Driving in Britain: road signs and narrow roads

When I first started driving in Britain, it was white-knuckle work. Not because I’m a timid driver. I drove cab for five years back in Minneapolis, which  wasn’t a war zone, I admit, but it was and is a city, and the winter driving in particular could be hair-raising. Still, nothing prepared me for British driving.

The part I thought would be hard, keeping the car on the left, turned out to be the easy part, since that’s where all the other cars were and it’s easy enough to stay with the herd. When there’s no herd it was sometimes harder, but if there’s no one around you’ll do the least damage if you turn into the wrong lane. What was hard? Among other things, finding the steering wheel. More than once, I opened the passenger door, prepared to slip behind the wheel and drive, and instead stood there blankly thinking, Somebody stole my steering wheel. Who’d steal my steering wheel?

Look, I’m not responsible for what goes on in my head. As long as I refrain from acting on it, everything’s okay.

Screamingly irrelevant photo: A couple of people asked what the china cottages I wrote about looked like, and what I did with the ones I didn't send to my friend. Here are the ones I have left.

Screamingly irrelevant photo: A couple of people asked what the china cottages I wrote about in my boot sale post looked like, and what I did with the ones I didn’t send to my friend. Here are the ones I have left. The two with the brown roofs are replicas of the one labeled “Shakespeare’s cottage.” Apparently, he lived in three houses and they all looked alike.

I had similar moments with the seat belt, when I’d be groping in mid-air wondering where it had gotten to. (FYI: In British, that would be got to. I have no idea why.) L.’s husband, she told me, spent a lot of his driving time slamming his hand into the door when he wanted to change gears.

But those are moments. They pass. The roads though? They go on for as long as you’re driving, and if you want to get philosophical about it you could argue that they go on regardless of whether you’re driving or not. So let’s talk about the roads.

Before my first trip here, I had no idea how narrow British country roads could be. At every blind turn (and oh, does this country have a lot of them), I was convinced some big damn truck was going to come barreling toward me with half its wheels—and half its everything else—on my side of the road. Because where the roads are seriously narrow, people can’t help driving down in the middle. And in other places, they could but they don’t. Or they don’t always. Its standard practice around here to shave a bit of the curve off two particular stretches of road. They don’t happen to be blind, but still, it’s not a great habit.

It took a long time, but I’m finally used to narrow roads. I’ve stopped expecting trucks to appear in my lane. I can drive the hour and a quarter to Plymouth, where Wild Thing goes for eye treatments (which are working, thanks for asking; there’s a limit to what they can do, but they’re doing what’s possible; six cheers for the NHS, and cheer fast before the government succeeds in wrecking it) without feeling like it’s a big deal. I suspect I could do it without getting out of bed.

But I’ll admit to being thrown by a sign I noticed on a recent trip: Oncoming traffic in middle of road.

The first question I have about this is why it’s worth noting. Even by British standards, the roads in Cornwall can get narrow—something I know because I see panicky British tourists plastering their cars to the hedges while oncoming drivers breeze past, barely bothering to slow down because what the hell, there’s at least an inch to spare. But in most of the places where that happens, you won’t find an Oncoming traffic in middle of road sign. So why put one in this particular spot?

Which was, just for the record, in Devon, not Cornwall, but still, it wasn’t in what I’ve learned to think of as a particularly narrow spot, although once upon a time it would have scared me brainless.

The second question is what they expect me to do what about it. Screaming comes to mind. Some people might want to pray. But neither of those reliably avoids, or even minimizes, an accident.

I can’t answer either question—don’t you love how much you learn from this blog?—but I can happily waste a bit more of your time considering it.

An age or two ago, when I asked what people would like me to write about, Terri suggested British road signs and I tried to be at least mildly amusing on the subject but bored myself silly. I’m not sure I’m being wildly amusing this time around, but I’m still awake, and that’s a good sign, so let’s keep going.

British road signs fall into three categories.

Comprehensible signs

You see a sign that says 30 and you pretty much know you’re looking at the speed limit. Or you see a graphic that shows an intersection, a curve, two lanes turning into one. You can follow those. Or you see words: Ford; Reduce speed now; Slow. Useful but boring, so let’s move on.

