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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Linda Swift


Since there was nothing available on short notice for sightseeing by coach or train and we dared not leave the country again by ferry, I persuaded my husband to embark on a car trip the next weekend. We drove a Ford hatch-back and driving on the wrong side of the road required his full attention and both of us had to stay alert to all the different road signs and highway, pardon me, motorway, markings.

Since road signs weren't necessarily on sign posts it became a game of hide-and-seek to find them, much less follow them. They were often posted on the sides of buildings and it was my responsibility to determine whether they were the name of a business or the street we were looking for. We invested in a Michelin Tourist and Motoring Atlas of Great Britain & Ireland and it was worth its hefty weight in gold.

Road signs were not the only thing difficult to locate. Parking meters were seldom where they belonged either, especially in car parks. We had already acquired a twelve pound ticket in the city centre of Hull while shopping at ARGOS. We misread that one and thought it showed enough time to last till the shops closed but we returned to find a ticket on our windscreen. I wrote a letter asking that the fine be overlooked as we were contributing to UK's economy at the time, but they wanted more so we paid.

We spent the weekend in York where a fair was in progress. Vehicles clogged all the streets and we almost despaired of parking until we reached a square block that appeared to be a grassy park surrounded by parked vehicles. We spied one empty space, fed the meter, and walked about the city, mindful of getting back to the meter on time. But much to our shock, we had a ticket on return even though the meter had not expired. We walked across the street where a shopkeeper stood and questioned why we had the ticket. He asked if we had a handicap sticker on our car and we didn't, but there had been no recognizable signs to indicate to us that one was required. A policeman came by as we were leaving and we explained the situation. He suggested we write the city council, explain, and send no money and assured us we would probably not have to pay the twenty pounds. I wrote and they wrote back that we should pay up or come to court. We paid.

The following weekend I dragged a reluctant husband on another tour, this time to visit the magnificent ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in the Rhy River Valley and more castles and great houses. Driving on the narrow country motorways was less stressful than navigating the dual carriageways and round-abouts of the more populated areas like York and Leeds. And we both relaxed and enjoyed the lovely site of sloping hills covered with grazing sheep and miles of stone fences with jonquils and other colorful spring flowers popping out all over. Our planned agenda included a tour of Duncomb Park (a great house and gardens) but when we entered the gates and drove up the entrance we were told a wedding was scheduled and there would be no tours that day. I was sorely disappointed because this was one of the places I had most wanted to see but there were many other sites to visit along our route so I made the best of it. To a man whose theory was if you've seen one great house, you've seen them all, this was no particularly loss. At noon, we stopped at a car park in Helmsley. Looking around, we saw no pay booth, so we assumed the parking was free. We had a nice lunch of soup, sandwiches, shortbread, and tea. Then we visited some of the shops and found jackets at the Edinburgh Woolen Mills shop. When we returned to our car, you guessed it, we had another ticket. We asked the first person we saw to explain that for us and he pointed to a meter box across the street. Well, how were we to know the meter wasn't even in the car park? Yes, I wrote another letter to the city fathers when we arrived home. And my plea bargaining had improved or this village was more understanding because we were forgiven this sixteen pound fine. I guess one out of three is not bad. But a disgruntled husband informed me the car tours were over and I should schedule our next trip by coach, rail, or ferry or plan a quiet weekend in our flat. So I paid a visit to the Visitors Bureau in the city centre and brought home an armful of travel magazines and spent the week checking on weekend holiday tours.

Join me here tomorrow for a couple of them.


Becky said...

After reading this post of yours, I will have to remember this for doing a car tour in another country. I suppose I could do what your husband suggest instead of the car tours though. I think a trip by coach, rail, or ferry would be fun to do.

Kathleen O said...

I have been on many a coach tour while traveling in Ireland and Great Britian, but I much prefer driving by car, becasue you can miss a lot. You can explore at your leisure and not be on a time table.

Linda Swift said...

Becky, there is much to be said for trying all modes of travel and each has its advantages. We loved our coach tours as they allowed us to get acquainted with the British people and see the sights they considered worth seeing.

Kathleen, I agree about exploring the sight as leisure without a timetable. But for my husband, the stress of coping with traffic and strange road rules took a lot of the fun out of traveling. And I never did get behind the wheel in England. Since I have a problem with left and right, both of us were horrified of my trying to reverse those on the motorway!

Hywela Lyn said...

So interesting to see the UK from the perspective of an overseas visitor. Sorry about the parking fines though (we get clobbered as well!) I agree the roadsigns can be confusing. It's even worse in Wales. The signs are bilingual, but at one time when they were still mainly in English, some of the Welsh Language activists would remove the signs altogether or black them out - not very helpful to anyone not living in the area!

Linda Swift said...

Thanks for stopping by, Hywela. (Love that name) I wish someone would do blog on Florida or Kentucky from the English POV. I'm sure they would be as bewildered here as we were there. But maybe too polite to say so???

Hywela Lyn said...

Thanks for the compliment on my name, Linda. It's Welsh, but for some reason I've always been known just by my second name, Lyn, so I deided to use them both, as my pen-name.

Oh, I'd love to visit the States. If we ever manage it you can be sure I'll be blogging!