Going Nowhere Fast

February 20, 2008 at 10:21 am 8 comments

black country

Going Nowhere Fast

My new job requires me to commute on a regular basis between the leafy, rural lanes of south Cheshire to the grid-locked conglomeration of roadworks and building sites which is Walsall. I notice that Wikipedia provides a pronunciation tool to help one say “Walsall” correctly. Which, is probably why most of my friends are confused, believing that I am currently employed in the capital of Poland. 

noddyWhile resembling many former Soviet block towns and cities, Walsall is, in fact, in the Black Country – not yet a reference to its ethnic mix but to the smoky, sooty side-effects of the Industrial Revolution. “Walsall” is thought to be derived from the words “Wah halh”, meaning “valley of the Celtic speakers” or “where people speak like Benny off Crossroads”.

Walsall is “famous” for its arboretum and its illuminations and is officially the “Unhappiest Town” in the country (according to a First Direct poll) and is compared with Ceaucescu’s Romania and declared “The ugliest place in the world”.  Famous residents include Noddy Holder (my friends will regale me with their renditions of the “Kipper Tie/Cuppa Tea” joke at the drop of a hat) and Boy George. And, very briefly my good self. For I was born in the Manor Hospital, which is virtually next door to the office where I now work. You see, I have come a long way! boy

Anyhow, my commute takes me down the M6. I hate the M6. It has been a long time since I have had to drive regularly on the great British motorway system but it hasn’t taken me long to loathe it. Not so long ago, I enjoyed a holiday in France which involved driving the full length of the country, to the Pyrenees, along French motorways with tolls. It was an absolute pleasure. The M6, however, is a nightmare.  

The inside lane is consistently clogged with a train of heavy trucks going nowhere fast and occasionally interspersed with a caravan or an old lady in a Volvo in an obvious state of panic having believed she had turned into the carpark of her local supermarket and not the slip-road to one of our busiest roads.

What is worse, the middle lane is also frequently clogged by HGVs who seem to forget that they have speed limiters installed and, therefore, are not able to go any faster than the similarly restricted trucks that they are trying to overtake. And this then forces all of the other vehicles into the third lane – I will not refer to it as the “fast” lane, for it is not! I try to drive safely, by keeping a suitable distance (count to 5) between me and the car in front. But if I ever do leave more than a gap equivalent in size to a gnat’s tadger, it is immediately filled by someone swerving to avoid a truck in the middle lane, more often than not without indicating (mirror, signal, manoeuvre). More often than not it is a “white van” with “clean me” humorously (not) written on the dirty rear doors, around which I am unable to see, and which proceeds to hover on and off his brake lights for the next thirty miles or so.  

As I am driving a TT, every boy racer in a toy racing car (Mazdas, MGs, Chrysler Crossfires, Porsche Boxters and the like) or a Golf GTI, seems to feel honour bound to undertake me. Fortunately, you can see these guys coming from quite a distance because they have their fog lights glaring even in the height of summer (it is illegal). And at night you can see their fake-tan orange faces, dimly lit by the glow from the Blackberry Pearl or Borg-like hands-free earpieces permanently stuck to their ears or the reflection from their Tom Tom screen which obscure the view. 

Tailgating, poor lane discipline, not indicating, undertaking, women drivers, Volvos and flat caps. It is a miracle that I ever make it to the office in the morning. The only reason I do is because I seem to average a speed of about 10 miles per hour. Admittedly this is an average of brief seconds of doing the national speed limit (J – honest) and the couple of years that I seem to sit in stopped traffic between junctions 11 and 10. 

Now, where did I put my Valium?

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Entry filed under: driving, rant. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. lanabunz  |  February 21, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Aren’t the interstate roads in england, just as small as its streets? :o?

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  • 2. Middle Man  |  February 22, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Small but perfectly formed! Fortunately the “old country” still seems to put pedestrians first, which was not my experience of Atlanta, Georgia…..thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog.

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  • 3. Anonymous  |  February 23, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    I think its very funny! I look forward to your next entries. 🙂

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  • 4. Gary  |  March 12, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I still have nightmares of my short time in Walsall in the early 1980’s, it was simply the most awful place that I stayed in amongst a bevy of other awful places.

    But you’re right about the M6 – its everything that motorways shouldn’t be.

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  • 5. jpistorio  |  March 12, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Vlogonaut here. A gnat’s tadger. I’ve got to work that phrase into my everyday lexicon. Here in Lake Tahoe, we call the slow, out of town drivers Gapers, as in, their mouth agape, wistfully expounding “Look at that lake, it’s sooo beautiful” while trying to stay in their lane and maintain forward motion. I guess we all have our cross to bear eh, Middleman?

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  • 6. thedailydish  |  April 9, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    This was hysterical! Felt like I was right there beside you, holding on for dear life. And the description of “their fake-tan orange faces, dimly lit by the glow from the Blackberry Pearl or Borg-like hands-free earpieces” – truly brilliant.

    If only you’d refrained from the “women drivers” comment….

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  • 7. whinencheese  |  May 29, 2008 at 2:16 am

    I really relate to your reference to the gap between the cars. I try to keep a safe distance, but it seems as if I move 1 foot out of that zone, someone who is in a hurry to get to a red light. I mean what is that point it is RED, there is no prize for getting there first!

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  • 8. Russ L  |  April 2, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Walsall has a good art gallery, if nothing else…

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