Comprehensible (but only if you sent away for the secret decoder ring) signs

A lot of these are standardized European Union signs, which are wordless so that they’re equally incomprehensible in all of the many languages spoken throughout the union. Once you get used to them—well, I won’t say they make any intuitive sense but you can begin to think they do. A circle with a slash through it? Of course that means you can resume the national speed limit. The fascinating thing here is that you just know a whole committee of people spent hours—did I say hours? I meant months, and they felt like lifetimes—talking about what graphics people would intuitively understand. And then finally they looked at each other, said, “Screw it,” and settled on these, after which they went out for a drink.

Make that several drinks. They needed them.

Just to be clear, I’m not blaming them. They were handed an impossible and necessary task. Standardizing the signs makes sense. Making the signs wordless makes sense. Unfortunately, whatever solution you come up with will be absurd.

One of my favorites in this category made me think at first that I was being told to push my car off a pier when, in fact, I was being warned not to drive off one. But after a while, as long as you’re not in the car when it goes over, you begin to figure these things out.

If Britain leaves the EU this summer, a whole ‘nother committee will convene to discuss what to replace them with, because the old ones will be politically tainted. I can hardly wait to see what they unleash on us.

Eccentric signs

Some of my favorites in this category are the signs that warn you about road closures, because the people who write them are paid by the word (it’s the only explanation) and I’ve been a freelancer myself so I understand what they’re going through. They say things like, “We’re really very sorry about this, but we’re going to have to close this road between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Sunday 3 March in the year of our Lord 2016, and we hope it isn’t too inconvenient, especially since it may actually take a little longer than the time we have scheduled. We’ll finish up as soon as ever we can.”

I don’t care how much you slow down, you can’t read that. Neither can your passenger, even though he or she has the luxury of not watching the road. And you just know the sign writers would have squeezed in a few more words if they’d had a smaller font available.

One of the early signs of Wild Thing’s eye problems was that she had trouble reading road signs. Not just the road closure signs, but you know how it is: If you’re struggling with sane signs and then look at a road closure sign, you forget that you never could read them. Instead, you think, Crap, my eyes are worse than I thought.

So thanks for those, guys. We appreciate your efforts.

Then there are the signs that say “flood.” These are entirely legible to anyone with normal vision and they get put out where a heavy rain will flood the road. Then they get left there through drought and fire and plagues of locusts and they’re still there when the next flood comes around, although they may have faded into illegibility by then. Or been there so long that they’ve gone invisible. When I first saw them, I used to look around for a bunch of badly behaved water. Now, though, unless they’re actually sitting in water I ignore them. Which sort of defeats their purpose.

Directional signs range from the clear to the useless. I’ve driven through cities where the only way to leave a roundabout in the direction you had in mind is to read the markings on the road. (That’s assuming, of course, that you weren’t sharp enough to memorize the graphic of the roundabout that precedes it, which on our first trips here we often weren’t.) Lanes will be marked with things like “City Centre,” “Tavistock,” “Moon Landing Site,” and so forth. So far, so good. You find your lane and follow it. But the lettering on the road is only legible when traffic is thin. The moment other cars are rude enough to think they can share the roundabout with you, what do they do? They drive on the damn pavement. Which means they block the lettering. Which means you go through the roundabout three times, hoping for a gap in the traffic so you can read what they hid last time around.

In the U.S., we hang the directional signs above the traffic. They’re ugly as mud, but you can find them.

