traffic regualtions down there is less a matter of law and more one of an arbitrary “well, I just don’t feel like it right now.”
“Near as I can tell, the notion of obeying traffic regulations down there is less a matter of law and more one of an arbitrary ‘well, I just don’t feel like it right now.’ ”
That’s downright frightening, Matt. (Me making a note not to go to Mexico.)
I almost got plowed into by a car in London my first time, when I stepped off the sidewalk in NYC jaywalker style and looked to my left instead of my right. Very disorienting…
OMG, Greg, yes, it’s frightening to step off the kerb (note spelling, heh heh) and get blindsided by the drivers who of course would never imagine someone stepping into traffic unless they were suicidal! Oddly, it also seems the last thing you remember to correct in the set of “reverse” actions you need to get used to.
Oh, boy. I think Jeff and I are in for a whole lot more trouble than I thought when I booked our travel to the “foreign” country of England! Did you say there are plenty of trains, planes, or any alternative to driving ourselves in an automobile?!
Sweet Dora Lee! Welcome to TNB!
You and Jeff are excellent drivers and you won’t likely be driving in London (only foreign fools like me do that) or driving on the M1 motorway into or out of London. Trains are super-popular for going from place to place in the UK, far more popular than train-riding in the USA. We’re leaving York in a couple hours for a 20-minute train ride back to Darlington (home); deal is that there’s less parking available and close by some destinations in cities, villages and towns. Lots of folks have cars, of course, small 4-cylinder standard transmission cars, and usually only one per family, but all generations also walk a lot for errands and such, or they’ll hop a bus. I’m told that Europeans (UK included) have invested government monies in their rail systems much more so than we have in the USA, and my trip to Paris bore that out, especially with their subway system.
All of that said, I think you and Jeff renting a car or a motorcycle (no need for a special driving license for cars if you’ve brought your USA ones) for special side trips within or to/from a city, village, or town would be splendid. Rodent says that with a car license you can drive a motorcycle under 250 cc’s if you have “L” plates on it, i.e., meaning you’re a learning driver. He also says there may be different rules for foreigners, as the last time he drove a motorcycle was 40 years ago. We’ll check for the rules now and let you know.
As I’ve mentioned to another commenter, confronting a lane filled with cars facing you is a strong deterrent to your entering that lane! So much of the left-lane-driving is not in the least confusing—-you’re constantly and instantly seeing that you can’t go into the right lane because you’d be driving straight into oncoming cars. Same thing with roundabouts; the traffic’s coming from your left, which is impossible not to notice. So that’s what you pay attention to before entering the roundabout safely when the left-coming cars have stopped coming.
You can always try a little quiet short-ish trip and see what you think!
I did it again! Sorry, Dora Lee. Correction: In roundabouts, the traffic’s coming from your RIGHT, so you only need watch right-coming cars and wait until they’ve passed in order to enter the roundabout.
Oh, man, driving on the other side of the road? It’s a trip. The one trick I learned was that the wheel should always be closest to the centre of the road.
The biggest difficulty I actually had was trying to unlearn what I had learned when I came back…
And Zara not only drove on the wrong side of the road, but did so in New York…
When I say ‘wrong’, I mean, the ‘other’ side, of course.
So, Simon, you didn’t hug the left and get your side mirror ripped off? Joe Daley has two ripoffs to his credit in Ireland, and I had on ripoff on the Salisbury adventure. I’m always too terrified to get close to the centre of the road, though doubtless yours is good advice.
Wow. I have a new appreciation for our Zara now! Driving in NYC!
“The one trick I learned was that the wheel should always be closest to the centre of the road.”
Simon, I finally understand what you meant by that: If, for example, you’re in the USA, you’ll be sitting in a driver’s seat that’s on the left side of the car which you’ll make certain is closer to the centre of the road than the passenger side. If, however, you’re in the UK, you’ll be sitting in a driver’s seat that’s on the right side of the car which you’ll make certain is closer to the center of the road than the passenger side.
I had thought you meant to hug the centre of the road but couldn’t figure out the reason for that.
Simon, are you ever going to explain about the rearview mirror problems?!
Judy, how cool of you to undertake this on your own. Brave woman!
On our two trips to Ireland my husband had to do all the driving. I should have at least taken a part of it on an interstate – what a chicken. I did insist on automatic transmission at the rental counter, as the thought of him having to operate a stick and clutch while maneuvering on unfamiliar roads (often no wider than a cow path) made me cringe.
