Saturday, February 25, 2006

pretty hedges, scary roads!

This is one of the roads that leads to our house. Yes, you read that right. It's not our driveway, it's actually a ROAD. There are three ways that you can get to our village and two of them are single track roads. The traffic is two way so there are places dug into the hedges where you can pull in so that two cars can get by each other. The system works really well in the off season. Everyone knows where the passing places are, everyone knows how to reverse, and no one is very bothered about the sides of their car getting scratched.

In summertime it's another story. In the summer the population of this area multiplies massively. People drive down in brand new SUV's that they seem to have never reversed before coming to Devon. They won't get over to let people pass for fear of scratching their paint and they panic when meeting another car. It takes twice as long to get anywhere in the warmer months because you spend as much time going backwards as you do going forwards. In fact, there have been a few times I have been in the car when Mark or his Dad have gotten out and directed traffic to break up a traffic jam. People also drive really quickly - absudly quickly - and most cornering also involves a hitting of the breaks. Around here driving is an extreme sport.

I have a love-hate relationship with the hedges. They are there to keep the soil from eroding (I'm told,) they are a property boundary, they create some traffic noise control, and they provide homes for a large amount of wildlife, birds, flowers, and strange plants. Sometimes when we are pulled over waiting for another car to pass us, I can find myself inches away from a rainbow of tiny blooms peeking out of the leaves. They aren't like North American hedges. They are so old and so well established that they are a solid wall of earth and organics. In a car-hedge collision, the hedge will always win.

Secretly I don't like them very much. The part of me that loves the rolling hills and tiny villages and sea views of Devon cries out in protest as we drive by catching only glimpses through gaps in the hedge. You can drive for quite a long time along the roads with only quick flashes of countryside. It's always exciting to turn a corner because you never know what you will find. Often you find a pub. Most roads here lead to a pub!

It's funny how posts can change mid-go! I was going to answer the Friday Question today but I think as I went on I enjoyed introducing you a little more to my corner of England. While there are hedges in other places in the UK, I think that these in Devon are pretty unique. Even people who have traveled throughout the country arrive at our house surprised and a little shaken by their trip down. All I know about driving in Devon is that one of my biggest challenges has been getting up enough courage to begin to drive again. My Canadian license is good here but only for an automatic car. We have a standard car. So I have to learn to drive on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road, how to drive standard AND in a really scary place. I've taken tentative steps a few times but it just SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME. It's the thing I am the most embarrassed about, the thing that bothers me the most, and the thing I am having the most trouble facing. *sigh*

So that's one of my challenges. By this time next year I want to be driving myself places. You heard it here first.


chest of drawers said...

I Have learnt to drive on the "other" side of the road and so will you. It was so scary for me too at first. After scaring the living daylights out of my husband on my first couple of driving outings - the most memorable moment was driving into a roundabout from the wrong side - I decided to take a few hours of professional driving instructions. I was also used to an automatic and here almost everyone has 5 gears. 3 lessons later and I was doing fine.I went on a lot of drives on my own at first - my husband had spread the word - but after a while other people joined me and I have never had an accident. As for those narrow roads, sounds just like here and definately takes some getting used to, I´ve had many a laugh in the car when the German winter guests drive up our remote road with their huge 4 wheel drive Audis, holding onto the steering wheel for dear life.

Laini Taylor said...

Meg, that sounds like a big adventure, learning to drive. I don't blame you for being scared -- I don't enjoy driving even on the "right" (read: correct! haha) side of the street, and I would be a jangle of nerves trying to drive in the UK.

I love your description of hedges -- my novel takes place in an unnamed place (it's in Scotland though it's never called that in the book) and there is a hedge that features into it, a dense impenetrable hedge, and I was delighted to read that it is in fact a reality over there! (I described it as "taller than tiptoes and dense as a mermaid's braid"! I'm jealous of your perambulations around old-world countryside, but I know I should make the most of the gorgeous lands close at hand, and travel when I have the chance, but not pine for faraway places and neglect the near ones.

tara dawn said...

Who would have ever thought that hedges could have such a complex story within them? I love this...the way you took a seemingly simple piece of daily life and described the true complexity of it all.
I can imagine how frustrating those hedges may the same time, I am longing to be driving down that ridiculously narrow road, on a path to the sea and friendship.

Frankie said...

For some reason it didn't click with me until now that you live in DEVON! I'm so incredibly jealous. I was there a few years ago, and a few years before that. I fell in love with it both times, finding it so enchanting and charming and quintessentially the image of England I keep in my mind. It must be AMAZING to live there! Of course, I never had to drive while I was there, but I do recall the look of sheer terror on my mom's face when another car would come into view, or a tricky little corner. It's rough, I'm sure I'd be nervous too! Best of luck on getting through it! I KNOW you can do it because you're phenomenal!

Connie and Rob said...

You so can do it!!! Good Luck with your driving.

Hedges and I just don't get along. No no no...I get very nervous and feel like they are closing in on me.The word would be Claustrophobia.

I would have to take one of the other routes to your house!

Take care,

Helen said...

I've had to learn how to drive on the other side of the road and in thick snow over here in Sweden, so if I can do it so can you!! Good luck! Helen

Cate said...

I felt like I was visiting you and we were taking a joyride on those narrow, hedge-lined roads! The pride and the joy that you derive from your "little corner" radiate from your words--thanks for sharing a piece of your home with us!

P.S. I have no doubt you'll be zipping down those lanes in your standard car in no time!

andrea said...

I loved reading this. I remember the narrow winding roads with stone walls in Avon. Not for the meek of heart but always with a surprise around the corner. I tried driving a standard in England and had the hardest time coordinating to shift with my left hand. It's hard to re-programme those well-worn neuron pathways but I'm sure you'll be fine before you know it. Good luck!