Other signs are homemade things. Some are little sparkly things asking you not to litter, which are so upbeat and good humored that you want to (first) sink your teeth into someone’s arm and (second) throw candy wrappers out the window. Followed by vodka bottles. Others are assertive black and yellow signs that say “Overhanging Roof” in the hope that if you’re driving a big honkin’ truck you’ll refrain from tearing the corner off their roof. Again. (Did I mention that the roads are narrow?) Or panicky signs that beg you to ignore your sat-nav because it will tell you to drive into someone’s living room, or into a lake, or down a street that’s too narrow for anything wider than Molly Malone’s fish barrow and we all know what became of her. Ever since we moved here, I’ve been seeing newspaper photos of truck drivers stuck in narrow streets, sometimes for days, while the world tries to figure out how to unstick him (to date and to my limited knowledge, they have all been hims)—or more accurately, his truck—without tearing down the houses. Here’s a photo from January of this year and another from March.  And what did they do in the second incident? Arrested the driver. I guess if you’re driving and you see a house in your way you should probably hit the brakes and all, and maybe a traffic ticket really isn’t enough of a response to someone who doesn’t. Still, I can’t help sympathizing with a driver who’s watching the road get narrower and narrower, feeling an escalating sense of panic, and thinking, If I can only get out of here before anyone sees me, this will never have happened.

If there’s a single sign visitors want to learn before they come to Britain, it’s the one that says, “Ignore your sat-nav.”

I’m not sure any of that is what Terri had in mind when she asked me to write about road signs, but if not, ask the question again in a different way. I just might get it right. Or at least be funnier.

89 thoughts on “Driving in Britain: road signs and narrow roads

    • Oops, sorry. A satellite navigation system–one of those little know-it-alls that sits in a car and tells you how to find whatever you’re looking for. Since no road in Cornwall goes straight and nothing’s easy to find, they’re very, very handy, and I hate them.

      I use one anyway.

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  1. Your posts are such a fun way to start my Fridays. I’ve been on those narrow roads (not driving). I don’t think any amount of signage would have helped me avoid crashing into something or burying the car in a hedge. The Sat-nav (GPS over here) misdirected us twice, but thankfully, not into a building. Those pictures are amazing.

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    • I was just about to say the roads aren’t as bad as you think, but yeah, the first time you’re on them they are. Every time I think about the problems that can come up with sat-navs, I wonder about whether self-driving cars are such a good idea. You know. You’re sitting outside the A&P arguing with your car about whether or not it’s the post office.

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      • You wouldn’t really want lovely Cornwall criss-crossed by straight, concreted, eight-lane highways, would you?

        Isn’t it strange that you are — according to statistics I’ve seen — over thee times more likely to be killed on American roads than on British ones. Perhaps Americans are on the whole less capable drivers?

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        • I wouldn’t want that. You’re right. But I wonder if the lower death rate is due to the slower speeds those narrow, twisty roads demand or to the tracelike state a driver can so easily drop into on a long, straight road.

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          • I would doubt it. I think that by far the greatest proportion of English traffic is carried on motorways almost exactly like American highways. The narrow twisty roads in contrast obviously impose, by their very nature, a limitation to the volume of traffic they can carry. But I do not know the precise ratio of “narrow bendy road” traffic to multi-lane major road traffic, I admit.

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  2. Wow … I haven’t set foot (or anything else) in beautiful Cornwall since … 1975. It is good to know that road-signs have arrived there at last. Do you still have the Cornish Mile down there ?
    Loved this post. All the very best. Kris.

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    • Good question, and I’m going to give an equivocal answer. One web site says it’s equal to a mile and a half. Another says 3.161803398 miles, which may not be right but is worked out to a lot of decimal places so it’s impressive. (A Cornish lace, in case you need to know this, is 18 square feet. Or, as it puts it, 18 feet square. I’m going to be rash and assume they amount to the same thing. A third site talks about the habit of putting random numbers on the signs that tell you how far you are from the nearest town. You’re half a mile away. You drive on and see another sign. Amazing! You’re still half a mile away.

      What I can tell you is that no one’s used the phrase in my vicinity in the ten years I’ve lived here.

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  3. >If Britain leaves the EU this summer, a whole ‘nother committee will convene to discuss what to replace them with, because the old ones will be politically tainted.

    Oh I do hope not. In fact many of these signs were invented in Britain – the ones on the continent aren’t always the same as their UK equivalents. The fact is, we’ve had these “continental” style road signs for so long that everyone’s used to them, even if we don’t always remember what they mean. So I reckon there will be no changes to them, even if we do leave the EU. It’s always a laugh to watch old 1950s films where you can see the old style UK road signs in abundance – now they were really weird.

