S is for SAT NAV

We have a love/hate relationship with our Satellite Navigation System. We were warned ahead of time by our predecessors that we absolutely must have one, so we dutifully purchased a Garmin first thing. It’s true that we would be literally lost without it, but it is not infallible by any stretch of the imagination. Even after updates, it

  • led us to a non-existent on-ramp to a carriageway (“take the slip-road on the left to enter A11…” “Wait, what?? There is nothing but grass here….”)
  • can’t recognize roads on the military bases
  • is haphazard about whether it will accept an address or not (sometimes it will accept a road, but not a house number, giving us other choices than the one we want; or after inputting a street name, it will pull up a totally different name–often one CLOSE to the road we want, but why not the one we want??)
  • will take us to the same places via different routes. How does it choose, when it won’t give us a choice?
  • Whenever we select “HOME” it won’t give us alternate routes, just begins navigating…what if we wanted to take the scenic route home??
  • But the most incredible directions we got was when we missed a turn and Ms. Garmin rerouted us to take the next road. As we did so, it soon became apparent that our route was deteriorating into very narrow farm roads, or “droves.” That was okay, we’d done that before; not the best situation if we encounter another vehicle, but doable…then, the next instruction was, “Prepare to drive off-road.” WHAT? Turn off into the field of potatoes?? I don’t think so…We kept going and eventually found a real road, but I couldn’t believe that command was even in the database…

Once it gave us a good laugh: we were way out in the boondocks, driving along farm roads with not another vehicle in sight, when, for the first time, Ms Garmin broke in and said, “Traffic is flowing smoothly along your route.” Perfect! Very helpful information!
As necessary as the SAT NAV is to negotiate the labyrinth of a road system here, we have come to rely even more heavily on prayer and faith that we will be guided to the right destination, and THAT navigation system has never let us down.


Prepare to drive off-road…

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R is for Roundabouts

The British love their roundabouts.

The first British roundabout was in Letchworth Garden City in 1909; it was originally intended partly as a traffic island for pedestrians. Research has shown that roundabouts are much safer than road junctions. Accident rates have greatly reduced where roundabouts have replaced junctions or intersections. Roundabouts are often placed in city centres as an alternative to large traffic light intersections. They are most commonly used on dual carriageways as a means of controlling traffic and thus reducing speed.

Research has shown that many people don’t understand roundabouts.  Many drivers don’t know how to position their car correctly when approaching or travelling around the roundabout.  Some are unaware of how to signal properly when joining or when exiting roundabouts.  Therefore, drivers need to be cautious when other cars on the roundabout are signalling. For example, if a car is indicating left it may not mean the driver is taking the first exit off the roundabout; he may in fact have signalled too early and actually wants to come off the next exit straight on his left.

Roundabouts may be safer than junctions but concentration and extreme caution is advised when using roundabouts. Keep well back from the car in front to avoid the “roundabout shunt.” [from Road Driver at https://www.roaddriver.co.uk/safety-tips/how-to-navigate-roundabouts/. note: shunt = motor accident]

Here is a helpful visual to assist in roundabout etiquette (look carefully and you can see they have included the directional signal and where it is to be engaged):



This is a picture of what is reputed to be the most difficult roundabout in Britain to navigate. It is in the town of Swindon and is referred to it as Swindon’s Magic Roundabout.


We have roundabouts in the USA, but we call them a variety of different things, depending on the region. In New England they are called rotaries; in New York they are Traffic Circles (according to BBC America, In 2013 the British Roundabout Appreciation Society awarded Columbus Circle, in New York City, Best Roundabout in the World.)
And in other places they are actually called roundabouts. The rules seem to be simpler though–traffic in the roundabout has priority, and there is usually only one lane. And they are not part of any driving test!!

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Q is for Queen

This was going to be a post on Quiet Lanes, which are areas where people could be using the whole road for a range of activities, but I happened upon a more interesting subject, which is related to Quiet Lanes, in that the incident took place in Windsor Great Park, which should be a Quiet Lane, as no one but the Queen Herself is allowed to drive a car there.

