Wednesday, April 22, 2009

True Story...British Words from A to Zed, Week 3

I know I've written more than once about all things related to driving in England but I also said I could write a novel on that topic. And, I’ve noticed a few things as we’ve been out and about on the motorways this week here in the good ole USA. For one thing the motorways are wide. And if we were talking hips that would be a bad thing but we’re talking interstate highways and wide is a very good thing. In England the high speed roads are called motorways and are numbered much like the interstates are here. So you might hear me say something like, ‘ We almost missed our flight to South Carolina last summer because we sat on the M25 for several hours while the policemen tried to talk down a man dressed as Batman who had climbed out on the signpost over what is one of the busiest motorways in the world.’ True story.

The car parks are wide in America too. And by car park I mean parking lot. The spaces are wide and that lane between each row of parking spaces is really really wide. And you can swing a car door open and not hit the car beside you. I shop in Windsor quite often and their car park has to be one of the absolute worst (Think Gene Hackman in The French Connection). I actually have to let any passengers out of the car before pulling into a space because the spaces are so narrow. And I have to inhale deeply and hope the trips to the gym are paying off in order to get out myself. True story.

The word circus is not used in connection with driving in America. When I think of a circus I think of lots and lots of activity, bells and whistles and flashing lights and people and animals and craziness. In the UK the term refers to an intersection in town with several streets converging…if you’ve been to London you’ve probably seen the signs for Oxford Circus. Hillingdon Circus was not too far from the school my girls attended so I found myself there quite often. Actually, now that I think about it the word circus makes perfect sense. And you might hear me say something like, ‘I want to avoid driving anywhere near that circus.’ And you can define the use of the word 'circus' there whichever way you prefer. True story.

And I know there are cameras placed in certain intersections here in America but the UK is home to the bright yellow box known as the speed camera. Not all of them are yellow but they are easy to spot. And in all fairness you get plenty of warning when you are approaching a speed camera zone. There will be a picture of a camera signposted before you actually get to the camera. Then there will be white lines painted across the road while you travel thru the speed zone. The camera itself is a big box. And, if you still miss it they kindly send you a photograph of your smiling self driving thru it. You'll actually only get to see your photo if you happened to drive thru the camera a little too fast and they need to attach said photograph to a citation. True story.

I’ve also noticed that in America drivers don’t seem to pay a lot of attention to driving in the proper lane. (As an aside, my entire family uses the word ‘proper’ a lot. It’s another one of my favorites. As in I need a proper nap. I need a proper meal. I’d love a proper holiday on one of the Italian lakes. True story.) In the UK if you want to drive slowly you do not drive in the fast lane. Which of course is the right lane in Britain, not the left like in the US because remember we’re on the right side of the vehicle and on the left hand side of the road so you’re fast/slow lanes are also reversed. Everyone clear? Thought so.

When you're driving on the motorways whether you're here or there you want to stay off the verge. And watch out for the articulated lorries too. If you have difficulties look for a layby. In other words...keep off the shoulder, watch out for the semis and if you have difficulties look for a paved area at the side of the highway designated for drivers to stop in or where vehicles may park in an emergency. In the UK some of the laybys actually have food vendors and you might be able to grab a sarnie and ribena for the road. That would be a sandwich and a ribena. Sorry ribena is ribena, a black currant juice drink super popular here as are all things black currant flavored. Not really much grape here. Even the purple Skittles and purple Starburst candies are black currant (btw-eww!) Oops I forgot... this post is about driving words not eating and drinking words.

Next Wednesday I'm writing about British pudds....I think I can say in all honesty that is one area in which I consider myself an expert. True story.


  1. I live all of those true stories. Great post once again!

    Don't you feel so free when you're back in the U.S. and on those roads. The parking there is awesome. No kidding, I have scratched our company car at least 3 times in the past few months, and my husband is beginning to wonder about me. It's really easy to do in all seriousness.

    I have to say, I have never heard of a "circus".

    As far as pudds, I can't wait.

  2. As far as a circus, our local DOT has been putting in round abouts and that has been hysterical watching people get used to those instead of traffic lights. I think after reading your post (and truly laughing out loud!) I am grateful for our roads here in the USA, I really cannot believe I am saying that. :-)

  3. I enjoyed all the 'true stories.' ;)

    Yeah, I'd forgotten the size difference on the roads. But you didn't mention the size difference in VEHICLES. Do you know how hard it was to rent a vehicle that held 5 people there? And I bet you've noticed just HOW MANY trucks and SUVs are on the roads here.

    Charlie's over there now, but he's not driving. He's a passenger everywhere.

  4. I cannot imagine me driving or parking a car in the UK! ;)
    It all sounds so different, but so very interesting.
    Do you think you'll get right back into the swing of things here in the U.S.?