31 July 2008

The Very Frasty Stroon

The Stroon wibbled at the fringes as the Gajjer prauned at its flobelites. ‘Don’t do that,’ said the Stroon, sloaming a loose heypraul at the Gajjer’s klopper, ‘It makes me wibble, and I don’t strake it.’

The Gajjer chumbled at the Stroon’s sloaming and jinkled beyond its amflutt. ‘I’m hardly stangly,’ said the Gajjer, ‘as it’s my wandret to praun the flobelites of a Stroon. In fact, I’m inflandessirant for it.’

‘Well I don’t care’, said the Stroon, ‘They are my flobelites and I would be stobelifted if you would keep your prauning sloppars to yourself.’ The Stroon jambered at the Gajjer and the Gajjer huned back a strelp or two. ‘If you can’t, then I shall be knuled to jamber you until your stradlisers are sprilandled; then you’ll be stangly, very stangly indeed.’

The Gajjer wested and flumbered, and drandled longingly at the Stroon’s flobelites. ‘Can’t I just praun one of them? I mean, you’ve got plenty, and surely one won’t be a snedderlism?’

‘Snatter off!’ the Stroon excrobulated, ‘I need them all!’

‘Like you need a slomp in your stobber,’ said the Gajjer. It randled. ‘Go on, just one. You won’t slimper it at all, and I’ll be obnauphesticularly obluterate, and make sure you are festuled at the Snorfting at the end of the flond.’

The Stroon flendered, and its fringes wibbled unconfluturatingly. ‘Hmm. If I let you, do you promise not to pruge beyond the snaffletts?’

‘OK. I’ll go as far as the snafflets, and maybe stiffle them a bit – you might strake that – but I won’t drindle or pruge any further.’

‘Hmm. Well. OK. And can I chiddle your noaf?’

‘I don’t know about that.’

‘Well, it’s only snoorklik.’

The Gajjer randled again. ‘OK,’ it said, ‘Just this once.’ It jinkled back to one of the Stroon’s flobelites and prauned at it until it reached the snafflets, where it drindled and pruged, and pruged and drindled, and then stiffled them for a very long snoppet; and the Stroon caught the Gajjer by the noaf and chiddled it until it blosed.

Just then, the Stroon’s Mosmos arrived. ‘What are you sluping at?’ it stappered, fringes wibbling and snaffletts afloam, ‘and who let that Gajjer in here?’ The Mosmos sloamed at the Gajjer, only just missing its stobber by the merest smiffer of a blat.

The Gajjer chumbled and jinkled, and warfed and jamboled until the Mosmos was prelacticated, then it fluped from the nozzar into the flarkness, never to been seen again.

‘You frasty Stroon,’ said the Mosmos.

‘I’m stangly,’ said the Stroon, ‘Very stangly indeed. But it was desanstrable. I straked it like a lostulate snarftangle.’

‘You very frasty Stroon,’ said the Mosmos, and blunged it to nozboz without any jum-jum.

10 July 2008

A Rant to Make Jeremy Clarkson Smile

Driving habits. We all have them. Some of you have particularly annoying ones. I, of course, also have them but none of them annoy me.

I am not talking about the illegal and absolutely downright stupid ones, such as conversing on a hand-held 'phone whilst actually driving (sending text messages is even more stupid). Why people think that the law does not apply to them, or even that their ability to drive safely is not in any way diminished by such behaviour, I will never understand. If you are one of those people, the law does apply to you and it certainly does affect your ability to drive safely. In evidence, I cite the example of the waved apology from a driver who, through inattention, had pulled out in front of me at a junction whilst simultaneously changing gear and holding his 'phone to his ear. Where he got all the hands from I do not know; I only hope he had a couple of spare ones for the steering wheel. Of course, if you normally drive like a moron, driving whilst on the ‘phone probably won’t affect your driving ability… I digress.

No, I am not talking about the illegal and absolutely downright stupid habits, just the ones that seem to make no sense. Here are some examples of what I mean.

Drivers Who Miss the Boat

I am sitting at a roundabout with one car in front of me and a bus alongside. The bus pulls off and enters the roundabout. The person in front of me waits until the bus has gone just to be sure that nothing is coming. She has yet to realise that anything already on the roundabout has to pass through an enormous, solid vehicle before it has any chance of hitting her car. Had she realised that the bus was, in effect, an almost impenetrable shield against all except fully-laden quarry trucks and Exocet missiles, she and I and possibly the driver behind could have been on our way. Instead she spends her time, and mine, preening her hair.

Space Invaders
Now, I like to leave a decent safe distance between my car and the one in front. I am the first to admit that it is not the Highway Code's-worth of stopping distance but it is a good deal more than some drivers leave between themselves and the back of my car, and is easily expandable by paying attention and responding to everything in front of you and not just the car you are following. After all, the stopping distance in the Highway Code (if 'Top Gear' demonstrations are to be believed) is designed with a stationary stack of cardboard boxes in mind, not the moving target that is the traffic in front. Rarely would the car in front of me stop instantaneously (unless it hits a steel-reinforced concrete wall, and, as I am paying attention, I would have spotted the wall long before the unfortunate driver in front did). Why do some drivers think that my 'safe space' is their 'pulling-in space'? It isn't. If you pull in, I have to drop back so that you don't have to glare at me in your mirror because you think I'm too close. I have to judge very carefully what I think is the minimum safe distance with the lowest risk of my being dispossessed of it. Otherwise, particularly on busy roads, I may just as well drive in reverse...

