Driving on the right hand side of the road, or the ‘wrong side’ to Brits, is something that I knew would take a little getting used to – having driven on the left for almost 45 years.
Lisa, being American says they drive on the right so we, on the left, are the ones on the wrong side. My counter to that is that Americans drive on the right but Brits drive on the correct side of the road.
I had driven on the right before, some years ago now, when visiting friends in northern France. But then I was driving my own right hand drive car. So, it was with some sense of trepidation that, having hauled myself upright from my wheelchair, I eased myself behind the wheel of a left hand drive car for the very first time.
This was towards the end of April this year, when Lisa and I spent nine days enjoying beautiful weather as we looked for our new home.
Our plane landed just as the sun was setting but by the time we had got through passport controls and customs, and then completed formalities at the car hire desk, it was dark before we were actually able to leave the airport.
So, picture the scene if you will. I am driving a car that is not one with which I am familiar, the driver’s seat is on the left so the controls are on my right instead of the more familiar left but luckily it is an automatic so no need to change gear. I am driving on totally unknown roads, following a list of directions received via email, at night. And I have 160 miles to go.
I felt like an explorer; I certainly needed a sense of adventure to deal with all that.
So, we set off without any incidents and we are making steady progress, if a little slow. It is about 30 minutes into our journey, while driving down an autovia (motorway to us Brits) that it happens.
It? What ‘it’? Did you have an accident? I can almost hear you asking.
No, nothing like that. The ‘it’ in question is that our car is overtaken. Nothing wrong in that, in itself, as I am driving cautiously…….but in this case I am overtaken by a truck! I have a nagging feeling that I need to speed up a bit.
Well, by this time I am feeling more confident and so we do begin to travel faster – although I do keep to all the speed limits, which is pretty unusual for me.
The only problem I am having by this stage is to keep the car in the middle of the lane. You see, I keep positioning it as though I am driving a right hand drive car, so we are going too close the edge of the road. In fact, I touch the rumble strip about a dozen times along our 160 mile journey.
Eventually, at about 1.15 in the morning, we reach our destination. Tired but safe.
My confidence grew over the nine days we spent in Spain and I felt quite relaxed driving on the right, quite comfortable in a left hand drive car.
So, having found the home of our dreams – actually only the second property we looked at – we returned to the UK. We collected our car from Manchester Airport and headed back to Wales. I remember saying that it felt strange to be driving on the left again. Oddly, it felt wrong.
The next morning, we collected our two cats from the cattery. I turned right out of the gate onto the wide country lane and had gone about 20 or 30 yards before Lisa asked “Shouldn’t we be on the left hand side of the road?”
I quickly corrected our position, luckily there was no other traffic about.