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Travel Broadens On:2001-07-28 10:34:50

Well, having been travelling around what I’ve always thought of as my native land for a week now, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve become a foreign person or, to put it in a more satisfying way and I’m sure more accurately, that it has become a foreign land.


This travelling has involved a lot of driving. And the driving in turn has involved a lot of interesting and memorable experiences. Driving over here would (I think) be much easier if there weren’t so many one-way roads (or one-way systems as they tend to be called) mixed in with all that business of driving on the left-hand-side of the road thing. Switching from the right side of the road to what I’ve thought of for the last whatever years as the correct side of the road of course was a complete doddle for me.

I changed with confidence, assurance, all the wonderful and patriotic feelings of the returning native son with only the barest hint of needing to recite my mantra “Om: Keep to the left: Om: Keep to the left.” At least I did till I came out of that one way system in Lowestoft (or as the locals call it, with an amazing abhorrence of vowels, "Lstf"---You know, I have a fascinating theory, derived from this very fact, that the East Anglians are actually descended from the ancient Egyptians, and I’ll tell you all about it: one day). Anyway I emerged from this Lstf one-way road which, of course, happened to have (or perhaps I should say happened not to have) what, it seems, is all too common here---minimalist signage. The composer John Cage would, if he ever thought about it, I‘m sure be torn between fervid admiration and sheer envy of the quiet and subtle way that road sign designers work in the British Isles. The road warnings do seem to be a lot less, how should I put this, insistent than you, as Americans, might consider necessary to maintain safety, especially taking into account the casual attitude the British have to building the roads in the first place. I had forgotten how narrow and winding and, well, unpredictable, random and drunken the roads are (and did I say they were narrow?).

Anyway I didn’t quite pick up on the change in the road from oneness to two-wayness and I had been (quite legitimately it might be said) tending to keep right in the one-way bit out of adoptive American habit, and now suddenly I was on the right where I shouldn’t be and there right before me was a woman driving towards me: towards me as in as in the well known terminal activity of a head-on collision. She seemed suddenly to get religion. And this was surprising because, I mean, it must be quite hard to drive when you are down on your knees, with your hands clasped and with your eyes closed but somehow her luck and my ancestral English driving spirits took over and we passed on the appropriate sides of the road with no more than mild palpitations and the memory of it seared into our souls for ever. (Oh, and did I tell you the road was narrow?).
Cheerio for now from
Richard Howland-Bolton, somewhere in Britain




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