Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Travelling Diaries: Cars

by Tim MacBain 

Welcome to the first instalment of an infrequent series of me wending my way from A to B. I am no experienced traveller; being only 17, and having left Europe once, I cannot claim to know the ins and outs of journeying. However, there have been a couple of incidences that have stuck in the mind; let’s say I’m trying to be the Gerald Durrell/James Herriot of travelling. I do hope you enjoy.

The Car

Both my parents are exceptional drivers. Especially when they are in the passenger seat. Twitching, inhaling/exhaling sharply, giving ‘constructive criticism’ (as I like to call it), shouting garbled instructions/warnings. A particularly spectacular instance was during driving in Scotland. We were on our way back to the cottage we were staying in, driving through the Highlands. The car was sitting at a relatively blind T-junction, and the parent driving (I shall not distinguish between them, for that would be cruel) was feeling a smidgen nervous; the road we were turning right onto was rather a fast one. A gap appeared, and the driver went for it. And I mean WENT for it. The rev counter must have hit at least 3000 as we disappeared in a cloud of exhaust fumes.

Cue pandemonium.

Someone screamed, another shouted, and we careered our way onto the left hand side of the road. What we hadn’t realised, but found out later, was the low wall that was opposite us at the junction had been the only protection from a rather sheer drop. Well, all’s well that ends well…

However, I must extol the excellence of my mother’s driving (note how, when positive, the driver is named) when we were on holiday this year in Devon. In the small, single track back roads that the West is so full of, we were making our way down an exceptionally steep hill, with a blind bend at its base. We were just approaching this bend when suddenly a tractor whipped round the corner. Naturally, Mum slammed on the brakes.

I take this moment to point out that, in common-speak, I am a ‘noob’ when it comes to the mechanics of driving. Therefore, when the ABS came on, my parents were quite calm about the juddering of the car, and were more concerned with the massive great big tractor right in front of us. My sister and I had the double whammy of the tractor AND the shuddering brakes; she screamed and I jumped out of my seat.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Mum reversed cleanly back up the hill, and allowed the tractor to pass. Followed by its trailer. Followed by the other tractor that was tagging along behind it, with enormous spiky bits on the front, driven by someone no older than 16. We were particularly thankful that it was the older man driving the front tractor, and not the other way round.

This sparked a discussion in the car as we recovered from our ‘ordeal’; whose right of way was it, the one coming up or down the hill? Obviously, we weren’t going to argue with a tractor, but no one knew for certain, theoretically, who should have backed down.

It turns out what happened was entirely correct; as stated in the official Highway Code, ‘Give way to road users coming uphill whenever you can.’. Therefore the ONLY conclusion one can draw is that my mother is such a good driver that she adheres to the Highway Code without thinking. And that tractors are big and scary.

Next time: Trains…

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