It seems that recently a young couple was strolling across the path with their two small children, one in a pram, the other on an assisted trike, when a passing car swerved around them, onto the grass, then sped past. And on top of that, the driver didn’t even have a license to drive…Throw the book at her? Not a chance, for the impatient driver was the Queen Herself, who not only can drive wherever she wants, but is the only person in the realm who is allowed to drive without a license. But it was totally understandable…the Queen was late for church…

So, today Q is for Queen Elizabeth, Queen of the Road.


Photo by Kelvin Bruce via the Daily Mail at http:www.dailymail.co.uk

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P is for Puffins and Pelicans

The British have successfully complicated the simple task of crossing the street as a pedestrian. They have at least five (and counting) different types of crossings, all named for animals.

From Wikipedia we learn…

A pelican crossing, as distinct from a puffin crossing, has the special feature that while the green man flashes to indicate that pedestrians may continue crossing but may not start to cross, the red light changes to an amber flashing light permitting cars to pass if there are no further pedestrians. This reduces the delay to traffic. Also, pelican crossings can be used to enforce local speed limits by detecting the approach speed of the traffic, and setting the traffic lights to red if a speeding violation is detected. This has been found to significantly reduce the incidence of speeding in residential areas.

The name is derived from PELICON, which stands for pedestrian light controlled. The pedestrian signal is located across the street from the pedestrian wishing to cross.

There’s a helpful, catchy song on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGzakfleuC4

if you are in the mood to be entertained in doe-si-doe style. Here are the words:

The Pelican Crossing Song

When the red man’s on, pedestrians wait

‘cause “drivers may go” is what the green light states

Just press the button and you soon learn

The green man’s on and it’s your turn.

And when the green man’s flashing, and the amber too

This is what you’ve got to do:

Pedestrians, don’t start to cross!

Your life’s more important than the time that’s lost!

And drivers just you listen here!

You only go ahead when the crossing’s clear.

When you work and when you drive

obey the Pelican and stay alive!

Puffin Crossings are a newer and more technologically advanced version of the Pelicans. In some areas they are replacing the Pelicans with Puffins. Puffins stands for Pedestrian User-Friendly Interface and has sensors that will cancel the signal if the pedestrian changes his mind and decides not to cross after all. Likewise, it will remain green for the duration that there is someone in the crossing.



photo courtesy of Cambridge Cycling Campaign http://www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/71/images/menagerie-cartoon.gif

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O is for Old People

Here they are referred to as Pensioners. As a “pensioner” myself, I couldn’t believe it when I drove by this sign for the first time:


Find this unfortunately placed sign and others published by Nick Watkins at http://www.sunmoters.co.uk/news/13-road-signs-thatll-make-you-laugh/

The Official DVSA Guide to Driving states, “Be patient around pensioners. They may take longer to cross the road. Don’t try to hurry them by revving your engine, honking or edging forwards…”

And it seems that my reaction is not an isolated one. An article in the Telegraph from a year ago by Saffron Alexander, states, “Since their introduction in 1981, the “elderly crossing” signs beside roads throughout the UK have been a source of controversy.

The sign, depicting two people hunched over as they attempt to cross the road, was the winning entry in a children’s contest almost 35 years ago and has been criticised for implying all elderly people need mobility aids or are disabled.

Critics have argued that the signs are unnecessary, and that those who listen to music or text as they walk are greater hazards than elderly people.

A new contest has produced some very entertaining alternatives. My favorite is the one by Oliviero Toscani. These dudes would certainly be in the pensioner age group by now!