On our first trip, extremely disoriented and exhausted, he gamely entered an extremely busy roundabout in Limerick. I didn’t think we’d ever get out of that thing! Round and round we went…
Every morning as we set out to do more exploring, I’d just shout – THE LEFT! THE LEFT! Crude, but effective.
Dana, “Crude, but effective” is soooo necessary at times, innit? 😉
Roundabouts still slightly freak me out, depending on how big and complicated they are. The great thing (or worst thing!) is if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing or which exit you should take, you can just keep on going round and round them all day if you like. HA! And it’s always helpful (NOT!!) when dear Rodent says, “Just go straight through” like that’s even possible! He means, of course, the exit that’s 12 o’clock-positioned from where we entered the roundabout (at the six o’clock position). OY.
Judy, no! We don’t drive in England. We take the tube and eat at the local pub. Oh my, you poor woman. I had a nightmarish experience in Ireland that is reminiscent of yours here. Glad to be alive, I am. And glad you are too!
Colleen, are you based in London, then? (You said the tube)
I’m more afraid driving USAmerican highways than Brit motorways, especially since my car was totalled in my hometown of Norfolk VA, by a car rear-ending mine while I was stopped at a light. The driver was totally unaware of the red light or those of us ahead of him stopped at it. He swerved big time, ending up hitting, then raking alongside my car. Incredibly, I was unharmed, as was my passenger. But I’m still frightened of tailgaters, and USAmericans (who mostly drive big cars or SUVs) are more inclined to it than Brits with their smaller cars.
On balance, then, I’m happiest on a train or bus or airplane. The statistical odds of being snuffed in an auto far exceed those of being killed on an airplane, train, or bus.
Reading this piece has undone any desire I may have had to travel where people drive, to quote Simon, “on the wrong side”. Granted, body damage to my truck has generally come from driving where there are no roads at all but still. Why tempt fate? Especially when fate may have an utterly undecipherable accent!
Thanks for the laughs, Judy.
I was wondering yesterday what you were up to, figuring you were book-doing, Anon. How’s that going?
I miss your posts!
I rather think you’d have a great time, though possibly on a dirt bike, in the UK.
Delighted you got some laughs out of this.
Any tomatoes around yet? On our house-viewings of late, we saw a tiny garden in which the owner had placed huge sacks, each filled with planted potatoes and parsnips and such, that she’d bought at a local garden centre. Fascinating. We’re just beginning the process of buying a house which, lucky for us, has a nice-sized back garden. But I’m notorious for *wanting* plants and flowers….and wishing someone else would do the hard work of planting, watering and weeding. P’raps dear Rodent will oblige; he loves tending to his bonzai; and he’s too tender-hearted to let plants die.
Ah… mostly I’ve been reconstructing my life after accidentally discovering that those odd, nerdy scientist-type people were right. By the time you hit forty, you start processing all the things you’ve been learning, both intentionally and incidentally. And there turned out to be a whole lot of ugliness to process. It’s been awful and all-consuming but positive so far. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that right now, except that I’m finally getting around to incorporating edits and am starting to look for an agent.
Now, speaking of awful, the garden is a wasteland! Been a very odd year and only in part due to my neglect. Raspberry bushes? Huge – and completely barren. Strawberry plant produced a little but only one plant survived the winter so we’ve gotten all of a dozen berries. Snow peas? Shriveled husks, rotted stems. Onions? Broke the surface and haven’t done a damned thing since then. Potato boxes? Flowering like mad but, from an exploratory bit of rummaging up to my forearm, not a spud to be had. Limited success with the cukes and cantaloupe vines but otherwise bupkus. Thank God for the string beans – we’re getting about 2lbs/week from them. Yuck! If this was a post-apocalyptic world, I’d be checking the neighbors for doneness by now.
Congratulations on the house, btw!
Hmmm….you’re sounding rather enigmatic about “processing” and such, Anon. Our TNBers’ love for your writing makes me think you worry too damned much. And you don’t look good wearing a hairshirt. A hair Fedora, maybe…..
Anon—-what in the world has happened with the veg?! An onslaught of slugs or mites or varmints like voles or moles? Wasn’t it the kids and you who put a teepee-pole of string beans up? I love imagining what that looks like and wanna start my grandboys (7 yrs old) on such a thing in our back garden…..but it’ll be November when they’re here.
No, no, no – no “enigmatizing” here. Just a lot of old crap that’s been festering for decades and poisoning the crops downstream. In the end, it’ll be fine. Just hard going right about now.
