Friday, November 12, 2004

I Don't Heart London 

Yesterday we took Tara to her routine check-up at the specialist. No big deal. All her "team" were there, plus the usual students. They took some blood. She was great. We left the hospital at 3:20 and got onto the main road out of central London by 3:25. And when I say "central", I don't mean the touristy bit. This was Whitechapel in the East End. It's one of the oldest hospitals in London. It's so Victorian and grim on the outside, with all the latest on the inside. It's just round the corner from The Blind Beggar pub, where the Kray twins shot that guy. I hadn't realised that until we took a wrong turn leaving the car park.

Two hours later, we'd moved maybe 100 yards. The Commercial road is only two lanes wide. As in, one lane in each direction. With one lane only for buses, to encourage people not to drive in the City. There are so many buildings of historical importance in central London, that the main road just cannot be made bigger. To make matters worse, we were stuck behind a lorry, so we couldn't even see ahead. It's not usually that bad, but there was an accident on the outskirts of the City, where there are more lanes, which meant that three out of the four were closed.

We had no food or water, and a bored four-year old in the back.

You bet I prayed.

Thankfully, she went to sleep, thus freeing me from the worry of a toilet situation arising. An hour later I was worrying about the adults in the car. We had yet to pass these buildings , and, oh yes, most of the people who work there wanted to get on the road out of London too.

By nine, I was a wreck. Tara was a wreck. Alex got us home without once losing his temper, and keeping up the humour the whole time. He even made a joke of the fact that every time I said, "Yay! We're moving!", the traffic immediately ground to a standstill. He did make a few vehement comments about the motorcylists that were weaving all around us.(At one point, we were surrounded by eight of them. It was quite scary. Like a scene in a kidnap movie.)

I don't know how it is in the U.S. London, obviously, is an organic, rather than a "planned" city. That's why we have the problems. Most of our towns just "grew". That's why hardly any of us drive automatic cars. Very few places have grid systems, and there are twists and turns no matter where you are going, so it makes sense I suppose. The trouble is, it's harder to drive a stick-shift. In a way, maybe that's good, because most people are eighteen before they pass their driving test.

What do you think? Did you ever find a 40 minute journey taking over five hours? Do you mostly drive automatics? Our national speed limit on the motorways is 70mph and you can still find yourself in gridlock if there's been a lane closure. Just interested.

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