Tuesday, 31 May 2011

May Blog

This month I’m going to talk about driving.  I like driving.  Even though I know it’s a non-environmentally friendly thing to say, I have to admit that I like it better than sitting on a train.  Don’t get me wrong, I like trains too but only if I’m travelling through somewhere interesting - like the Austrian Alps or Siberia.  And only if I’m with someone else so that I don’t have to sit next to a random stranger and only if I’m in First Class.  And as I’m rarely – if ever – going anywhere more interesting than Norwich to London and as I’m often by myself and as I can’t actually afford First Class unless it’s a weekend upgrade for a tenner, I prefer to sit in my car and drive.  It’s less boring.  And I can do things I can’t do on a train.  Like talk to myself and sing out loud and chain-chew endless Starbursts without feeling that anyone is giving me looks of disgust.  (This is only safely possible though if all the wrappers are removed before travelling  in fifth gear down the outside lane of the M11 – otherwise it’s very dangerous.)
But the other day, I should have taken the train.  I was travelling down to Surrey for the first ever Surrey Heath Literary Festival.  It was a lovely event, held over a few days in Camberley, and it was especially interesting for me because I’d never been to that part of the world before - aside from Heathrow airport I suppose, but that’s probably not representative of the wider area. And once I was there I had a very lovely time - but getting there was like the plot of some really terrible comedy road novel thingy.  With me as the fed-up, frustrated, frocked-off central character.
It took me five and a half hours to travel 180 miles!!!
If the wind was blowing in the right direction I could have got to New York quicker!
So first up, there I was whizzing down the A11 feeling pleased with myself for having a good head-start on the rush hour and then I realised the fast-approaching slow-moving traffic ahead of me was actually not moving at all.   After slamming on my brakes, I was then stuck in a traffic queue for over an hour which was taking me on a diversion away from the direction I wanted.  Apparently my direction was not possible because a lorry had shed its load of turkey livers all over the dual carriageway.  This kind of thing only ever happens in East Anglia.
Eventually I picked up the right route again and was once again happily munching Starbursts and singing along to Random Play-all.  And then I hit the M25.  It was about five o’clock.  I’ve driven on the M25 loads of times but I think it must always have been at a different time of the day.
It took me about 3 hours to go about 47 miles!
What’s the point of that?
I’m not sure that I got out of second gear once.
My Starbursts were all gone.  My head was aching.  I was starting to need the loo.  And then Nancy Sinatra started singing ‘Bang Bang, I shot you down, Bang Bang, you hit the ground…’  It was a very bleak moment in my car.  I had to shuffle Nancy on and look for something more cheerful.  There aren’t many occasions these days that I want to listen to Technotronic but that was one of them.

Anyway, I have a plan to reduce traffic on the M25.  Apart from emergency service vehicles, I think only black cars should be allowed to use it.  This means that London taxis can still use it and hearses and statesmen like Barack Obama in his armour-plated ‘Beast’ and also me.  Cars of other colours should be made to choose another route.  M25 congestion problem solved.
I did get to Camberley eventually – feeling totally frazzled but was much cheered by a Thai curry in the lovely company of my agent, Agent Yeelesy of Pollinger, and her friend Nicky and Lesley Polinger herself.  So thanks you three for unfrazzling me!
One last M25 related thought though.  There’s a big flyover somewhere between the M4 turn-off and the Cambridge turn-off and someone has sprayed across it in massive letters GIVE PEAS A CHANCE.
Please email me if it was you. I won’t tell the police or anything I’m just interested.
(By the way, I didn’t take that photo – that would have been as dangerous as unwrapping Starbursts. I’ve shared it from the internet. There’d be a million times more cars in the picture if I’d taken it.)
Hello this month to the kids at Collingwood College who I met in Camberley and also thanks once again to everyone who has sent me an email in the last month.  If I haven’t replied to you yet I will.
P.S I’ve changed the picture of me on my home page to acknowledge the fact that I’ve got three years older.

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