    >Oncoming traffic in middle of road
    That just means “slow down you idiot and don’t assume you have right of way”. Often used where there’s a narrow bridge with only one lane across it, or a very narrow street in a quaint town or village (lots of them in Cornwall, no doubt).

    Circles and triangles and stuff:
    A useful rule of thumb is:
    If the sign is inside a red circle it means a prohibition of some sort, especially if it’s also got a red diagonal bar across it.
    If the the sign is in a red triangle, it’s giving you important information (like expect deer to run across the road in front of you).
    If the sign has a blue background, it’s telling you something you must do.
    Example: “30” inside a red circle means max permitted speed is 30 mph, but 30 on a circle with a blue background means minimum speed limit is 30 mph (rare, but they do exist).

    Sat navs:
    I’m getting the impression these days that some local authorities aren’t bothering to maintain their road signs because they think everyone’s got satellite navigation in their cars – so that’s alright then isn’t it? “No it’s not!” says the truck driver as he’s fined by the police for wrecking a listed cottage with his vehicle.

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    • Thanks for updating me on European road signs. I’m not sure what made me think they were standardized EU signs, but I was so sure of it that I didn’t even think to check. We’re never so ignorant as when we’re sure, are we?

      Wild Thing and I were once trapped in a construction zone in Exeter, trying to follow our sat-nav to an address we didn’t know. Every time we got detoured (and this happened several times, always at the same place), the sat-nav took us back to the intersection where we’d deviated from her plans. So I’m with the truck driver–it’s not all right to let the road signs drift into illegibility or fall to the road and be forgotten there. We need ’em.

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  4. I thought you were joking about the “Ignore Sat Nav” signs, but, OMG–they are a real thing (and we should probably have them here in the US).

    I’ve always wondered about rhd vehicles and reason behind driving on the left side of the road and your post prompted me to Google the question. The answer is way more complex than I imagined, and I’m not sure how much credence I give to what the internet has to say about the issue (you guys drive on the left because Napoleon wanted traffic to flow on the right?).

    Because I’m not at all familiar with EU road signs, I don’t know if this bit is a joke or not: “A circle with a slash through it? Of course that means you can resume the national speed limit.” My American brain would interpret a circle with a slash through it to mean something is prohibited (such as a No smoking sign: a circle/slash over a picture of cigarette), and a sign like that on a roadway would lead me to believe it meant “Do Not Enter.” But that joke may just be flying right over my head.

    When I first moved to Philadelphia, before GPS became ubiquitous, the highway signs absolutely flummoxed me because they direct you to go the same way whether you’re trying to get to Harrisburg (which is way out west some 100+ miles) or New Jersey (which is just 10 miles in the opposite direction). How on earth could that particular roadway take you to BOTH Harrisburg and New Jersey? I’d rather not tell you how much time I spent crying by the side of the road.

    (Of course, the highway led to an interchange where you could then switch to traveling either east or west.)

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    • You can see a picture of the resume national speed limit sign here Assuming of course that this works. It’s an absurdly long URL. The thing is, the slash goes over an empty circle, so if you assume (as I once would have) that it’s forbidding something, it’s forbidding nothing.

      Don’t think about that too long. You’ll get light headed.

      I once heard or read an explanation of traffic keeping to the left that had something to do with swords. Whether it was to keep your sword out of the oncoming rider’s way or to free your right hand to hack and slash at the aforesaid rider I no longer remember. I kind of suspect it was one of those after-the-fact explanations, where someone reasons backwards and it’s all very neat if a little improbable. Spiting Napoleon, though? That’s so absurd it sounds likely.

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    • No we in Britain always drove on the left (the Romans started that – they were into roads in a big way). It was Napolean who initiated the drive on the right thing, because he wanted his empire to be different to those rosbifs on the other side of the channel. Then of course, the ex-colony of the USA, still sore about their spat with the “home” country, sided with Napolean.
      Interestingly, the Japanese also drove on the left from the start of the Edo period in 1603, and for the same reason as British. They still do of course.

