Sunday, June 20, 2004

[Warning: this post is much longer that I intended].

Thank you Neil of GfB [see the comments on the last post]. It's quite nice when you get back from driving much too fast for quite a long time, and the first real email I see is a copy his comment, and it makes me laugh.

Except now of course, it will happen.

So anyway, the weekend was fun, in an odd way. Drove down to the coast [well, across and down, and across a bit more] because I was semi on duty [along with my parents] for doing race control stuff for the sailing club [why am I a member of a sailing club 2 hours from home? Because I have been since I was six. Still not very good at actually sailing, but never mind].

So went down late Friday, because of the magical ability of lovely forms and deadlines to simultaneously appear whenever one's got something else planned. Meet double-decker bus at the bottom of a very steep hill - though fortunately it was coming down the side of the valley with the bizarrely cambered hairpins on it, and I'd seen it wallowing it's way down, so found a convenient bit of verge to bury myself in. I've never even seen a bus on that road before [it's the scenic route, not the main road, but I like the view and the rally-style corners - which I learnt to drive on], let alone a double-decker. Park at sailing club, ring parents to find out where they are, and where the B&B we're going to be staying at is. Parents are in sight along the seafront, and still my father wants to try and have a rambling conversation on the phone.

Considering the rest of Friday, not that much had gone wrong with the journey [other than attempting it at half-past seven on a Friday night] - managed to take my usual detour along a road that's crammed with roundabouts, because I always forget to turn right by the bike shop [though we used to go along this route]. I hate that road, but never remember in time [and also the signs to the suggest I want to go straight on]. I ache for power steering [literally].

Parents appear, and we decide it'll be easier if my mother drives up the B&B [due to actually knowing where it is for starters, and because she used to live in the town]. She attempts to turn my car [her old car] round. At first she can't change gear, because the clutch is so stiff, and the slots in the gearbox aren't as defined as they once were [that may have been me, though my brother also learnt to drive in it, and he's the one who drove off the road whilst giving me a lesson]. She then puts on about a quarter turn on the steering wheel, and wonders why she's going in a nearly straight line towards a wall. Eventually she remembers that in this car you pretty much have to to hoist the car round, and we drive off. Potter through the town, but in this place that's usually the best approach, as no-one ever looks whether they're in a car or not. Turn up in a side street, turn right, then sharp left between two 4x4s flanking the drive. The drive is steep, and narrow, and bounded by high stone walls.

My mother stalls. She stalls it on the steepest part. She pulls the handbrake, but being her, doesn't pull it on harder enough. The car "eeks", makes a weird brake cable stretching noise "gra-ong" [but it's made that noise for decades when parked on the slightest slope. But then again there have been several incidents of people driving that car many miles with the handbrake still on], and starts rolling backwards. My mother restarts the car, juggles the clutch and accelerator, and holds the car steady. She then accelerates slowly, and the car inches forward. We continue and park. The last time I heard a vehicle making similar noises was on hill in Wales, and our coach had embedded itself in the tarmac, and eventually attempts to free it caused an amazing amount of black, then brown, then white smoke, followed by a loud bang, and the engine stuttering to a halt.

So go, up to room, bang head on ceiling. Why is people who plaster the rooms in the eaves of a building always use Artex [which is as near as plastering can get to a grater] on the sloping sections?

Go to bed. Discover that sharing a room with one's parents means putting up with an insomniac mother who loves nothing more than reading. This of course means her bedside light illuminates the whole room. I later check the bulbs and find the two main, heavily shaded room lights are [a misery seaside B&B traditional] 40 Watts each, and the bulbs are "warm-colour" tinted. Her beside light has a shade shorter than the bulb, and is 60W.

Wake to one their alarms, which both seem to be ignoring. It gets turned off, I try to go back to sleep. Fail. One of the advantages of having the room next to the shared bathroom is one can hear what's happening in it [possibly this is also a disadvantage], and miraculously go and enter it as someone else is coming out.

The bathroom is what one might term innovative. Open the door, and there's a shower cubicle directly ahead, and chair behind the door. Go back into the hallway to find the loo. The other doors on this level have numbers on. I ask my parents. Am told it's behind the shower. Go back into bathroom. Not convinced. There's a small gap to one side of the cubicle. There's daylight coming down there from somewhere. Turn sideways on and go through. The loo's beneath the window, penned in by the shower cubicle. The gap at it's widest is the length of my forearm from elbow to the end of my palm. Where there's a diagonal joist [which runs to the floor under the window], it's just under the length of my forearm from elbow to wrist. It's not the best use of space, or bit of design I've ever seen, and I wonder if the people who inspect hotels and such places actually realise it's here. I'm guessing it wouldn't pass new-build safety and accessibility standards.

