One thing you can never be sure of in England is the weather. Just read the weather forecast for a week and see how much things change from hour to hour. Even the professionals have difficulty!
We were sitting in the wonderful lounge of an old friend, listening to the rain pounding, heaving, and teaming down outside. However, we were safe and comforted by the warmth of sharing a friendship that had lasted decades. Still, the fact remains: We are bound for France today. We have a plane to catch and must head out soon. Do we wait for a break in the weather or leave early in case it gets worse?
We head out with half an hour extra for getting-lost time and/or traffic delays and/or weather difficulties and/or construction zones. Unfortunately, we got all four. And then some…
We were travelling along just fine. Yes, the weather was nasty but the M25 was flowing nicely. Then the dreaded sign, “Accident between junction 22 and 23. Expect delays.” We are seconds away from Junction 24.
“Give me an alternative!” Jim yells over the steady thump of the windshield wipers. “Should I take 24?”
A glance at the map, although of course the part I need is just over the fold and I really need to open the whole thing up to see properly, and I call out, “Take it. Head for St. Albans.”
To this day I don’t know if I made the right decision. Would it have been worse to stop-start-stop-start along with a mass of cars, constantly glancing at the clock on the dashboard and fretting? I don’t know. At any rate, what’s done is done. It didn’t help that we missed the larger road I was looking for and ended up on a small “cross-country” byway.
“Should I turn around?” Jim asks.
I have no way of knowing what this road will be like. Some country roads are quick and make great short cuts. Others are dotted with speed zones due to small villages just big enough to have traffic cameras but not big enough to warrant being placed on my map. Besides, even if I could get us quickly back to the M25 (no guarantee there) who knows how long that delay would actually be?
“This road doesn’t last long,” I announce. “Stick with it.”
That’s when we ended up in the middle of a convoy of student drivers. Everything slows to a crawl. And they won’t let us go by!
When we are finally past them, we end up on a larger “A” road. This should be faster! Except now the heavens have truly decided to open. Rain pounds down. The wipers can not keep up with the onslaught. Trucks (sorry, we are in England, I should say lorries) are kicking up their own walls of mist and wind. Cars on overpasses above us splash down cascades of water like infrequent waterfalls.
To top it all off, there are multitudes of roundabouts that are, naturally, not on my map, forcing me to rely on traffic signs. This proves to be a big problem because the weight of the rain is dragging down tree branches, heavy with a summer’s worth of steady growth. If the sign isn’t just out of view because of a passing lorry, a branch is covering it!
Then we hit the construction zone. Oh, there was a nice visible sign: “Construction 1000 yards.” Three lanes of traffic are forced into one. And of course, this lane has turned into one very long puddle. It was the longest 1000 yards we have ever driven!
Finally. Finally! We reach the M1, just a few kilometres from the junction with the M25 we had been heading for before the warnings of the accident.
I glance, not for the first time, at the clock on the dashboard. It is hard to believe that we have been delayed only by about 40 minutes. It felt like hours!
Then the sun comes out. Unbelievable! England sparkles as only England can. All is forgiven.
…Until about an hour later, when the heavens open again as we run for our plane.