The sun rises at 4:30 AM these late May days, as we glide,
second by second, toward the longest day of the year. We
are going to Cranleigh today to shop for black out curtains for the guest room, so potential summer guests can sleep past 4:00 AM, if they are foolishly sleep addicted. Bernard isn’t allowed to drive for two weeks
because of his hernia operation, so I am forced to drive there. This is a Good Thing. I have avoided driving in England whenever
possible. for nearly two years now. Driving on the left side of the street takes some getting used to, granted, but worse, the streets are only theoretically wide enough for two cars to
pass each other, and in the villages people actually park on the streets. Yes, they do. Even in London they do it.
Experienced drivers gauge whether they or the
oncoming car are closer to a pull over space and act accordingly. You hope. And you hope the other driver is, indeed, experienced. I would
hate to meet an oncoming car with a
driver like me at the wheel. I’ve often
thought of putting a sign in the window saying, “Caution. Yank Driver.” but the cops might not think it’s
funny, so Bernard’s temporary driving
interdiction is pushing me to take the bull by the horns, although in fact I drive a Peugeot,and take my chances.
I believe it is a mark of English civility that you see very few cars with dents in the body. Or maybe, if there does happen to be a crash, there is absolutely nothing left.
The road to Cranleigh passes through
a beautiful wood. Most of it is two-lane, by British standards, but there
is a sign warning that there is a "Single Track Ahead with passing places". This is optimistic. The passing places are about one ordinary tire’s width, and in addition, this road was clearly built
during Roman times. It is 10 feet or so lower than the tree roots. Impenetrable earthen banks tower above,
and in a pinch, there is nowhere to go. On our
last trip a bus came along. A bus full of children were being taken to
camp, no less, small persons whose lives were in the care of an insane bus
driver. Cars were backed up in both directions and
nobody was moving. It was kind of a
shoot-out situation, with the bus and the lead car staring each other
But miracles occur daily on these roads, and with co- operative backing and forwarding, the bus passed all the cars and the road cleared. Maybe it’s the roads which have influenced the English character. Only the team players have survived. We are going on that road again, would you
believe as it is not only the shortest
route to the village, but the only one from here.
The big attraction in Cranleigh is an
old-fashioned department store called Mann’s. It is like going back in time 60 years to shop there, and a delight. For one thing, the service is superb. They
actually help you find what you want, and if they don’t have what you want, they will order it. But
it is unlikely they won’t have it, whatever it is, because they have hardware,
garden supplies, pots and pans, mixers, toasters, storage jars, men’s, women’s, and children’s clothes
and shoes, furniture, draperies, rugs, linens, and more. It is tastefully selected merchandise of
good quality, and at reasonable prices. I don’t know how it has survived.
And I know how to get there. Now I do, anyway. The first
couple of times driving there without Bernard to navigate were a little
dicey. In fact, anywhere I drive without
a navigator is a little dicey.
Soon after my return from the US of A, still in a mild state
of jet lag, and having forgotten for a minute where I was, I agreed to meet my
friend Elaine in Cobham, a village about 8 miles from here. Oh, did I say the streets are not only
narrow, but bounded on each side not only by earthen banks, but by 1) big trees; 2) houses and big trees; 3)
tall hedges; 4) concrete pavements and big trees, 5) stone walls and big trees. Beyond these barriers lining the country roads here in Surrey are
sweeping fields with clusters of artfully planted trees and bushes. Maybe the fields have cows in them, or sheep, a
picturesque cottage or mossy barns. It
is all very beautiful. But if you have a
limited grasp of where things are in relation to each other, and are more of a
landmark than a map person, one tree and field looks pretty
much like another.
We agreed to meet in the biggest landmark in the village,
the local supermarket, at 12:30. We usually meet at a pub called The Cricketers ,which is where the road from
Shere ends, if you are on the right road. Then you turn left to the village, and you run into the
supermarket. Only I got onto the wrong
road, went miles out of my way, had to pray to find the right one, as maps are meaningless to me, finally did,
rang Elaine on her mobile, and managed to be only a half an hour late. As she had on one occasion got lost on her
way to lunch with me, that did not end
our friendship. We enjoyed a lively
catching-up talk over a good lunch,
walked around the shops and decided to head home. “Now, you know how to get home, right?” “Oh, of course, I know now, don’t worry,”
said I confidently. Two hours and half a
tank of horrendously expensive gas later, I pulled into our brick drive, beyond
agitation, having discovered an upscale industrial park, a village I’d never
seen before, and how to miss the A3 in two or three ways.
Bernard was tactfully kind and silent.
- Homey, Cosy ?Cozy Baking
- Cultural Expectations