Sunday, October 08, 2006

It came from behind the kettle

The battlefield at Naseby, the tourists who turn up are three and a half centuries too late for the action.

The Naseby tourist trail.

Yesterday, I had a day trip to Swansea. Yes, somewhere this rather strange idea coagulated into reality that it would be an absolutely spiffing to see my likkle boy and ensure that he gets a hot meal.

At the risk of sounding like an accountant at a Christmas Party, I shall share with you the route. Getting to Swansea involves taking the A605, turning West onto the A14 which sort of morphs into the M6 at the picturesque Catthorpe interchange. (Note 1) You then bundle along the M6 (Passing Coventry at great speed) until you glide off onto the terminally confusing M42. At some stage (I must have been tuning the radio at that point), the M42 turns into the M5. (Note 1A) After a while, you peel off from the M5 and utilise a roundabout subject to motorway regulations to join the incredibly picturesque M50.

The annual accounts Christmas Party was thrilled with Nigel’s account of his drive to the Brecon Beacons.

Ross on Wye and another roundabout marks the abrupt cessation of the M50. Picking up the A40, you navigate the hazardous border country and into Wales. In a move that rather typifies the entire journey, the A40 mysteriously turns itself into the A449 while nobody is looking. (Note 2).After a while, the A449 makes a graceful intersection with the M4 at Newport, Gwent. Faced with the salubrious temptations of Newport or peeling off onto the M4 heading West, you off course head West. (Note 2A)

A mere 16 junctions or so later along the M4 and you are in Swansea. According to the nice man on the AA Web Site (nay the very nice man; the very, very nice man), this is a journey of some 216 miles. Remember, good yeomen, I undertook this as a day trip, so the mileage needs doubling as I reversed the route later.

Merkins among my readership will probably be making some derogatory comment about my Limey lack of stamina. In my defence, I would like to point out that driving in the UK and US is very different. I’ve done both and I can say with certainty that US driving is far easier and far less tiring.

Suffice to say that by the time I got home I felt like someone was sticking pins in my eyes. Every now and again, my leg would twitch and my left arm would manipulate a non-existent gear stick (No wimpy automatic for this loony Limey).

There are lingering after effects too. I woke up with a stiff neck. When I learned to drive, when the man with the red flag roamed the highways and byways, the accepted maxim was “Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre”. This has subsequently been updated to “Mirror-Signal-Mirror-Manouvre”.

My method of driving has me keep to the lane furthest to the left as much as possible. You may have noticed that I have a thing about drivers that don’t pull over – so it would be hypocritical for me not to.

The police around Cardiff are as modern and well equipped as any in Wales.

When I drove a motorbike, self preservation taught me that the final mirror check before pulling out was an absolute must. It also taught me that the mirrors were not enough and a glance over my shoulder was preferable. (Note 3)

The habit has proved hard to break. Although I’m now in a steel box, before I pull out, I check the rear view mirror, wing mirror and glance over my shoulder. After all the lane changing yesterday, the poor muscles in my neck feel like rusty piano wire.

Still, my likkle boy is fine and seems to be settled in at university. Generally, he seems to be having a great time. The only downside is that he has picked up a dose of Freshers’ Flu.

Checking Wikipedia though, they seem to have missed out the likely cause. The shared kitchen in his flat is an absolute disaster. I’m proud of my own ability to slob, but that kitchen is an absolute disaster area. There cannot be a clean piece of crockery pot or pan in the place. Newspapers and general rubbish lies where it fell. Three large bin bags of refuse await removal. I’m pretty sure that there was something moving amongst open cereal packets and half eaten pizza, but I couldn’t be sure.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Shortly before you reach the Western end of the A14, you thunder through the Battle of Neasby battlefield. There is a little brown sign to remind you of the fact at the side of the carriageway and at one point, you are invited to divert from your travels to go and see the battlefield. Should you ever feel tempted, don’t get your hopes up. There are only fields, a crumbling monument and a little plaque. The battle finished over 360 years ago and they haven’t got round to taking the advertising down yet.Click to return

NOTE 1A: No, I don’t have the numbering all wrong on my footnotes; it is just that I ended up with two notes in one paragraph. Terribly bad form, I know, but this is how I like to work the numbering when it happens.

When the M42 turns into the M5, you end up taking pot luck. Depending on which lane you are in at the time, you end up either going North or South. I was lucky, I was in the overtaking (Note the name) lane and so I ended up going South. Some poor souls end up heading North and are discovered months later still trying to fight their way out of Halesowen. Click to return

NOTE 2: If you look at a map, you may be tempted to cut across country to pick up the A465 – especially when you think that if you continue on your current route you’ll pass through Port Talbot. If this thought finds its way into your head, grab it firmly and place it in a sack with a couple of bricks. Tie the sack firmly and toss it into the river. The A465 is no shortcut. It isn’t a road, it’s a never ending construction project designed to keep labourers off the streets. Click to return

NOTE 2A: I have complained about this stretch of the M4 at length in previous posts. Most of those rants have been about Port Talbot. I’m not going soft, but I won’t rant about Port Talbot today. Instead I will complain about the number of police cars and speed cameras around Cardiff – or rather the reaction of other drivers to them. Why is it that one sight of a police car or speed cameras has some people hitting the brakes? When driving, it is essential to know your speed. Even if you don’t know your speed, hitting your brakes before checking isn’t going to help – it will just cause accidents. If you are one of those annoying little toads who believe that sitting in the middle lane doing 60 mph while the nearside lane is free is a right granted under the Magna Carta – then braking just highlights what a crap driver you are! Click to return

NOTE 3: The check over the shoulder habit was also born out of a periodic lack of mirrors on the bike. I didn’t come of the bike much more than any of my mates, but whenever you did, the mirrors were always the first thing to go. It wasn’t helped that I had to leave my bike out on the street during night shift. I lost count of the number of times that some light fingered scallywag pinched my mirrors. As a result, I went long periods without any mirrors until the opportunity arose where I could liberate some new ones.. Click to return

The M50 motorway must be the prettiest in the UK – unless you have a better suggestion?

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