Get washed - shower not abysmal, but the thing holding it onto the wall is [literally square peg, round hole]. There are assorted things that could do with more thought [like the shower control being a couple of foot beyond the cubicle, and quite high up. I had to reach to use it, and I'm over 6ft].

Go down to have breakfast. Cornflakes or Weetabix? Ooh, decisions. Eat, try to ignore Radio 2 in the background [Why?]. Whilst studiously studying distracting things around the room [you know those completely random things that always turn up at jumble sales? Well, I think I found someone who likes them. She probably even knows what some of them are], I glance at the salt and pepper containers. They look like mini bottles, but are made of ceramic. On the labels it says Liebfraumilch. I never even knew what the bottles look like, merely that it was something to be avoided at all costs. How did Liebfraumilch end up making condiment versions of their bottles, and how did these end up in an eccentric bred and breakfast place? And what does Liebfraumilch mean anyway? My single year of German suggests it's free-woman-milk or love-woman-milk. Which isn't really conjuring up images of wine.

Then onto the very fatty and salty fried breakfast. I've never really understood the appeal. Fried bread's only nice if the fat's really hot when it gets put in [I learnt to do it on a campfire in Scouts, and vegetable oil usually doesn't get hot enough], and the bread doesn't taste like Sainsbury's Economy White - "Made with the finest chalk". Fried egg - I don't know how to make it not slime with tendrils, but neither do the hosts. The sausages are the reason the EU want's to restrict what word sausage can mean. The bacon was pretty much stewed in oil. And then there's the confusing notion having both baked beans and half a tomato [though in fairness the baked beans tasted the more tomatoey]. I don't know, it's just so dehydrating and cloying. I know it's all oily, and slightly undercooked so it can be mostly prepared earlier and kept warm, but sometimes efficiency goes to far.

Get interrupted midway through, as the car's in someone's way - though at least the people running the place are happy to move the cars themselves [not sure how legal it is, but in that town legality's never really mattered. And of course there's the dubious act of backing the wrong way down a one-way street].

Finish breakfast, go down to sailing club. Mill for ages, as is traditional [parents find a great many people to talk to (most of whom they dislike), and a great many things to do, which usually require needing things from the car and assorted people, and there's always at least one instance of two people looking for each other and both walking round the same circuit of the club for ages]. Go into town. Wince as a car grinds it's tyres against the curb dropping off two teenage girls. Car drives off, and I realise I know the driver, and the girls must be her baby daughters. Think "god they've grown", closely followed by "oh god I must be old", and "did I just think that dreaded line about growing? The one I hated as child and could never understand why people said it? The one I was going to make sure I was never going to say? Oh god".

Go back to the club, have lunch, get changed into wetsuit - why are they always so unflattering [on me]? Realise I forgot to pack my buoyancy aid so have to scrounge one. My father's old one is in the bottom of the locker. Put it on. Try to tighten the belt. Haul solidly for a long time. Try to work out what to do with the foot and a half of spare belt [I know he's fat, but am I really that thin?]. Clamber into a RIB. Clamber from RIB into committee boat. Discover there's 5 of us in it [there's usually 3], even though I'd checked I'd be needed.