Space Creators
In these days of escalating fuel prices, it makes very good sense (seriously) to drive less aggressively. There is no point in roaring away from one traffic light and screeching to a halt at the end of the queue for the next. Gentle acceleration uses much less fuel and, certainly in rush-hour traffic, loses you no time at all. So, when I see someone keeping up with but hanging back in a slowly-moving, single line of vehicles I understand what they are doing and even commend them for their responsible attitude to the environment. I can even appreciate that such an approach is much less wearing on the nerves, and that one arrives at one's destination far less jaded as a result. What I do not understand is the reason to maintain the same generous gap when approaching a green traffic light. In that circumstance, the right approach is to close the gap with a little more, although still gentle, acceleration so that you maximise your chances, and possibly those of the person behind you, of getting through the light before it changes from green. At the speeds involved, if the light changes to amber, you will still have time to stop. If you hang back however, you (or worse, I) will almost certainly have to stop and to waste the world's precious oil resources on pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere whilst achieving no forward progress at all. Of course, in double lines of traffic, one man's 'slack space' becomes someone else's 'pulling-in' space and so, for the sake of the mental stability of every consequently stationary driver behind you, keep up, there's a good chap.

Time Bandits
Then there are the people who seem to be in absolutely no hurry at all. They tootle along at twenty-five miles an hour, as if the two-mile tail-back behind them did not exist, and revel in the joys of the open road before them. (Here's an interesting fact: if you drive along with your speedo-needle on thirty, you are probably doing only about twenty-seven; so if you like to sit 'just under thirty', just to keep on the safe side of lurking speed-traps, you are actually doing about twenty-five – which is irritatingly safe. If you want to be on the safe side, drive with the needle bang on thirty. Check it out next time you approach one of those roadside speed-measuring displays.) I have no problem with people going along at their own pace, only with the time of day that they do it. If you are in no hurry, why not do your journey off-peak so that people who are in a hurry can get to where they need to be? Why didn't they leave more time, you repost... Because, before they left for work, they had to feed the kids, walk the dog, get the cat out of a tree, and scoop their adventure-seeking goldfish back into its bowl, that's why.

Lane Hoggers
Picture a three-lane motorway with nothing in front of you for as far as the eye can see except for one car. That car is in the middle lane. Why? Fifty miles further on, that car is still in the middle lane and has never moved over, either to the right or the left. Why? Several vehicles approach from behind, all travelling faster than the lane-hogger. Still she (and it’s usually but not always a she) stays in the middle lane. Why? Now all the faster-moving traffic has to wait in turn to get past the moron in the middle. Some drivers, in their total and understandable frustration, resort to passing on the left – actually not as dangerous as you might think because the lane-hogger has no concept of moving over and has completely failed to notice the less-than-subtle hints from other drivers (such as coming right up behind in the left lane, indicating right and moving right across the back of her car and into the overtaking lane, pulling swiftly past her, and then indicating left and moving quickly across her front and back into the left-hand lane). No. Unless a police car with blues-and-twos in full performance draws alongside and the officer in the passenger seat bellows at her with a loud-hailer on full volume, never will she vacate her beloved middle lane. There she sits, oblivious of the frustration, anger and mayhem in her wake. In a phenomenon known as ‘bunching’, the traffic slows down and only gradually works its way past her and the pink, fluffy dice hanging from her rear-view mirror. Sometimes, and much further back, the traffic density builds up so much that it actually stops! Have you ever wondered about those apparently causeless motorway queues? Now you know. People who hog the middle lane are a menace and a danger.

Anxious Right-turners

The anxious right-turner is a variant of the lane-hogger. This is the person who gets into the right hand lane of a dual carriageway because she intends to turn right (sorry ladies, but it’s usually either a woman or a man in a white van). What’s wrong with that? Well, nothing if you are actually nearing the junction at which you intend to turn right, but if said junction is twenty-five miles down the road… Here’s a suggestion for those of you who live in fear of missing your turn: put your right indicator on, then we can legally pass you on the left. What’s more, we will still have plenty of time to move over and turn right at your intended junction long before you arrive.

The Offside Rear Wing-man
Another variant of the lane-hogger, the Offside Rear Wing-man sits for mile-upon-mile in the overtaking lane travelling at the same speed as me and just about overlapping with me, effectively blocking any opportunity I may have to pull into the overtaking lane and thus avoid piling into the lorry at the far end of the rapidly-shortening gap in front of me. I have two options: I can brake, allowing the ORW to pass and then pull out behind him, all the while hoping that the driver of the car behind, whose front wheels are all but on my boot, is awake and paying attention (of course, there will not be any space behind the ORW because someone who wants to do 95 is trying to push him out of the way); or I can accelerate into what is left of my ‘safe space’ and get in front of the ORW hoping not to give him a heart attack in the process. Why would he have a heart attack? Because I have appeared suddenly out of nowhere! The lorry in front of me is not in his lane so he has not seen it. I am not in his lane and so he has not seen me. He most certainly has failed to realise that, at the speed we are travelling, I will very soon need to overtake the lorry but cannot because he is in the way. No. I’m afraid I have to do the thinking for both of us and indicate my intentions long before the need to pull out arises and just hope that the insistent blinking of my side repeater manages to penetrate his consciousness without causing too much trauma… and that his response is not to accelerate and box me in completely…

There! I'm glad I got all that off my chest. So am I qualified to rant like this because my driving is perfect? Not as perfect as my Beloved’s, whose driving is truly better than that of most men, including mine. She regularly points out my small and insignificant inconsistencies. I never point hers out unless I am likely to be in sudden need of a change of underpants…

And Jeremy, if you have been reading this, I hope it made you smile… especially the bit about mobile ‘phones…