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This post is revisited from my old blog Lock Stock & Barrel. I am migrating (one blog post at a time) over to WordPress because apparently it’s pretty cool…and I agree!

Dear all,

I messed up! Guilty as charged! I was supposed to be going back to the very beginning of my blog, Lock Stock and Barrel, but it seems that I jumped from my first ever post to my sixth ever post and so now I’m getting it back on track. The following post was supposed to be the next in line but, it seems, ‘Two for the price of one’ pushed in. sorry about that!

21st October 2011

Here it is, my second ever post and it’s all about honking. I hope some of you can relate.

I have done a few things in my time but there are still a lot of things I haven’t done. I must confess I am a bit of a scaredy cat (OK so I am a lot of a scaredy cat, but I have my reasons). Anyway, recently my husband and I decided to take a trip by scary Eurostar (derailing under the sea rates about number 4 on my ‘Worst Ways to Go’ list) but I was feeling brave so we went. I handled the tunnel very well, considering how wrong it is, and we were sat on a table of four with a couple who had recently married. They were lovely and taking their first break away together, a long weekend in Brussels. We chatted, they shared their food with us, they laughed at how freaked out I was about tall buildings, staying in a room above the 7th floor, travelling full stop and the possibility that I might starve to death because I couldn’t speak the language.

So, in conclusion, the Eurostar was pretty great, our travelling companions were great and I would definitely do it again. However, when we reached Brussels I was tired, it was dark, I didn’t know where I was and I’m not too hot on French. At that point I began to regret having spent most of my secondary school years sitting with my feet on the table singing the theme tune to Only Fools and Horses whilst checking out the fit lad on the desk behind…who incidentally was not checking out me!

We left the station and joined a taxi queue, the kind that you would expect to see at 3am on a night out, except it moved much quicker. I never would have had time to finish a bag of chips or a kebab (if I liked kebabs, which I don’t, but it’s just an example so you get the idea). Taxis were crammed about five cars wide onto a roundabout as they edged bumper to bumper to get closer to the people standing in the queue. When it got to our turn a man jumped out and shouted at us “Get in! Get in!” as if a tornado was about to strike and he was going to save our lives by giving us a lift…to our hotel. Suddenly he stopped and checked us out like he’d thought better of it and we had the following conversation:-

“Where are you going?”

“Sheraton, S’il vous plait,” we confirmed. He threw his hands into the air and gasped like we’d said, ‘to the moon and back and make it snappy’.

“That is too far! In this traffic we will get stuck. It will take ages. No I can’t take you. It will cost you 20 Euros! You want to go or not?” We looked at each other, smirked and agreed to pay the 20 Euros to take a journey that took us only twenty-five minutes to walk back a couple of days later…with our luggage, blisters and a broken toe.

Once in the car we weaved our way off the roundabout and moved into more traffic, braking suddenly and beeping the whole time. I must admit I was shocked. When I looked to my left and saw a car full of men staring back at me that we had only minutes before honked at I slid down in my seat out of view. I wondered whether it would seem rude to lean into the front, right across our driver, and slam my hand down on his central locking system. He beeped at people who were sitting for too long at lights, people who cut across the lanes and I’m sure sometimes he just beeped out of habit because I couldn’t see anyone doing anything wrong…but then I was on the back floor of the car hiding. I couldn’t see very much of anything.

I don’t think I need to tell you but despite my concerns we made it to our hotel in one piece and lived to see out a romantic weekend. But as I woke the morning after our taxi ride, twenty floors above ground level (again very wrong), with the windows open (don’t worry we couldn’t fit through them. I checked) I soon became aware of the combination of sirens and horns living in harmony with each other. In truth by the end of the weekend I was getting used to hearing them, and when I woke very early on our last morning I felt reassured when the silence made way for the tune of a busy and beautiful city.

What struck me upon our return was how quiet London was in comparison. There was still the noise of traffic, building, shouting and the occasional beep but other than that it was peaceful. I concluded, therefore, that the reason the beeping was so shocking to me was because I’m not really used to it. I haven’t been exposed to it on a regular basis. Usually beeping one’s horn fits into four categories as far as I’m concerned (1) Trying to point out that the lights have just turned green – but usually after waiting a while to see if the driver notices for themselves (2) To say Hi to someone you know (3) You’re passing a picket line and someone’s holding up a banner that says ‘Honk your horn if you support us’ and you do or (4) Because someone is so impatient or damn rude that they think it’s OK to bully people into doing what they want them to do from the safety of their own car. Thankfully people who fit into the fourth category are fairly rare, but if I do happen to fall victim to one of them it stays with me for hours. I rant about it to everyone I know and I just can’t seem to let it go.

When someone intimidates me my instincts kick in and I want to cut in front of them, slam on my brakes, pull their door open and throw them into the ditch, while ranting something that rhymes with where I’ve just put them and begins with ‘son of a’. Instead I bite my tongue for fear of making matters worse and seethe internally until I think I’m going to burst and I’ve got a headache.

I believe that what I experienced in Brussels was a slant on the first of my categories, giving someone a nudge with an added continental ‘just letting you know I’m still here’ and minus the ‘perhaps if I wait a few minutes they might realise the lights have turned green for themselves without anyone having to do anything uncomfortable’, which leads me onto my next observation; expression. We don’t tend to embrace our neighbours like we haven’t seen them since…oh god…how long has it been…yesterday? Big groups of teenage males don’t tend to kiss and hug like they really do love each other and when someone annoys us we simmer rather than explode. Perhaps if we expressed ourselves more openly and on a more regular basis category (4) people would be less offensive and less likely to be chased and threatened with a crook lock or put in the ditch, even if it is only in my imagination.

We could all beep at each other constantly and to the point that our streets would sound like the checkouts at Tesco the day before Christmas. We could all relax more and say ‘I don’t give a monkeys that I’m still at the lights when they’ve just turned green, you’re not the first person to beep at me, you certainly won’t be the last and for your information I’m checking out the sexy knee high boots in that window, so you’re just going to have to WAIT!’

Take care and safe driving.

Jess x

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