      >A circle with a slash through it…
      What Ellen’s referring to is a white circle with a black bar running top right to bottom left. This is the sign for the national speed limit
      “National speed limit” means “this is the speed limit until the next explicit speed limit sign appears” In the UK the national speed limits are 30mph in built-up areas, 60 mph on two lane roads, 70 mph on dual carriageways (US: divided roads) and motorways (US: freeways).
      Local speed limits are indicated by a red ring with the maximum speed in the middle in black numerals.They are typically, 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 mph

      The UK “Do not enter” sign is a red circle with a white horizontal bar in the middle.

      You can see all these lovely signs at:
      https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/traffic-signs

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      • I never stopped to wonder what side the Romans drove on. Or–well rode on. They didn’t go running around in chariots and such all the time. Changing a country over must be a nightmare. Must’ve been a slow week when Napoleon decided to introduce that. Russia, by the way, drives on the right (I just looked it up). Whether that has anything to do with Napoleon I don’t know. He had other problems when he was there, so I’m going to guess no.

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        • They used to drive on the left in Sweden but in the late 1960s the Swedish government decided to swap over to the right, so as to be compatible with neighboring countries. They did it overnight – with a great deal of advance planning of course. It was a fairly expensive operation, one of the most expensive bits being converting buses and coaches to put the passenger doors on the other side of the vehicle (I bet they didn’t do that bit overnight). Now Sweden has a fairly low population which is spread over a large area (with the exception of Stockholm of course), so the changeover was reasonably manageable. Can you image trying to do it in the UK with its population of 60 million people, 30-odd million vehicles and a dense road network? Since we’re a bunch of islands anyway, it would be hardly worth the effort, the risk, and certainly not the expense.

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          • I’m trying to imagine what it would be like if the U.S. tried to change sides of the road. Some small percentage of the population would decide it’s a conspiracy of [fill in the blank] to [fill in this blank as well] and refuse to go along with it. Or they’d go along with it, but 30 years later we’d still be hearing about it.

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            • Sounds about right!. In the UK we’d all go along with it, but a) we’d moan about the change forever, and b) someone would form a political party with the sole aim of getting the decision reversed – called the UKLHS party (UK Left Hand Side party) or something like that. Nigel Farage would probably be its first leader.

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          • All right, I’ll answer my own question. They sit on the right (and this is true of the whole world), with the whip in their right hand, which for most people is their stronger side. If you sit on the right it makes sense to drive your carriage on the left of the road, otherwise your whip might get tangled in trees, lamp posts and so forth, or strike luckless pedestrians. So the more interesting question is not why the British drive on the left of the road, but why was it changed in other parts of the world?

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            • I actually assumed they sat in the center unless someone was riding with them. John Evans writes (below, somewhere) that it was Napoleon who instituted the shift to driving on the right. At least that explains most of Europe.

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            • If you do a Google Images search for “American carriges” you will see the drivers all sitting on the right, even those without anyone sitting next to them. You will also see that the handbrake (if there is one) is on the right, outboard the carriage or coach. If the driver were in the middle or on the left, it would be difficult for her/him to reach the brake.

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            • Good point. As you may have been able to detect, I was born after the age of carriages and wagons and basically don’t know jack shit about them.

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  5. Wonderfully written, Ellen! From my own experience of driving in the UK, I can second every single word. ;)
    Have a wonderful weekend, and enjoy driving on the narrow crooked lanes of Cormwall,
    Pit

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    • Thanks. Wild Thing and I just drove to Boscastle behind a camper van, which is called something else here but I can’t remember what. A caravan? A carousel? A caramel? Never mind–I’m not getting any closer. I can tell that. The road’s narrow in places, and a-typically the driver handled the van well, passing other cars and trucks with no visible signs of panic. I was impressed.

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  6. For those long talky signs, the least they could do is to spread out their message like the old “Burma-Shave” ads. One short phrase per sign, and if they make sure to make them amusing then people will read them all the way to the end.