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N is for Night Driving

The whole of chapter 13 of the Official DVSA Guide to Driving is devoted to Night Driving and I understand why–

The absolute worst thing about being in England is driving at night. As the days got shorter and shorter, and we found ourselves on the roads in complete darkness by 4 each afternoon, we resolved to not leave our house between the hours of 3:30 p.m.-9 a.m. That, of course, was impractical, as it was mostly convenient for the families we came here to serve, to see us in the evenings. Therefore, we needed to rely on faith, and JUST DO IT! There are many hazards to night-driving:

  • drivers don’t slow down just because they can’t see as well
  • Most of the roads are not lit by streetlights
  • Being dazzled by oncoming headlights are a major issue with which to contend (“If you are dazzled by oncoming vehicles, slow down and, if necessary, stop. Don’t look directly at oncoming headlights.”)
  • We are in a mostly rural area where deer, rabbits, pheasants, etc., dart into the road without notice (they have very small brains…)
  • The roads are very narrow, rarely any hard shoulder to speak of, and lots of potholes and ruts to make the trip all the more interesting.

Besides the hazards, there are also quite a few rules about night driving. They are:

  • In built-up areas (town centres and residential streets) you must
    • Always use dipped headlights or dim-dip if fitted (Sounds like an Asian food condiment, but I’ll have to research this a bit more.)
    • not rev your engine
    • close your car doors quietly
    • NOT use your horn between the hours of 11:30 and 7 (except to avoid danger from a moving vehicle)
  • When parking at night
    • leave your side or parking lights on if in an area with a speed limit >30 mph
    • never park your vehicle on the right hand side (facing oncoming traffic) except in a one-way street
    • always switch your headlight off when you stop, even for a short while. The fixed glare can be very dazzling.

Can’t drive on this street–Pedestrians only! Anyone recognize it??

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M is for Manoeuvring

A manoeuvre is any change of speed or position. There is a whole science as to the best way to accomplish any manoeuvre. Again, acronyms are offered up as help:

MSM= Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre.

The actual Manoeuvre part of the manoeuvre is then broken down into another sub-division acronym:

PSL : Move into Position in good time;  Ensure your vehicle is traveling at the appropriate Speed and in a suitable gear to complete the manoeuvre safely. Look, (further comprised of another acronym, LADA: Looking (What can you see?) Assessing (What are your options?) Deciding (Depending on what you see) Acting (either continue or wait).

So, in a nutshell, before doing anything, be sure you MSM(PSL[LADA])

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 8.02.21 PM

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L is for Lorries

A Lorry is to the British what a truck is to an American. It came into usage in the early 1900s. I consulted the British Dictionary for this one:

British Dictionary definitions for lorry

1.a large motor vehicle designed to carry heavy loads, esp one with a flat platform US and Canadian name truck See also articulated vehicle

2. (Brit, informal) off the back of a lorry, a phrase used humorously to imply that something has been dishonestly acquired: it fell off the back of a lorry

3. any of various vehicles with a flat load-carrying surface, esp one designed to run on rails

Word Origin: perhaps related to northern English dialect lurry to pull, tug

[“lorry”. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 11 Feb. 2016. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lorry>]

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 7.45.53 PMThe Chart above shows the growth and decline in usage of the word, “lorry” as compared with that of “truck.”

[I was excited to research this post as it introduced me to the Ngram. I’ve been playing around with it ever since.]


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K is for Kickdown

kickdown is a way of achieving quick acceleration when needed by sharply pressing the accelerator pedal right down causing a quick change down to the next lower gear. To return to the higher gear, ease the pressure off the accelerator pedal.

This statement was in the slim section dedicated to automatic transmissions. In a manual transmission, of course, you select the lower gear yourself to achieve a quick acceleration. Although this is mainly used when you want to pass someone quickly, it is counter to the emphasis throughout the Guide for ecosafe driving. Kickdown burns through fuel quickly and is not good for the environment.

2009-02-14 028

Kickdown would not be an option here…

[I needed to add a bit of fun to enliven this otherwise rather dry K-post….]

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Just for fun…

Came across these signs and had to share, so today is Just for fun.

Catch the irony of the first one, below? It’s next to a woman who is doing the very thing warned against.

TOPSHOT - A road sign arning against ped

Caution! Don’t text and walk…


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