grinding away

21Jul11
After the red-eye to London, I took the tube to Waterloo Station and the train to Aston, met-up with Peter who had been so extremely helpful through this process, he sold me the Panda and started my lesson on driving a manual transmission in the UK.  I cannot adequately describe the potential harm he faced for hours– he didn’t have to do any of this but felt compelled to help out.  He is a prince amongst men.

After the lesson which nearly destroyed us.  I made it up the hill to the bed and breakfast on the outskirts of town…  I made quite a grand entrance after stalling twice pulling into their driveway!  (The hills pose quite a challenge.)  The owners of the bed and breakfast were very pleasant, I stayed in part of a converted barn. The family served a delightful breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon (more in the neighborhood of the Canadian variety), and tomatoes. In the morning, they had another guest who was from Ireland and after I greeted him, he thought I also came from the “island.” After explaining how confused I was, it was quite apparent the more I spoke that I was from the States not the Island.  This seemed to be a funny thing, as he is the second person from Ireland to make this comment in the past couple of weeks. There must be something, a tone or reflection that I don’t recognize… am I going Zelig on people?  (The test to the Zelig hypothesis will be if someone in Moldova wonders what part I’m from.)

After some rest, the adventure continued this morning, alone, mano-a-pata(?) with the Panda… it is much roomier than expected and is in very good condition.  That said, I still cannot drive it well and this causes me some significant distress, so I parked it in Alton and returned to London to meet Jason tomorrow morning.

My apologies to the people of Alton and environs for the frustration and terror I have caused on your roads.   I promise you, that should I return to drive your roads, it will be with an automatic.  (Jason can drive better.)

Photo from the all-engulfing-chairs in the lobby of my hotel.

I decided to get my mind off all the fretting and wander around London– I walked across five bridges, visited Westminster Abbey, found sushi and sashimi on a conveyor belt, was struck in the side of the head by a pigeon fleeing a very animated German youth, visited the Tate modern, and found myself in a torrential downpour without umbrella or raincoat (my parents were right on bringing raingear.) I’m pretty much dried out by now and am actively not-fretting in my hotel lobby.

Tomorrow, Jason arrives and we will gather materials. Saturday we head for Alton (via train) and then Goodwood for the kick-off and then finally to France (via Panda!)

Fun fact about driving in the UK: Apparently people bicycle on highways, where the speed limit can be 70mph… there is no shoulder, no rumble strips, etc.  I became very familiar with the lack of shoulder, as I had been over-compensating for the “always on the left” mantra I’d hammering into my brain.

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2 Responses to “grinding away”

  1. Gotta love those UK breakfasts–especially the tomatoes! Did they try to give you baked beans too?

    • Dan, they did push for the beans. Normally, for the sake of trying something new, I’d opt for it, but given the butterflies associated with driving stick, I politely declined.


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