Damnedest thing about the garden, though! There were a few swiftly-dispatched slugs but they were mostly clustered around the bean plants – the only things really producing (except the experimental tomato plant – which only recently sprouted about five tomatoes)! Oh, and we didn’t do the teepee thing with the string beans. That was a local gardener who used a similar, water-filled structure to start tomatoes much earlier in the season. My wife and I have decided to retrace our steps and will plant next year’s garden in the same layout as our first year’s, to see if that gives us as good of a yield. Maybe there was some sort of dumb luck synergy going on between the different varieties and we can reproduce it.
” . . . poisoning the crops downstream . . .” nicely put, Anon.
To continue the metaphor, you’re going through a bad patch at the moment, but can see past it to the good patches. I’ll put all of that in my garden wheelbarrow—-and into the birdbath—-for healthy, positive sendoff thoughts to you, then.
Re the actual garden, it must be in the middle of three years, which’s why you say you and your wife’ll plant it next year as it was planted the first year. I’d thought maybe the soil was bad, but that can’t have been the problem…..
Nifty if you could do the water teepee thing!
Plants are mystifying. As volatile, whimsical and undependable as cats. But they taste better.
Quite right, I believe – midway through our third year. And plants might taste better but they aren’t as challenging to catch. Rather slow-moving, actually. Especially this year….
At least you’ve been eating some of your produce, Anon. Squirrels got to my figs each year before I did, and much of the edible tree fruit or bushes I’d planted I wasn’t in the country later to see or eat. Now I can begin again. Saw some beautiful anemones today and OTT huge roses alongside a palm tree, here in England. Seems like everything grows so well.
I totally didn’t get your joke, Anon……until now that it’s nearing midnight and I’m brain-wavering whilst rereading your comment. You were referring to the cats!!!: ” And plants might taste better but they aren’t as challenging to catch. Rather slow-moving, actually. Especially this year….”
Quick question, Anon. How do I propagate honeysuckle? It’s in full bloom here on the back garden wall, spilling over from the neighbours’ where it’s planted. We’ll be moving in a month, so I want to take some part of it and have it grow in our new garden. Googling propagation of honeysuckle has left me confused.
Ah, sadly, I know nothing of such things. I’m a seed-planter and little more. I’ll ask around, though, if that helps!
Here’s a link that has photos and a good explanation. I hadn’t been sure the honeysuckle here is the same, but it is, since I’ve found that it has bright red berries: http://tmousecmouse.blogspot.com/2010/05/hairy-honeysuckle-propagation-of.html
And my dear friend here has cautioned that the berries are poisonous, so to wash my hands in the handling of them.
I’ll also ask the neighbour if we could have a rooted stem to take with us when we go (just in case the berry propagating doesn’t work). The fragrance of honeysuckle as well as its beauty is marvelous.
Re the honeysuckle, Anon, all’s settled happily.
I asked the neighbours for a cutting, and they said, “Of course you can have a cutting – you can remember us when it smells!! In fact come round one weekend and see if there are any other cuttings you would like……”
There you are, then!
Jesus… Reading this gave me rapid heart palpitations and pit sweat. I have zero sense of direction and can not pat my belly and rub my head at the same time. This is my worst nightmare. I’m so glad you made it!
Gloria, when I originally wrote this post (as a letter to my son and his wife), just after arriving in Salisbury, I was drenched in pit sweat, but before that I was so focused and/or terrified that I wouldn’t have noticed.
Thank you for being glad I made it!
Oh, and I don’t have a sense of direction, either—-just a lifelong overblown sense of what I can do. Like Samuel Johnson said about second marriages: “The triumph of hope over experience.”
Oh my. I would have had to take a bus or a train or something. That all sounds much too confusing and scary. If there were any bridges involved….I would needed resuscitating. Good for you though on completing your journey. What a great story.
“If there were any bridges involved….I would needed resuscitating.”
Lorna, you make me giggle. If there’d been a rope suspension bridge over a chasm, yeah—-that’d make a person pause.
I have no idea why I didn’t, as you say, “take a bus or a train or something.” HA! Blissful ignorance, I guess.
I appreciate your generous comment on the story; it’s lovely to know.
The Hoover Dam bypass bridge that they have been building for what seems like a decade will be open soon. It’s gianormaous and up extremely high in the air. The mere thought of driving over it gives me palpatations. If I make it over that thing without passing out (granted, I’ll be the passenger, so no worries about a horrific accident there), I might muster up the courage to one day give driving on the wrong side of the road in a foreign country a try.
