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Driving round the bend - Sex and Sums and a Controlled Dose of Rock and Roll [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Richard Clegg

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Driving round the bend [Jul. 26th, 2010|02:00 pm]
Richard Clegg
More terrifying than the diving this weekend was certainly the "driving in London" aspect of things. Why does anyone drive in London? I hired a car to drive to and from the dive as we had lots of kit to carry. Driving through London is simply exhausting, frustrating, terrifying and for the most part slower than walking and much slower than the tube or the bus. It really was an awful experience. From picking the car up (from a muddy car park somewhere off the Edgeware Road, rather than the easy to locate office off Marylebone) I don't think I had a single moment of feeling relaxed or calm in central London. This wasn't great as the experience began with a drive from Marylebone to Hackney, to Islington and then to London Bridge (I think that is the figure 4) which was a nerve jangling two hours -- the time it takes me to get from London to York by train. The whole time there are cyclists zipping past you with closing velocities of around 20mph (anyone who cycles in main vehicle lanes in london is psychotic and likely to bite your wing mirrors off if you try to actually move your car), people flashing lights, blaring horns and generally indicating hatred. Plus an ambulance or police car tries to pass you every couple of minutes.

This morning I had to return the vehicle to somewhere off Edgeware road which I hoped I would recognise because "it's near that damned great ugly flyover" -- unfortunately, I didn't spot the flyover until all the buildings started to mysteriously get shorter. By that point it was too late and before I could scream in horror I was on some fast moving conveyor of grim faced commuters pounding into the outer darkness and regions unknown (in fact Hammersmith). The journey back surrounded on all sides by mysterious sigils instead of road signs and potent warding "Congestion Charge Zone, abandon hope all ye who enter here" signs (why is a congestion charge zone so scary as a sign -- I think the congestion charge is probably the most visionary and successful transport policy we've ever had in this country but when driving those signs have the same kind of stomach lurch as a mysterious lump found on an unexpected body part).

Long story short, I managed to head back into the city to the muddy car park the whole journey from Islington to Edgeware Road taking only ninety minutes (and hang the fact I could walk it in fifty that's pretty good). This experience will haunt my dreams.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: shermarama
2010-07-26 02:49 pm (UTC)
I've said it before and I'll say it again; the only way to deal with driving in London is to swear almost continuously. Preferably in your most Lahndan accent. It sort of mentally gets you in tune with what everyone else is doing, and then you start believing that that tiny sliver of space is a perfectly sensible gap to pull into / driving three inches from the car in front in fine / fourth gear is for losers and it all goes a little easier.
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[User Picture]From: wendles
2010-07-26 03:18 pm (UTC)
I second the swearing! I also find it helpful to divide the world into two parts - everything forward of my wing mirrors is my concern, and everything behind my wing mirrors, including (this is very important) the view out of all mirrors, is the problem of whoever's behind me.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-07-26 03:33 pm (UTC)
Heh... that technique works right up until your navigator or your sat nav (or your fear addled brain) shrieks "you need to be in the left hand lane right now or we will never be seen again".
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[User Picture]From: wendles
2010-07-27 09:35 am (UTC)
Ah, but navigation is so much easier if you're not squandering your therbligs on worrying about what the people behind you are doing. Changing lanes is easier too - just remember, people behind you don't exist (and if they do it's their problem).
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-07-26 03:35 pm (UTC)
Preferably in your most Lahndan accent

You facking cahnt innit.

you start believing that that tiny sliver of space is a perfectly sensible gap to pull into / driving three inches from the car in front in fine / fourth gear is for losers and it all goes a little easier.

I spent a lot of time shouting at my passenger "How the fuck are all these people not DEAD? They're crazy!"

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[User Picture]From: shermarama
2010-07-26 03:56 pm (UTC)
You facking cahnt innit.
By Jove, I think he's getting it!
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[User Picture]From: capt_prickle
2010-07-26 03:43 pm (UTC)
Perhaps I'm odd (well OK, I am odd but we don't need to labour that point now do we?), but I don't mind driving in London at all. In fact I quite like it...
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-07-26 03:57 pm (UTC)
You're odd. There's also your attitude to driving in London which is odd.
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[User Picture]From: ivory_goddess
2010-07-26 05:33 pm (UTC)
Why does anyone drive in London? I hired a car to drive to and from the dive as we had lots of kit to carry.

I think you just answered your own question there!

Myself, I occasionally drive into London of an evening if I'm going somewhere with a late licence, as after midnight public transport back to mine is limited to night buses (insane) or cabs (insanely expensive if you live in Zone 5) and as I don't drink it makes sense. Its a lot easier if you know exactly where you're going (including which lane to be in) which is why I generally stick to one of 2 routes that I now know very well.

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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-07-27 09:24 am (UTC)

I think you just answered your own question there!


They can't all be carrying dive gear. :-)

I was really thinking of central london -- it just doesn't make sense to do a journey in zone 1 or 2 by car. It's slower than almost any form of public transport. Yes, if you're out in 3 or higher it might.
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[User Picture]From: magfish
2010-07-26 06:06 pm (UTC)
i too genuinely don't mind driving in london. i also don't see what the fuss is about driving in "infamous" cities like rome or paris...

this may or may not be because i learned to drive in london, albeit in da burbs - on the other hand, put me on a winding country lane and ask me to do 50/60 mph, and i'm a gibbering wreck....!
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-07-27 03:38 pm (UTC)
I'm sure driving in, say, India would be an infinitely more terrifying experience yes. Paris never looked too bad apart from that roundabout thingum (arc de triomph?)
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[User Picture]From: scatterbeetle
2010-07-29 04:31 am (UTC)
I spent a few hours up top of the Arc, watching with glee at the chaos below. It was my favourite part of the time I spent in Paris. Eiffel schmeiffel - gimme traffic shenannigans viewed from above any day.
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[User Picture]From: kissmeforlonger
2010-07-26 10:27 pm (UTC)
I hated driving in London, but put a lot of it down to having a deadline to meet and being late, and driving on my own with a map on my lap (bugger all use most of the time cos you can't look at it).

Isn't there a car hire place nearer your flat than Edgware Road?
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-07-27 03:37 pm (UTC)
There is a nearer one but it is ruinously expensive.
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[User Picture]From: noondaydemon
2010-07-27 05:03 am (UTC)
*Shudder* That's such a vivid description of your experience, and it's cemented in my mind the reason why I've avoided buying a car/driving in London!
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-07-27 03:37 pm (UTC)
There's just no need for a car with the public transport being so good anyway (compared with anywhere I've ever lived the public transport in London is nearly magically good -- even now I love the fact I can get pretty much anywhere in zone 1 and 2 in an hour at any hour of the night).
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