Have you ever been skiing or sledding or biking, or some other physical activity that requires balance combined with speed, and just felt like you’re careening right on the very edge of control? Like one false lean to the left or right will send you flying over the brink and you’ll be toppling out of control in the blink of an eye.
That’s how I felt learning to drive on these tiny English roads on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the street.
Jesus, Take The Wheel.
The first few days of driving were white-knuckled, terrifying, very slow treks with no radio on and strict instructions to the children to keep it down because mommy needed to concentrate. Matt drove shotgun, navigating, and literally every time we had to turn right or left, I would ask him to reassure me that I was crossing a lane (turning right) or hugging the curb (turning left).
It doesn’t help at all that many of the British roads are so narrow we wouldn’t call them bike paths in the States. And there’s no parking anywhere (even way out here in the country), so the already narrow roads are often lined with parked cars half up on the sidewalk or the front lawn of whatever establishment they’re parked at. Or that there are roundabouts (“Look kids, Big Ben and Parliament!”) with road signs so confusing they may as well be written in hieroglyphics.
It also doesn’t help that there are actual areas on actual main roads where the two lanes are purposely narrowed to one, and one lane is “given priority” over the other lane, which has to “give way”, or else the two lanes will collide head-on. All in an effort to keep speeding down to a minimum. It’s INSANE.
But now, six weeks in, and I’m sailing down bumpy country lanes in my 12-year old Land Rover at 50mph, pausing at blind corners to ensure that no giant farm machinery is heading toward me around the bend, and cruising through roundabouts without a single shriek or jammed-on brake. I’m giving way and passing on the right and not giving a second thought to the fact that I’m driving on two-way roads where two cars literally DO NOT FIT across.
I still think the British are crazy drivers and that the British road system was designed and maintained by lunatics and masochists, but at least I can make it to the kids’ school without pulling over and hyperventilating, so that’s progress.