Chunter off across the bay. Drop the end of the gate, and anchor near it, watch the safety boats dropping the other marks. Sit and wait, discussing who's in which boat. This breaks down into the life histories of every person in the assorted boats [my mother trying explain to the rest of us who these people are] - this takes the form "who's that in the Albacore? Is it Neil? I think it's Neil. You know, it Jamieson? Johnston? Jeffries? Jones? Johns. I knew it was Johns. Neil Johns. You know him. Used to sail with thingy - the doctor. The doctor from...somewhere. Um, near Nottingham. I think. Unless that's the other one who isn't a doctor. No, Neil's not a doctor, he used to sail with one. Anyway, Neil, you must know, Neil. The dogs remember? You do. The big dogs. Nice wife. They've got children. Wife's a bit odd, but so's Neil. He's...he's not vicar from Bristol, is he? No he's not. He's engineering isn't he? Highways I think. Used to come from somewhere in the Peak District. I think he lived in London. Oh yes, there was something to do with IBM. Friends with the UN man you talked to. The one with the chatty wife. Dangly earrings. Yes, him. Well, Neil's friends with him. I think. Unless that's a different Neil. He might be one from the Foreign Office. Lives with that BBC producer. You know, the one who used to be with that manager at Marconi, who lost his job. No, that's not him, but he's the one who had the Porsche. Neil the accountant. No, this Neil. His sister was involved with that defrocked bishop. Oh you know, the one in the summer when...oh, you weren't born. Neil of the dogs, likes fish. Here he comes now, in the Albacore, what's it's sail number? The one with the red top...oh that's not him. I don't know who that is".
Which I think can all be summed up with "HRT: Just say no". Ok I'm being cruel, but you haven't had to live with it [yes, there have been occasions when I've put the phone down on the desk, and gone off to do something else, returned and she's still talking].

So I'm now going to carry on whether you're listening or not. Much writing down of sail numbers, and correcting various sheets. Cue: person on one end of the boat sticking up flags [well, poles with painted bits of hardboard on the end], as I press a button. Really important huh? Oh the joys to be had from an air-horn. Other than discovering it gets very cold when it's used.

So more stuff with flags, more horning [sounds dodgy]. Suggesting politely to the person who sailed across the line before the start that they really ought to go back through the gate again (and be thankful we haven't disqualified them). Watch people potter, or scream round the course. Listen to expert tips on rowing being broadcast on the radio. Unfortunately, it was on the channel we were working on. And as we later discovered channel 16. Which is supposed to be for emergency use only. We realise it's the people coaching the local gig team.

So we order one of the safety boats over to get them to sort it out. The guy in charge decides using the least diplomatic person available would be a good idea. But the least diplomatic person doesn't remember his call sign and so doesn't respond. So another team is dispatched instead, who were fairly polite - as we heard the conversation transmitted back via the jammed radio. But at least the rowing coach has the grace to say "over" at the end [ok, so it should have been "out" but at least it's better that chatter about when the next maintenance needs to be done to their oars].

By the way, tip for all aspiring racers: Make full use of the rules, especially recent rules changes about boats no longer having to give water to an inside boat at a mark. But bear in mind the inside boat might not know about the rule change, and might continue as normal yelling "water!" at the boat cutting them off. This situation may result in the inside boat ramming the technically correct boat amidships, and leaving a big hole in her. And as for the person who jumped the start and didn't do any penalties, well, it didn't matter as his mast fell down and he didn't finish.

Eventually we start finishing the boats [not that eventually for some as it was a fixed length race and the wind rose so it was much faster than intended]. I was told to delay the finishing hoot for each boat until the time had been read out - but apparently the racers think we were using their sterns crossing to time them because the hoots were slightly late [and thus have been saying some pretty rude things about the people running the race]. Next time we ought to hoot at the moment their bows cross the between the mark and the committee boat mast, and round the times up to the nearest minute.

The finishing wasn't helped by various safety boats deciding the race was finished and pulling up the marks. Fortunately father of boy in the straggling boat was in a safety boat, and told him we were going to do his results on average lap [not technically legit, but who'd know?], rather than wait for him to go round again. He also nearly got told this by the least diplomatic guy, as the LDG responded to the wrong call sign [again].

LDG also charged into the side of the committee boat and swung us round. Which is very helpful when there's still people we're trying to finish, and we're supposedly a fixed point on the course. Unfortunately no-one crossed the line whilst LDG's head was directly in front of the air-horn.

Then of course were the other safety teams going in and off-loading stuff to us. Which I was trying to time in between hooting people across the line. Pack everything up, and return to mooring. Tip for divers: short beach, flanked by pier and rocks, with many moored boats, and sailing club finishing race and returning to the beach: not best place for diving, as there's not very much room to avoid divers, and the warning buoys are usually hidden behind moored boats.

Go back in. Mill round for a bit. Get sign-off sheet, and my mother goes round finding people who haven't yet. Some of the them hadn't bothered, some of them had, but hadn't realised that most of the signatures were signing on, not off, and therefore there needed to be two. My take on all this is; if they haven't signed on, then they haven't raced or competed [regardless of whether they went round the course or not], and if they haven't signed off then they're disqualified. Strangely no-one has yet dared to put this into action [possibly because of a fleet of 30, there'd be about 4 people in the race]. Though quite frankly so many of them do shout rules at the people running the race, and treated them with utter contempt, then it's about time the organisers started doing everything by the book. And thus demanding people take penalties when they should [rather than pretending they didn't hit that boat or that mark]. This would also probably highlight the fact the half the rules quoted in the face of the race-officers don't actually apply in that context. But once again, this might lead to the majority of competitors being disqualified.

