From roundabouts, or circles to the Saffers among you, with traffic lights around them (translation: robots), to parking places that you can barely fit a shopping trolley in, and roads so narrow that you almost have to close your eyes on encountering a vehicle traveling at breakneck speed around them, every minute is a new learning opportunity.
And let’s not forget the ubiquitous ‘satnav’, which brings new meaning to driving. Another level of joy to an experience that is already brimful of it on every level.
I always drive a lot when I’m in the UK. I drive a lot everywhere. And having brought up my children largely on my own, including regular visits to our weekend home a few hundred k’s away, trips to Moz and Cape Town, as well as various other holidays, we’ve clocked up hundreds of thousands of happy and safe kilometres over the years. Mostly with me at the steering wheel.
As children age, however, they seem to become imbued with some wealth of expertise that has nothing whatever to do with experience. They overnight transform into experts on every topic from running a home (any home) to driving a car. I have no idea how this happens, it just does. It’s miraculous. It’s also extremely irritating to be forced to listen to them waxing lyrical while trying to navigate one’s way through voluminous traffic on foreign roads.
Past trips have seen me traveling far and wide on my own, and there’s a much to be said for that. Last time around, however, I was lucky enough to have up to 5 ‘expert’, backseat drivers at any one time. Try that, for trying, that.
I wouldn’t mind so much if they considered the facts. I mean, it’s a strange car, it’s narrow and windy, unfamiliar roads with equally unfamiliar drivers, and I’m blindly following the instructions of some woman from the ‘satnav’, in the hopes she knows where she’s going since I don’t. Added to this is that it’s mostly dark and I don’t see too well in the dark. But no, they chirruped the entire time.
In addition, were these intensely irritating squeaking and peeping noises coming from the onboard cameras, that just added to the overall cacophony. And to think that I had this ‘helpfulness’ to look forward to for more than 3 weeks! They are indeed fortunate that they didn’t end up as foreign hitchhikers, thumbs doing the work, dropped off along the way.
This latest escapade was a little more manageable with only one traveling companion and therefore reduced noise and irritation value. However, there are some benefits too, in that there’s an onboard petrol jockey, a ‘satnav’ operator, and someone else to find change and do battle with parking machines.
It is not without its trials though. This particular little vehicle (some kind of Renault), has a driver rating option at the end of each trip. Now, being a driver of a rather large and automatic car generally, this does not transpose easily to a little, orange car with a clutch and gears on foreign roads. As a result, I was informed, my gear change rating didn’t rise once above 10% the entire trip… and this was over 1,300 miles over the length and breadth of the UK.
I am though, it seems, an ace at anticipation. I put it down to all those years of raising kids and knowing before they knew, what they were going to do next!
Anyway, besides a trip that got extended somewhat unnecessarily when, just 4 minutes from our destination, I mistook my left for my right and found myself on the M4 to Wales, it all went off rather spiffingly. At least, I thought so!