Fair dues, as they say, Lorna (tho I think I may have forgot what it means).
In teenagehood I witnessed the grand massive seriously awesome Hoover Dam and its lake. It was frightening, and all the more because it had been “built”, which meant/means to me that unlike a centuries-old formation, it could have serious faults. You say “bypass” bridge; does that mean that the bridge will bypass the dam and lake? Oh, wait—-that makes no sense; it must be going over the dam and/or lake.
I would never think of driving over that bridge, unless blindfolded with a gun held to my head.
Here’re two reasons why: 1) I actually *did* walk across a rope suspension bridge over a chasm in Taiwan…..and broke my sandal strap, so was limping much of the way; and 2) I regularly drove from Chicago to visit my family in Michigan which necessitated driving on a dizzyingly high bridge. Strong winter winds and sleet didn’t make it friendly, and of course Midwesterners are ever aware of spinning out on “black” ice patches (i.e., ice underneath the snow).
Don’t get me started on tunnels—-particularly driving through an under-ocean tunnel in Norfolk, Va—–when the tunnel lights were out!!
Oh dear—-now I’ve exacerbated the situation! Ah well, life’s about the survival of the spirit, after all, and one’s spiritual antennae and attitude makes all the difference. We can be watchful, sensible and pragmatic, but not fearful. It has been said that the opposite of love is fear, not hate. We can love our way through *some* 21st century modes of transport. I’d love to ride a mag-lev train, come to think of it!
Yes Judy, the bridge bypasses the hoover dam to avoid the tourist backup of traffic. It is built far above the dam. I have picutres somewhere. I’ll see If I can locate them.
I would love to visit Norfolk someday. My Grandfather was born in Norfolk and I’ve just always wanted to see the that part of the country. An under ocean tunnel? Now that sound cool.
A few summers ago I visited the Royal Gorge Bridge is Colorado which is supposedly the highest suspension bridge in the US. I was able to walk across it several times and I know what you mean about the wind! It was an incredible feeling, actually. I did it to face my fears….but I’m just not sure about “driving” over this bypass bridge. I know one thing for sure, I’ll give it a few months of traffic before I test my courage.
“It has been said that the opposite of love is fear, not hate. We can love our way through *some* 21st century modes of transport.” I like that!
Lorna, of all the places I’ve been in the States (49 of them), I most love Virginia, and especially Norfolk. It’s settled right beside the ocean, and some of the huge aircraft carriers are as large as a city block; they look unreal, like cities sitting in the water. A friend of mine captains a boat that guides them to their moorings. He has to have more experience than the ship captains, just as airplane glider pilots need more experience than pilots of powered airplanes.
What stories has your grandfather told you about Norfolk?
Apparently, long ago the ocean occupied areas that now are drained and built-upon in the downtown area. I kept wondering how a cannonball could have been shot from a ship and embedded in a downtown church wall, if the ships were so far from downtown. A 90 year old man told us about the ocean’y downtown, so then it all made sense.
Oh, those several under-ocean tunnels link the “southside” of Norfolk, where I live part of the year, with the “peninsula” (you may have heard of historic Williamsburg, VA, for example). Lots of people are terrified to drive through the tunnels. I don’t like to drive through them, so I count slowly from one to 40, knowing I’ll see the light by 40.
P’raps I’ll save the under-ocean tunnel story for another time.
Glad you liked the “love-fear” sentence!
It’s funny Judy, that I forget about all of our weird tunnels and bridges until I’m on the way to the airport and then I’m suddenly I’m hyper-aware that I’m totally and completely fucked if there’s an accident in the tunnel. 🙂
We were on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel during a horrific storm in May of 2008. Absolutely one of the most terrifying moments of my life.
“We were on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel during a horrific storm in May of 2008. Absolutely one of the most terrifying moments of my life.”
Dana, that freaks me out even more than driving under the ocean! I mean you could’ve been blown off the bridge!
Re if there’s an accident in the tunnel: I think one either has to pray all the way driving through it, or maybe have a CarPet for distraction (a la Irene Zion’s latest post about the F’Ware Party). HOOT!
How can I add your rss to my miracle fruit website?
Sorry, miracle fruit person; I don’t know how to add an RSS to a website. Maybe someone on TNB can tell us if they see your comment/request.
I see the comment, but I aint buying none of their miracle fruit.
I’d just like to eat some local fruit…..but it’s midwinter here in the States. (sighs)