Get computer [after my mother came close to hitting someone who gave a very dismissive reply] to calculate results, having already been asked what the results are [I'd just stepped off a boat, and there's still competitors coming in, including by the man who later gave the dismissive reply about the computer]. Sit typing in competitors and results. Discover that light-based mice don't work well on streaky marble surfaces. Follow instructions to the letter including putting "OOD" as a result for the race officials. Then get told it's a cup, so we don't have to. But you can't delete the result, or rather you can, but radio-button or whatever it's called [the select one hole which turns to a black dot thing], can't be unselected, so one of the options has to be chosen, so it defaults to "DNF" if you leave it blank. Helpful huh? At this point I had to go and do the charming nephew thing with my aunt who had just turned up [I didn't say I did it well], so I don't know how my mother got round it [check out the Sailwave programme here, and tell me if you find an answer].

Hung round a bit more, Aunt dropping hints about food, and then deciding she'd rather go home. Wander round the town, and end up in pub, in the abandoned restaurant area, whilst trying to guess who's playing football from the small section of the big screen we can see. Orange is probably Holland right? Don't know about the other [apparently is was the Czech Repulic]. Have food - tomato soup nice, steak pie not really. Nearly get asked what the random farming implements attached to the wall behind me are by some small boy. The mother quickly fields him away with "they're for farming". I can explain what a scythe is, but might have difficulty with the thing that looks like a primitive nut-cracker. Which is exactly what it is, just a different type of nut.

Finish, consider desserts but take one look at the mass-produced menu (the type that features photographs bigger than the real thing, each pudding having been made in a factory somewhere and shipped in individual portions, by "Whoever Food Services, Milton Keynes") and decide not to bother.

Go back to the sailing club in preference to sitting in the B&B. Usually the bar's open on Saturdays, but the football seems to have distracted everyone, so it's just us. Sit and chat, discussing mostly whether or not it's misty on the Isle of Wight. The flickering light I could just about see in the daylight (and which was bemusing me as it was much too high to be a light house) turns out to be the red light on top of the mast at Ventnor. Decide it must be misty as the Needles lighthouse disappears for periods longer than it's cycle, and we can see car headlights on the hill above it.

[I have just discovered that Windsor is on the Isle of Wight. Isle of Wight County, Virginia that is. Which isn't even an island. They also claim that the IOW proper is called Isle of Wight County. Thought it was in Hampshire. But at least they don't purport that the neighbouring counties are "Hampshire and Kent". For a start Hampshire stretches from just east of Christchurch [Dorset] to Hayling Island, which is further than the IOW does. The next county along eastwards is [West] Sussex. But as that encyclopaedia also features under the heading "Related Stats" stuff on the geography of Belize, and Southern Ocean currencies, it might not be the most reliable source. Reverting back to the Virginia version, I found this line on part of the their website: "Infrastructure is under construction to the rear of the park (former Sustainable Forests Site)". That does say what I think that says, doesn’t it?].

I discover that despite being able to see the tower at Fawley [oil refinery] in broad daylight (but only on a good day), at night I need binoculars to pick it up. Though the light at Hurst Castle is in front of it and much brighter, so that might be why. We stand watching what must be huge fireworks somewhere further around the coast, unable to discern exactly where they are.

And then back to the B&B, and to bed (after failing to finish the quick crossword in Friday's Guardian).

Sunday: Get up begrudgingly. Have breakfast, complete with utter brats demanding stuff and then screaming behind me. Consider the potential for fried bread to be used a lethal weapon. When did I get old enough to think their parents need to use "no" more and mean it? Ok, so I think I was about 4 when I first thought that, but you know what I mean.

Go upstairs, and pack. Mill for a bit. Take stuff to the car. There's another car parked behind it, blocking me in. The owners of the car are leaving today, but want to leave the car in drive until the go at lunch time. They've handed their car keys in, should anyone which to move their car. But then they realised they wanted something from the car, and got the keys back. The keys can't be found and are assumed to be still with the owners. The owners can't be found, and are assumed to have gone somewhere in the town. Just as well I was planning on leaving at lunch time as well.