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    • Great idea. Given how long-winded they are, they could keep us amused all the way to Exeter. That’s an hour and a quarter’s drive. (Measuring drives in time, a friend told me a long time ago, is a very American thing to do. As far as I can see, it’s the only sensible thing to do since driving speeds will vary so heavily, depending on the width and corkscrewiness of the roads involved.)

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  7. And yet we think driving in England is the height of civilization, BECAUSE YOU SHOULD SEE GREEK DRIVERS!!!! Overtaking ON THE RIGHT, if you’re driving a truck it’s a bloody nightmare, I can tell you. Honking at the slightest provocation, never acknowledging your right of way … And as for the signs, don’t get me started. Thank God for the Olympics, when they improved the system on the main roads. Otherwise, you could be following a sign for a certain village (stadium, museum), you get to a junction and…nada. Do you turn left? Do you turn right? Not many cars have sat-nav (or gps, as we call it) so thank god for Google Maps.
    Much easier to drive on the wrong side of the road😋

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  8. Thoroughly enjoyed this post. Chances are most roads throughout Europe aren’t as wide and as well marked as they are in the States. This could be because they expect drivers to use their brains more, I hate to say. When I lived on Crete (Greek island), the only road I felt was “normal” width was what they called “The New Road”, both in English and in Greek on the signs. Even that one was only one lane for each way. Some roads were just goat (sheep?) paths.

    Those of us who live in the States have gotten too use to our “land of plenty” I’m afraid.

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    • Before I drove in the U.K., my only point of reference was the roads I grew up seeing, and like most people I assumed that what was around me was just the way the world was organized. I expect a lot of it has to do with the amount of land that was available, although I confess I always had the impression that the houses arrived in Britain before the roads did and the roads just had to fit themselves into whatever space was left.

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      • Believe it or not it’s a little like that on this side of the great pond too. You just have to know where to look. The upper peninsula of Michigan is dotted with quaint little towns. The roads were there, of course, but they had to be added on to and in the process there’s a jump to the right or to the left once in a while as the roads go lengthening to meet up with other roads. Also, it all depends where you are on a road that will decide how wide it is. I lived on a main road, yet it was narrow along the part where my house was. Go five blocks down and the road is wider, still just barely one lane going either way though.

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  9. Thank you for posting the photos of the cottages. I will happily bid on one of the “Shakespeare” numbers if you ever put them up for sale. Either that, or one of the blue and white houses as they would match my Blue Willow china quite nicely. As for you actual post, it was a hoot and a howl as usual. I checked the links and just shook laughing reading the bit about the second incident: “the 23-year-old driver was taken to Bury St Edmunds police station to be quizzed on suspicion of careless driving.” To be quizzed. Oh my god, I would love to see that phrase used in a cop drama. “Give him a right good quizzing, rozzers!”

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    • Rozzers? That one’s new to me. I’m still giggling from hearing a retired cop I know talk, quite seriously, about “the villains.” Add rozzers to that and I may go completely helpless.

      If you’ll send me your mailing address, I’ll intercept it without posting it and send you the cottages. As soon as I find a little box for them.

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      • Hmm, is there a way I could email you my address?…let’s see if I can figure this out. Is there anything you would like in exchange? My son is prolific writer of imaginary calendars. You could be prepared for centuries to come.

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            • Well, I suppose you can imagine anything, but we really do have an imaginary hedge. I know: contradiction in terms, but why stop at the merely absurd when we can go for the completely loony? About eight years ago, we planted a hedge. The plants, with a couple of exceptions, are still roughly the height they were when we put them in the ground. The exceptions are two that have taken off well and two or three that are dying. The others? I don’t know. Maybe we accidentally put in plastic plants.

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  10. Love this! I too am a ‘collector’ of road signs. (My brother, when spotting one of those ‘Deer Elk’ signs out west, would read it aloud and continue with ‘Moose and Squirrel are fine’. And those narrow Brit roads are killer! I visited a friend in the Cotswolds last summer who had to back up her car every time we met a vehicle bigger than hers. It’s amazing we got anywhere. (Her car was very small)

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    • Ah. It’s not the size of the car that determines who backs up. Partly it’s who has a handier place to back up to. Partly it’s who has the right of way (complicated–I have a post on all this somewhere but I can’t be bothered to go looking for it). Partly it’s who’s more polite. Partly it’s who has more nerve, and that divides into two questions: 1. Who has the nerve to back up as opposed to who’s too paralyzed to try, 2. Who has the nerve to face the other person down if they thing the other person’s being a pig.

