Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How to Drive in England?

Arriving in foreign countries and invariably driving around in them conjures funny connections. You’re in a car, you’re downshifting and obeying road signs, it’s something you do every day. But yet, it just isn’t right.


Let me give you some examples. Driving in Japan is like moving through a video game. The streets are perfectly almost digitally narrow with hard 90 degree turns and impeccably gridlike buildings that make you feel like you’ve entered The Matrix.
Getting behind the wheel in China is a Darwinian nightmare. Two lane roads and survival of the fittest. Oncoming buses screeching out into your lane and barreling down at you head on. Traffic jams lasting for days (yes, days!) Oxen carts in the middle of the highway. Trucks full of dirty, red-faced workers passing you in blurs on the right embankment risking your life and the apparently worthless lives of the passengers in the process.
Motoring around the Mediterranean is exactly like a Bond film. On the one hand you have these gorgeous landscapes. Vaulted cliffs overlooking crystal seas. Tiny twisting mountain roads that pass alongside luscious white sand beaches full of sunbathers and bright surf. Miniature sports cars with revved up engines and sunglassed boys on Vespa scooters. It’s palpable. As if at any moment Audrey Hepburn is going to pass you in a convertible winking coyly at Marcello Mastroianni.
Which brings me to driving in England. Yes, the countryside is amazing. Quaint, picture perfect cottages. Stunning greens. Immaculate farms with stone walled fences and grazing sheep. Literally, it feels like you are passing through a picture on a box of assorted chocolates.
But you’re not, because it’s wrong. You know it’s wrong. Because it’s too perfect. It can’t possibly be that beautiful, that pristine, that idyllic… can it? Did Currier and Ives and Thomas Kincade actually just create this stuff out of thin air. Did the entirty of the British population get together and just say…okay, we’re going to knock this one out of the park?
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe the problem is driving on the right side of the car while in the left lane. I mean, that takes some getting used to. I’m constantly looking over the wrong shoulder and reaching out shift but there’s nothing there… so you have to turn your mind on “backwards” for a moment.
But that’s okay, because it’s worth it. The drive is the thing. From Dover down through Brighton and South Hampshire to outside of Amesbury… the roads are stunning.

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