Go down the sailing club. Father preps the larger boat. This includes us taking the cover off. I persuade him to fold it rather than haul it off and dump it in a heap. He's annoyed by this, and before I can finish tidying up all the loose ends, he yanks it away over the boat. I protest. He snaps "not now". I walk round in front of the bow, ready to sort out the mess when he inevitably dumps it. He flings it down, and turns back to the boat. As he does his feet get caught in the trailing straps, and he falls over. He somehow manages to roll, and comes to rest against my shins. I say nothing, but exude an air of remarkably little sympathy. He complains a little, but less than usual [my father is a connoisseur of falling over. Even in the most myxomatosis ravaged landscape he'll still find the merest rabbit scrape to topple him]. I start tidying up the cover.

I help sort out the boat, and then go back up the balcony where my mother is still chatting to the woman acting as beachmaster for the current race. After a while a man comes up to beg assistance in launching his boat. Both my mother and the beachmaster suggest to the nearest available men that they should go [strange that my mother doesn't consider that a request like that could apply directly to her]. The guy at the other end of the balcony beats me to it. I remain on the balcony, watching.

The guy who requested help doesn't seem to know what he's doing (which in this sailing club is pretty standard). He doesn't have a painter on his boat [a painter being a rope attached to the bow/front of the boat] despite it being a normal fitting, and his boat having the hole through which it should run. The guy helping isn't dressed for getting wet and so quite rightly stands beyond the range of the small waves. Eventually he snatches the trailer from the sea, carefully timed with the trough of the wave. The boat's owner looks bemused, and then sets about trying to put his boat together, whilst not thinking that things might drift away. He keeps having to dart after one errant bit of kit, and then dart back after the boat which he let go. And this is on a day not very much swell.

I think the guy on the shore, who hauled the trailer up, tries suggesting better ways of doing things, but only seems to make the boat's owner more insular. Perhaps he'll learn on his own to prepare as much as you can when the boat's on land. Eventually the owner seems to get things sorted and sails off, not quite under control. He hits a mooring buoy because he's not looking, and does panicked gybe to avoid sailing into the old pier. He's also timed it so that he's going out as the first finishers in the race are coming in. He sails quite close in to the shore at the beginning, skirting through amongst the moored boats, narrowing missing rocks that he doesn't seem to notice. Then he decides to head straight downwind, which is straight out to sea. Going further out, and nearer the end of the headland and the tidal race, he loses it, and nearly capsizes.
He recovers, and then capsizes. The boat rapidly turns turtle. He flails for a while, and then clambers up the leeward side of the hull.

The beachmaster is so busy talking she hasn't noticed, so I point him out. He's hanging from the daggerboard, fortunate that it hasn't slipped out when the boat was upside down. He leans back and hauls, the boat rights itself. But because he brought the sail up into the wind, the wind catches it and flips it straight back other onto the other side, and down on top of him.

He re-emerges from underneath. He tries righting it again, this time fortunately the wind has blown the hull round so the sail is nearer to parallel to the wind. He gets back in, and tries to sail into the beach. He pinches, loses power, and stops in irons. He paddles with his hand to turn the boat, and tries again. Again he tries to sail too close to the direction the wind, and the sail just flogs. He repeats this cycle for awhile, adrift amongst moored fishing boats, and the returning racers coming in fast. Eventually he realised that the boat won't sail directly into the wind, so he starts tacking his way in. Unfortunately he overcompensates, and sails a beam-reach up and down the same bit of water repeatedly. After a while of looking pensively at the beach he's trying to get to, he attempts to head slightly further into the wind. He comes in slowly, making a lot of tacks, as on each one he makes very little headway. Meanwhile the racers are coming in about 40o closer to the wind. Eventually he gets near the beach, and jumps out into water that's just about shallow enough to stand in. He walks the boat in a bit more, then clambers back on to take the daggerboard up, as it's now hitting the bottom. He paddles in with his hand the rest of the way.

