This morning I hopped a train to Reading, and would have switched for Southampton except the lines were all snarled due to some malf upstream. Anyway, they advised that folks feeling adventurous could try the line to Basingstoke and figure it out from there, so I did. Disembarking at the Basingstoke platform, an older gent asked if I knew the way to Southampton; I told him that's where I was going, and would be happy to have a buddy in my search. That worked out well for him, as he'd just got off a plane from Sydney (Australia), and had a bad back, and was towing about 50lb in luggage. Anyway, we found the right train, and were in Southampton by late morning.
There's a free bus that runs from Southampton Central to downtown and then the docks. I had no idea where I was going except "1mi past Dock 4 gate". I managed to find a sign pointing toward Dock 4, which proved to be a goodly walk, then the gate-guard assured me that my shipper's berth was indeed another mile down on the left. I found my way to the shipper's office, paid the miscellaneous customs & handling fees (£162.50 in cash, exact change is appreciated thank you very much). Finally, then went and found my van, which was apparently emplaced with a bunch of military vehicles as "it was one of those big American jobs".
They said they'd needed to jump-start the battery, but otherwise it seemed to be ship-shape, so to speak. And so...I was off!
But where to? Honestly, I have no idea where I went after that; fortunately, I didn't need to :-) For Christmas, I bought Laura a Garmin Nuvi, and boy did it work a treat. I'd thought to unpack it back at our house in Maidenhead, which it promptly registered as "home"; so when I stuck it to the windscreen in the van and plugged it into the cigarette lighter, it helpfully prompted "would you like to go home?" "Heck yeah," I replied, and off we went.
So what's it like for an American, driving their first time in England? Not nearly as awkward as I'd feared. Frankly, there are a lot of cars on the road; and that's a GOOD thing, as it means there's nearly always someone else right in front of you. Just do like they do, and you tend to be fine. (I had read The Official Highway Code back-to-back on the train down, just in case anyone takes me literally.)
Driving on the left really isn't that big a deal. Most of the roads I was on had two or even three lanes of traffic going in my direction; so it was easy to just stay in the left-most of those, which is where I spent most of my time in the US anyway (okay, I wasn't the most "fuel-efficient" driver when ripping up the Florida Turnpike in my Eclipse!). Staying in the left-lane, you tend to notice a lot of folks passing you on the right, which instinctively feels rude (not something genteel folk would do in America, if we had a gentry), but that's just them so you ignore it.
The one bit that will definitely take a bit of getting used to is the roundabouts. We have roundabouts in the US -- they've made quite an inroad in Central Florida just in the last 15 years -- but between the left-right switch, the multiple lanes, the 3-7 exits which seem to spurt off in seemingly random directions, and that bloody Nuvi hissing in your ear "No, fool, I said the fourth exit -- the fourth, are you deaf as well as blind?!?" (at least, that's how it came to sound after the third, patronizing "recalculating...")...anyway, where was I? And that's just how it feels to whirl around one of those bloody roundabouts.
I did stop for petrol before leaving Southampton (you have to ship your vehicle nigh-empty, so she was thirsty she was), and plunked in 80 litres of...what, I don't know...liquid gold, must've been at those prices. I winced and just handed over my debt card.
But enough of my drivel...drive it yourself!
State of the Union in the For-Profit Industry
1 month ago