Monday, September 27, 2010

Ye Olde Country Lanes

Welcome to the new Ye Olde series on the Laughing Songbird. I'm calling it a series because I plan on writing posts about many of the endearing and iconic elements that are associated with life in England. Don't get your hopes up too high though; while it is a series I can't promise any kind of regularity in the posts.

I begin today with Ye Olde Country Lanes, for I have a hate hate relationship with them. I have had several unsympathetic responses to some of my earlier posts about the horrors of driving in this country, so here I would like to provide photographic evidence of the perils that exist in real life on English roads on a daily basis.

Consider the photo below. At first glance it appears to be a lovely peaceful little road where there are bound to be serene spots to pull over and enjoy a picnic by a gurgling brook. While that assumption is 100% true, it is also a paved road of death. When approaching blind corners like these it is recommended that you go into the lowest gear possible and inch around the corner at no more than 1/2 mile per hour as you may very well encounter a tractor, an intoxicated farmer in a land rover, a little old lady who cannot physically stop or reverse her car, or worst of all; a foreign driver who doesn't realize cars might be coming in the opposite direction and therefore are driving at 70 mph admiring the scenery. If you have an accident on country lanes such as these it is automatically 50% your fault. No one can be bothered to figure out what really happened, it's simply split down the middle to save time. Best not to get in accidents.

Here you can see my arch nemesis, the dreaded tractor trailer combo. This beast does not reverse, even if another tractor trailer combo is coming in the opposite direction. In fact, that never happens because before they go out they send up smoke signals to alert other tractor drivers to stay off the road for the next 6.5 hours while they drive 2 miles up to the north fields. I heard somewhere that the last time two tractors met both drivers got out and walked away from them just like that, leaving time and rust to deal with the situation. No kidding. So it really stinks when you come upon one because you will be reversing for miles until you reach a lay-by. A lay-by is a passing point, scroll down to see one in real life.
You can pretty much see from this picture how much of the road my little tin can of a car takes up on its own. In the left of the picture is a lay-by. In fact, it is the same lay-by in which I stalled repeatedly in the days before my driving test. To read that story click here.
Below is another hedge lined country road. When they come along with giant beastly tanks to cut the hedges back you have to be careful because it is common to puncture your tires on thorns that have been cut from the hedges and left on the road. If that happens, send a smoke signal as some of these roads aren't driven down for days at a time.
Here is another one of my least favorite combos--the tractor with the thingy that cuts stuff on the back. The thingy that cuts stuff on the back has sharp prongs that stick out and are excellent car scratching mechanisms--you are pretty much guaranteed having to get a new paint job if you pass one of these puppies. As you can see from this picture, we came up to the tractor at an ideal time because it was able to pull into a lay-by and let us pass. And it was extra lucky because there was a gateway on our side of the road so we were able to pass and not have to get a new paint job. I live for magical situations like this.
Here is yet another hideous combo--the tractor with a trailer to carry an optional additional trailer. These are long and slow and are prone to not being able to make it around sharp corners. When that happens you better hope you have a packed lunch with you.
And here is one last photo illustrating the narrowness of these roads. I am super upset because I didn't get a picture of a tractor pulling a trailer loaded with hay bales. Those things are the size of two story houses and sway like a sail boat at sea during a mighty gale. I never got a picture of them because usually when I encounter them I have to reverse home and change my pants--there's no opportunity for picture taking.
**Disclaimer** All of these photos were taken by me while Sam was driving. I don't shoot and drive. Also, these were all taken on one 4 mile trip from our house to Sam's parents'.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wales Family Vaca

We went with Sam's side of the family to South Wales and stayed on the Gower Peninsula for our family vacation this year, and it was pretty spectacular for a cold, rainy place! The beaches are incredibly vast and pristine, and even on the hot sunny days we had they weren't crowded. This is Rhossili which is 3 miles long and the best surfing beach in Britain:

The walk to 3 Cliffs Bay is outstanding; you walk over sand dunes, cross a stream, pass the ruins of a castle, walk along a boardwalk...

And end up here:

Another massive, gorgeous beach where there are lots of caves and tidal pools to explore--and even some herds of cows that come down to the water from the fields nearby!

Monday, September 6, 2010

don't laugh...

I've been obsessing over this shower curtain from Target for quite some time:
I love it, and can't get it out of my mind. Unfortunately for me, however, I live in a land without Target--I know, sometimes I just don't know how I survive either. So while it's perfect for me (ahem, for us, because Sam's decorating opinions matter too, and luckily for him he likes this one), and it's really a reasonable price, I have had a hard time sealing the deal and ordering it because when I add on shipping to my parents, and then calculate how much it will then cost my mom to ship it over the pond to me, it's kind of a lot of effort to go through for a shower curtain (although I don't think twice when putting in a request for hot tamales). Anyway. I had a weekend to myself at home recently and the idea came to me that I could make my own tree shower curtain--yes, yes I could... So I did...

**This is the part where you're not supposed to laugh**

Before I say anything else, let me just say that I realize this looks like something a kindergardener would produce in art class. I simply used a brown permanent marker (which was trying to die) to draw a tree onto our £1 gross "fabric" shower curtain. It's obviously not a fantastic outcome, and I'm still pretty desperate to have the real thing, but it gave me the idea that it would be really cool to draw all kinds of things on £1 "fabric" shower curtains. Like stripes, or words even, or cool geometric designs--the sky's the limit really. And this one will have to do until Christmas when I get the real tree shower curtain of my dreams as a gift:) Just kidding. But seriously.