He's standing in the surf, holding the boat. He's left the rudder down, so every time the waves go back out, the boat drops and is left standing precariously on the rudder and the bow. The boat swings round as it falls from this point, the incoming wave catching it further. The offshore wind catches the sail on which the main sheet appears to be cleated, and the boat capsizes across the shore. And of course this happens as another, larger boat is just coming in. The second boat had just pulled up its centreboard, expecting to come in alongside and come to a stop just before it hit the beach. Now there's a boat lying on it's side where they were intending to go, and without the centreboard, the boat cannot turn quickly enough to overcome the momentum. So the larger boat sail straight into the stern of the smaller one, and goes across what would be up the boat, with the crew leaning over and fending off the rig.

The larger boat turns back out to sea, to get herself sorted out, and the man on the beach hauls his boat back upright. It once again tries blowing over, and I think someone else came over and uncleated the mainsheet. At this time I had to go and sort out other stuff, so I didn't see if anything else went wrong. I overheard the man who had been having so many problems say later "I had a brief sail on her, and everything was fine. There's a bit of a different to set-up here to Sunsail though".

Explains a lot. Sunsail being a sailing holiday where the staff do all the preparation, and hand people fully rigged boats, which they then sail straight out, and straight back in again, all the time under masses of safety cover. They even catch the boats as they come back in. Might explain why he seemed baffled by what to do with trailer. I only hope enough people have discreet words that he realises quite how much trouble he was nearly in, and how to avoid most of it.

But then pretty much the first I was taught to do with boats was how to stop it. Admittedly this led to me sailing in incredibly small circles in an Oppy in Poole Harbour. I was told if I was in trouble or wanted to stop, then I should let everything go. This apparently isn't supposed to include the tiller. I let it go, and it went as far over as it could, so the boat would turn as tightly as it could. I'd also let the sheet go, so there shouldn't have been any power in the sail. This assumes the sheet isn't so salt-laden that it doesn't run smoothly, and that one's not learning in a force 6. But then an Optimist has such high windage on the hull alone [due to being a shaped like a large bathtub], that if you try putting her in irons [head to wind], she'll start moving backwards quite fast.

I think that was also they day we gave and went back in because there was a blizzard. There's a reason sailing courses are cheaper at Easter.

I think he just needs a bit more practice, preferably when there's not a racing fleet about cluttering up the place. A few years of sailing round following fish, trying to ram one's brother [he started it, and his was the faster boat] and rowing under the pier to get cornish pasties should improve his boat handling skills. Hmm, I've just realised that a few years is actually over a decade and a half. But I still don't race though (and don't actually like it when the boat starts tipping too much. Might explain why I've never yet capsized unintentionally).

Anyway, back to Sunday [or today if I'd finished writing this when I started it]. Decide it's getting too windy to go out easily before lunch [Yes, we do use that duffers excuse too much. Though we'ld never get past the racing fleet coming up the beach]. Have lunch, and my mother and I go back to the B&B to collect the car, having arranged to do a car swap if I can't get out [I had to be back here to get something done]. Fortunately mine is the only car left in the drive. Unfortunately I now have to back the thing out of the drive. The very steep drive. With big stone walls, and curious ledges.

Much stalling, steering, kangeroo-hopping braking, worrying about wing mirrors, and avoiding walls by fractions of an inch later, and I'm sitting at the top of one way street facing the wrong way. Wave to mother, pass stuff through the window and drive off.

Go out via the pretty way. Pull over to get things sorted. Realise I shouldn't have done that as there's a tractor coming past me as I want to pull out again. Turn the engine off and wait a while. There's still traffic coming up. I wait for a gap, and it's behind two Volvos both with surfboards [probably windsurfers] strapped to the top. And they don't move. Well they do, just not at speed which makes the road anything other than "oh, look at the view".

They continue at the same speed through the 30 limit of the village. I drop back due to driving within the speed limit, and usually much slower, knowing the tight corners often have people not realising how tight they are, and other people back out of their drives round them. Then down the hill, and annoying the car behind me as I enter the hairpin bends, but strangely leaving him behind as I go around them and out of them. The moment the road straightens out he overtakes going up towards the blind brow of a hill. He zooms off figuring the road is straight, therefore not even the national speed limit applies.

I go over the hill and can see the junction at the end of the road. Guess who's there. Brown zoomy boy, behind the Volvos, behind the car that was behind the tractor. There's a car that's come into the road, and is level with the first of the Volvos, and signalling right, trying to get access to the lane beyond. There's another car behind that one which turned left into the road, and is still partly sticking out into the main road, forcing traffic coming from my right to squeeze past. The cars queuing at the junction close up. I come down the hill slowly. As the cars in front of me see a space and pull away, I wait from car blocking entering traffic to cross ahead of me.

