People round here often say: ooh, I don’t like going down to London. I’d hate to drive down there. It’s terrible. It’s so bad to drive around London. All the drivers round there are such bad drivers.
And I say: “hah”. Because I’ve driven round London,* and not had any problems with other people’s driving. I’ve driven round here – a lot more, obviously – and I can hardly go on a car trip without something making me go: “what the hell are they doing?”
In the past 24 hours I’ve driven about 25 miles in total. In that time I’ve had four people overtake me because they’ve thought I’ve been driving too slowly. That is: I’ve been driving at 60mph, on a narrow twisty country road. I drive at 60mph down it, because I know it well; I know where the bends are, where my lines of sight are, and how fast I can go and still be able to stop on sight. And I get overtaken by people zooming past me at 90-ish. On the road past the office, which is an urban road, I drive down it at 30mph and get overtaken by people doing about 50.
Now, no doubt these people would claim they’re very good drivers, and therefore it’s entirely safe for them to drive like that. This is, frankly, bollocks. It’s never safe to drive at 90mph down a twisty country road with a couple of farms along it. These people are living proof of the Dunning-Kruger effect: the more incompetent a person is, the more likely they are to overestimate their skill.
That’s fine when it involves things that don’t concern me. But when I’m driving to work every day, and meeting these idiots every few miles, it bothers me. I don’t want to end up in a ditch, because of your rudeness, idiocy, or misjudgement. If you pass me at 90mph, keep on going – because when you impale yourself on a 20mph ploughshare in half a mile, I want to have plenty of distance between us.
* although no further in than Zone 2; Mile End or Clapham Junction
You often see stuff about road safety on the telly. Less often, things about specific roads. And it’s very rare for this area – the Forest, if you like to think of the Symbolic Forest as a physical place – to get on the telly at all. So when I heard that there was an hour of Channel Four last night solely devoted to road safety in this area, I had to watch it. Even more specific than that: it was purely about one road, the one from here down to Somerset.
We didn’t manage to watch the whole thing; the catalogue of deaths was just too depressing. It wasn’t helped by my habit of saying “That’s the bend coming out of Fir Park” or “That’s just by Cottagers’ Plot” when random stretches of road were shown on-screen; I spend so much time trying to get out of this area, I know all the main roads out of here in great detail. As we didn’t see it through to the end, I don’t know if the documentary tried to offer up any reason why that particular road is so dangerous. All we got was: people round here are crap at driving.
This may be true. Certainly, in my experience, it is true. People in London, say, may have a reputation for bad, aggressive driving, but people in this area are good at sloppy, careless driving; or drunk, too-fast driving; and that’s what leads to so many people dying on a fairly short, fairly ordinary road. It’s because, paradoxically, this area is quiet and isolated, compared to the rest of the country. The question is: is there anything we can do about that?
I seem to be becoming a worse driver.
This isn’t by my own judgement, but by the judgement of other people. Specifically, more and more people seem to have started beeping me for doing what they think is The Wrong Thing. I’m not sure what the problems are. I always signal, I travel at a reasonable speed,* I try to drive assertively and take up the appropriate space on the road. There’s nothing wrong with the car, so far as I can tell. So why have people decided to start beeping me all of a sudden?**
H, incidentally, has suggested I should teach her how to drive. And I realised, thinking about it, that I have no idea at all any more how to drive, or rather, how to explain how to drive. The manuals I assume say something like: “press gently with your right foot and at the same time lift your left foot up until you start to feel the clutch engage, then increase power whilst raising your left foot smoothly and releasing the handbrake”. If you drive, though, you don’t consciously do all that; you just wiggle your feet a bit and you’re away. I have no idea how I would go about explaining all the various simultaneous processes to someone, in a car without dual controls.
* usually at the speed limit. Honest, officer. Ahem.
** or wave their fist and shout “Wanker!” like the cyclist the other day. OK, I pulled out in front of him. It was thick fog, he was wearing dull clothing, and didn’t have any lights on his bike, so when I started moving I had no idea at all he was there. Tosser.
Well, good morning. It’s the end of the week, and I’m glad. One more day to get through, though.
Things I haven’t managed to write this week: more Books I Haven’t Read; a Book I’ve Finally Finished Reading; any Photos Of The Week. I was even tempted, at one point, to do the first Symbolic Forest Restaurant Review,* but, er, didn’t.
Also-ran news stories of the week: another stupid driver, whose excuse for speeding was that there was little risk of hitting a goat at the time. Unluckily, his bleatings** were ignored by the police. Not quite as stupid, though, as the man from Thorne who decided to destroy a speed camera with Thermite, but drove his van right past the camera as he did so. Oops.
A few days ago, I was chatting to Taloollah on the phone, and she said she’d read my review of the little local gig we went to last week. Apparently, it read as if I didn’t enjoy myself, feeling much older than the rest of the crowd, and not really liking the music. Which is a bit unfair of me to put across, because I did have a good night out. I’m probably much grumpier in style, writing here, than I am in real life; it’s just that I find writing cynically to be easier, and often more fun too. In real life I can be annoyingly enthusiastic and bouncy about some things – puppyish, even – but I rarely express that here, because I find that sort of mood a lot harder to describe effectively. I take the easy option, and write like a curmudgeon instead.
Oh, well, I’m going to try to be cheerful today anyway. Time to get myself to the office and get some work done, and then time to switch off, forget about the office, and relax. See you next week.
* of a rather nice Indian on Haxby Road. It needed a bigger indoor pond.
** The Plain People Of The Internet: Groan!
I’ve been thinking about having a new feature on the site: Readers’ Letters. I get you to write in with questions that aren’t suitable for a normal comment-box entry, and I answer them. I was thinking of doing it today, in fact, but I couldn’t be bothered to make all the questions up as well as the answers. So, if you have anything you want to ask, email my usual address: feedback at symbolicforest.com
I also should get around to rearranging the post categories. As time goes by I find myself referring back to previous posts more and more often; and spending more and more time searching for previous posts that I know are in the archive somewhere. Better categorisation should mean less searching, hopefully. After all, all categorisation systems change over time – look at how libraries work.
Big Dave has a new car. Not new new, but new to him – he bought it off his dad at a bargain price. “You know what,” he said, “it does 140mph, and it still had some power left in it. And that was just up the London Road – I haven’t tried it on a motorway yet.” I’m going to be staying indoors more from now on. I’m happy to trundle along at the speed limit myself. If I want to drive something that can do that speed, I’ll try and get a job as a train driver.
Listening to people chatting about What Was On The Telly Last Night, I suddenly realised – I haven’t watched a thing all week. Instead I’ve been listening to music, largely because I’ve been playing with Last.fm, the website that shows everyone else what you’re listening to. In my case, it largely shows the world what a twee indiekid I am, but that’s because my record collection is heavily biased. There’s an awful lot of music that I like but don’t own, because I don’t know enough to know what to get.
Anyway, that’s enough nonsense for this week – there is a cup of tea cooling in the kitchen, and I need waking up.