Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Survival Tips, One Month In

How to not get into a traffic accident in London: 
Don't leave your house.  Ever.

You can't tell if a street is a one-way just by looking at which way the parked cars are pointing, and definitely not by the width of the road.  Also, if some jerk is double-parked, completely blocking a lane on a narrow street, this is normal and acceptable, and you have to scoot around him quickly, hoping that nobody is coming from the other direction.  While shifting with your left hand.

This is all conjecture on my part, as I have not driven here yet, and honestly, now that I've experienced it from the passenger seat, really don't plan on it.  (My dreams of jaunting off to Haworth and the moors for a day are bubbling away.)  However, I do have a better understanding of why cars in Ottawa with red diplomatic plates drive the way they do.  After all, I filled out a form when I got here, showed them my drivers' license, and -- hey!  I'm allowed to drive here!

Note:  I should not be allowed to drive here.

I am trying to find a "Driving for Diplomats" course, which is different than a "Driving for the Never-Drove" course, in that you need to actually break the part of your brain which thinks it knows how to drive and what the rules of the road are, because whatever you thought they were, they are not.  For example, let's say you're driving down a street in London, and you get to a stop sign.  What do you do?

If you think, "Stop!", you're wrong.  The correct answer is, "They don't have stop signs here.  You are obviously not in London."  Well, how do you know when to stop in London, you ask?  There is a double dotted line, of course.

And you're just supposed to know.

See?  I need to break my brain and start again.  Luckily, our Volvo (Mulva) is almost ready to go, and, at approximately 7 times the size of the average British car, will be able to squelch/thwart/conquer anyone who gets in my way, no matter where I am going and on what side of the street I am using to get there.

How not to get hit by a car or bike in London: 
Don't leave your house.  Ever.

Pedestrians don't have right of way at all.  Somehow, I still have the same three kids (I think) that I arrived with, despite several close calls, the closest being when we crossed with the crosswalk light (and a loud "squee" sound to prove that the crosswalk light was lit), and a cyclist nearly mowed Tamsin down.  Grrr.  Those double-dotted stoppy lines* don't mean, "it's ok for you cross here if I am approaching, because I will be stopping."  Sure, the car will stop, but it doesn't seem to be their job to make sure you are safely on the pavements (like a sidewalk, only British!) before they start again.

When I previously mentioned that children are expected to walk nicely and decorously with their parents, that also means that a random child, running ahead or lagging behind by even a little bit, is not expected (because it's just not done), and is thus fair game.

...come to think of it, maybe that's why children walk so nicely with their parents and nannies here.  The bouncy ones have all been run over.

(So sorry.)

(it's probably true)



*TM



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