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  11. Pingback: British road signs: an update | Notes from the U.K.

  12. This did make me laugh, as I am just in the process of going through a similar culture shock in reverse as I am learning to drive in America.

    So I am struggling with signs that hang above roads, being able to turn on a red light, and roads being named at a local, county and state level. (hey I was born on the Chester Road, it covers a good chunk of the UK and has been there since the Romans).

    Almost relevant side note: The only time I ever screeched at my husband in the UK was while he was confidently whizzing towards a red light without slowing. My conversation went something like “red light hon” … “red light, red light, RED LIGHT” To which his response was “oh so you can’t turn on a red light here” and my reply, after I stopped hyperventilating and counting the number of feet across the stop line we were, was ” of course not, that’s insane, red means red!”) .

    I did however, despite all this, get 99 out of 100 on my written test. The question I fell down on was what to do if the bonnet (except it was called something else I can’t remember) of my car flew up and covered my windscreen. My response was to stop immediately and put it down again (I’d have put my hazards on), but no, I should wind down my window, stick my head out and peer round or under it to drive to a safe off road place like this before stopping. That still blows my mind :)

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    • That is a completely ridiculous thing to do if your hood flies up. But driving tests–like everything else in the U.S.–vary from state to state. Cross a state line and they’ll never ask that. (Side note: Last I heard, the only place in the country where you can’t take a right on a red is New York City. They know what New York drivers are like.)

      I’m happy for you that’s you’ve managed to work your way through all the obstacles and set up a home. Congratulations.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Our daughter is learning to drive. I’m pretending to not have white knuckles. She’s better off if I fake relaxation. I LOVED the long-winded but very proper British-sounding stiff upper lip road closure notification. Stiff drinks to go with stiff upper lip are a brilliant suggestion.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Having been out of the blog loop for a while, I am delighted to have a bit of a catch up with yours. Hysterically funny because it’s so accurate. When hubby and I were conducting our transatlantic courtship, we decided who would drive based on who had the steering wheel in front of them when we got in the car. Delightful to be reminded of the feeling. :-)

    By the way, ‘oncoming traffic in middle of road’ is specifically used for going over bridges that are a bit narrow, or for underpasses that might force high vehicles into the middle, even though the road itself isn’t narrow there. These usually also have signs telling drivers of ‘tall’ vehicles to use the centre of the road.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This piece flows well, is pretty well balanced, and entertains. My sole request to you for next time would be to add more paragraph breaks. ;) Thanks for this, by the way, as I’m to vacation in the UK soon with my husband, and we’re renting a car. Fingers crossed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Useful comment. Thanks. My main advice is to sneak up on the car carefully so no one knows you’re trying to spot the steering wheel.

      Actually, I can give you two bits of advice that may or may not be useful: 1, To enter a roundabout, everyone yields to traffic coming from the right–in other words, the cars already in the roundabout. Once you get that figured out, they’re less intimidating. 2, When you first start out, if you’re on a motorway or any other road with cats’ eyes marking the edge of the road, cozy up to them once or twice until the tires rumble. It gets you used to the width of your car, because you have half a car running along beside you where you’re not used to it.

      Have a great trip. It’s a gorgeous country.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I love the narrow country roads (preferably the ones with a pavement) when they are on flat or flattish land, but then I’m not a driver. What freaks me out a bit are narrow roads going up and down mountains… eek! Have had some hairy-scary moments on roads overlooking various Welsh reservoirs…

    My favourite signs are the ‘hidden dip’ ones. An exclamation mark tells you what you already know: somewhere ahead, on the up and down road you’re travelling along, soon after an up bit, there’s going to be another down bit!! (Technical, I am not.)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: A Cornish mile and a Cornish saint | Notes from the U.K.

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