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Experiences in the British Isles

I'd like to share some interesting experiences.

    The carriageways (roads and streets) here are very narrow, usually one lane each direction, with no verge (shoulder).  There might be a sidewalk in town, but then there is a hedge, fence, or building very close to the road.  Whenever someone wants to park, they simply stop and get out on either side of the road.  That leaves one lane for traffic from both directions to share.

    Streets are as often unmarked as marked.  When they are marked, the sign may be anywhere.  We've seen street signs one foot high behind a flower bed, and sometimes posted up on the second floor of the nearest building.

    Roundabouts (traffic circles) are very popular.  You might find one in the smallest intersection or even in a parking lot, but they always seem to appear in larger intersections, and sometimes even in the middle of dual carriageways (freeways).  It definitely changes the job for the navigator (wife).  Instead of saying, "Turn right", you say, "Take the third left."  One thing about roundabouts, they can be made to fit any local circumstances; no two are ever alike.  On the other hand, going around in circles does nothing for your sense of direction.

    We have been thoroughly amused by traffic signs.  One sign said no vehicles or animals over 50 cc.  Another sign on a freeway type road, said no horse-drawn vehicles could be raced on this road.  (I guess it was OK for the rest of us.)  Many side roads have an occasional cattle-guard, with a side gate for animals and wagons to pass through.

    Lawns are mowed, but roadsides and other areas including cemeteries are not.  One cemetery displayed a sign with a wonderful excuse for not mowing.  It said the long grass provided food and homes for insects and animals, but that they mowed it each fall to promote growth.

    Speaking of cemeteries, plots are only leased.  When your time runs out, either someone renews your lease or the plot is reused.  Old stones are used to make sidewalks, foot bridges, line walls, or just heaped up where ever it is convenient.

    English breakfasts are large and varied.  The menu usually includes all of these: cereal, fruit, juice, yogurt, eggs, toast, bacon (ham), sausage, baked beans, sauted tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, fried potatoes, and black pudding.  And what is black pudding?  Trust me, you don't want to know.  Well, all right, if you insist.  Black pudding is made from pigs blood, mixed with pigs fat, and various cereal fillers, and then fried in little patties.  It sort of tastes like ground liver.  Trust me, one bite is very filling; you don't need any more.  Another item served in Wales is Celtic laver bread.  It is made of seaweed rolled in oats and fried in little patties.  It tasted a little bit like spinach.

    Larger streets often contain pedestrian islands, even when there is only one lane of traffic each direction.  In busy streets, the pedestrian island will be fenced.  Sometimes there are pedestrian traffic lights.  There are even pedestrian crossings across 4 to 6 lane freeways.  I do not mean bridges to safely walk above the traffic either.  These crossings do not even warrant traffic lights.  On the other hand, we never did see any pedestrians foolish enough to try the crossing.  Then one day we came across traffic lights at a cattle crossing.  We are still curious as to how the cattle turn them on.

    Street signs include one that says Give Way that looks just like our Yield.  This seems to be the favorite sign.  There are few traffic lights and even fewer stop signs.  Then there are a number of signs like different colored circles and rectangles with slashes or dashes.  No other clue to their meaning.  Finally someone told us they were international traffic signs.  Some of them mean international speed limits, but they have no numbers on them.  Seems like it would make more sense to have a speed limit sign with numbers on it than something you have to have memorized.  We learned that some of the other geometric signs meant "Do Not Enter".  Apparently, it never occurred to anyone that it would have been safer if we knew what they all meant.

    One of the most curious signs was one that appeared every hundred yards or so along one freeway.  It says Pollution Control Valve.  One wonders if it is designed to decrease the pollution or increase it, or perhaps either one as needed!