She does, and I continue down the road, and pull out onto the main road behind the brown car. They all gained so much by pushing and ignoring everyone else didn't they?

I follow this stream through the village, but stop to wait the cars coming the other way to clear the pinch points, instead of pushing through behind the others as the cars ahead have done. Each time I catch up with them again. The brown car is driving much further out than the car ahead of him, and is acting like he's trying to overtake. In a 30 limit, in busy narrow village street where people do the most ridiculous things [such as stepping straight out into the traffic to get the furniture someone was carrying through a narrow front door]. I think he's lucky he didn't met one of the quarry lorries coming the other way on one of the bends [I now it's a Sunday, but they're around at the strangest times]. The two Volvos turn off at the square, so the brown car accelerates hard, then brakes hard to get round the bend down the hill. A very small Triumph pulls out in its place.

I continue down and round, past the pretty tourist bits. Driving in this part of the country must make more use of second gear than virtually any other part. By the National Trust car park there are people waiting in the middle of the road to cross, so as I'm going slowly, I wait for them. The front of the large traffic jam waiting to get out grabs to opportunity to accelerate away in both directions. I drive on, waiting for the motorbikes that have appeared behind me to pass. They don't, even on the fastest bits.

Then comes the choice of town or bypass, I choose town, because it's the view I prefer, and you get right of way over the bypass at the end. Which is very handy as the bypass usually goes solid at the end of weekends. Except of course this assumes there isn't local land rover full of people ahead. It neither brakes nor accelerates, and does 35 mph in every speed limit.

I get through the town, and back onto the main road. Normal fairly busy driving from here onwards, until I get the junction which I hate. This is because it's one of the most nonsensical ones going [even better than the M27's fork left to go right/west and vice versa, or that bit of the M25 in Kent where you have to turn off the motorway to continue round the M25]. To get to one road either you turn off at the junction before, and make you're own way there [ignoring what the signs tell you to do. They lie], or you fork right, go into a roundabout, turn right, then left at the next one, which should take you back on yourself, continue onwards and take the second right [not the first one as I did, which takes you to a roundabout the previous junction option would take you to, and which the first road I was on goes straight over. The signs at the roundabout tell you to take the exit which joins the road you've just left], once again going back yourself, and at the main road turn left. This should take you the way with much fewer roundabouts, but I never seem able to find it.

Checking the route on the AA, and going the northern route with fewer roundabouts, is actually the shorter and quicker route, but the routefinder still recommends the other wrist-spraining way.

Carry on driving home, the laborious way. Get to the bits of dual carriageway and motorway, and repeatedly find myself doing 85 mph. It's car's fault. It doesn't imply you're going quite that fast. Get annoyed with other people's driving going over the New Forest, and realise I sound like my brother when I swear at stupid drivers [Volvo with bikes on back, luggage, and several adults. Same Volvo not realising that it can't go up hill at the same speed it expects to, but will damn well try anyway, and then be too stubborn to admit it misjudged the situation. So it sits in the outside lane, as people try hard not to undertake it]. I've also started driving like mother does during rush hour on the A3. This might just mean I'm not still turned into a shrieking nervous wreck by the very concept of changing lanes. And it is nice to accelerate away from roundabouts, overtaking people, and still have another gear left when they run out [I'm not aggressive or boy-racery, merely it's just quite fun to go up through the gears quickly. And only very rarely do I make little boy playing with car noises (neerrrrya,neerrrya...). And this is on dual carriageways by the way, before you worry].

Though it was quite worrying when I found that not only was I doing nearly ninety, I was doing it in the inside lane, it had been trying to rain for ages, there's tons of traffic on the roads, and I'm keeping station with the people in the outside lanes. It's quite eery to have one solid block of cars all doing the same speed.

I'm still trying to work out when driving stopped being a feat to worry about. There's still things I should have done better, such as seeing a sign saying "slippery surface", and so easing off. Then I notice there's no road markings, and ten metres before the end of the change in road surface there's a sign saying "loose chippings, max. speed 20 mph". I was only doing treble that [and being overtaken. It's not like there were very many loose bits left anyway. And if they really wanted people to be doing that speed, they might need to put up signs before the surface changes].

Anyway, so drove home, a bit too fast on occasion. Which gets me back to now - Except by the time I finish writing this it's then, and the reason I had to come back early is already over.


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