Driving for others

Man not driving

Driving for others

Over time my experience of driving has changed and some may say for the worse particularly my intolerance for those drivers who don’t have the necessary skills to exist on anything other than an empty road.

It isn’t that some people are timid or prone to exaggerated carefulness, although that is undoubtedly frustrating for those caught up in the miles long queues behind them, it is more that some folks seem to think you should be driving on their behalf. To explain by way of an example: My morning commute sees a few places where I have to create a space in order to join one road from another at a junction. As these are mainly side roads there aren’t too many other drivers waiting and I try to pick places where there is a good possibility of having space from one direction or another and sometimes both. The scenario plays out as I cross an empty lane and gently wait for the some kind person in the other line of traffic to gesture that I can get in front of them. This also plays when you are turning left into the nearer lane and the steady stream of traffic requires a little help so just a tiny slowdown gives a gap for you to fill.

Morning rush hour traffic is generally good for this as there are many people doing the same thing throughout the journey and as one good turn deserves another I would create the same space or flash up a waiting driver to indicate I will give up space for him or her.

This is not where you are driving for others but merely allowing other people the space to drive for themselves. The problem shows up where a waiting driver doesn’t know that they can go into a space and sits waiting for you to flash or otherwise indicate they can cross in front of you or take a space in front of you.

Classically where there is a driver turning right across in front of you into a road on your left and another waiting to cross your lane to take up a place in the opposite lane from that same road. Most people would see the opportunity to cross behind the vehicle turning across into the side road if the opposite lane is empty or even if it isn’t might pull forward to be ready to take a space when available, but the ones who want you to do their driving for them sit and look pathetically at you hoping you’ll give them permission to drive their vehicle for them. I’ve had occasion to flash someone up to go across, usually having to flash them several times before they get the message, which generally means they have missed the gap that was approaching and now are firmly planted across my lane waiting for someone the other side to take pity on them. I don’t generally do that anymore because if they aren’t ready they aren’t going to be in place when they need to be.

Chief culprit for this lack of driving skills is sadly taxi drivers. A cab company next to our factory has by no means the worst drivers but if I am approaching the turn into the service road and they are waiting to turn out across in front of me I will flash them to proceed. I have my indicator going to clearly show my intentions and they have clear sight of an empty road to turn into but I often have to flash them three or four times before they understand.

As I get older I feel the lack of years in front of me and often now won’t flash someone more than once and if they don’t take the hint I carry on assured that I will get there much more quickly than if I am generous and helpful.

I am sure that many of these drivers will be asking me silently, or maybe cursing me loudly for not letting them out but to them I say simply that I have my own vehicle to drive so why would I want to drive yours at them same time?


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Driving time

Driving time


Not the time you are on the road or how to find space in your diary but more properly I should maybe have entitled this Drive timing.

This is borne out of a few minutes driving the other day which highlighted how a very short space of time can make a huge difference to anyone’s day and also brings into question how much does luck factor in whether or not you are involved in an incident.

It was a typical morning as I left the drive to start the journey to work. Up the road to the corner and a swift check to the right (having been caught out once already) swing left and continue up the close. Then from the right a neighbour came off his drive without looking as if he would stop before I reached him. I slowed at the same instant as he slammed on his brakes stopping only a couple of feet into the road. Having decided he was going to let me past I waved generously and carried on. A few turnings later and his journey took a left whilst I had gone to the right.

Now this piece of the track took us both towards the main road up parallel roads. I should explain the reason I used the right hand of two routes was because it was a lot easier to exit the road I took due to no parked cars obscuring the view of oncoming traffic and I had often also noticed that, for no explicable reason, this road was usually also free of oncoming unlike my experience of the other road.

So while we were both headed in the same direction but on different roads I expected to be ahead of my neighbour when I exited onto the main road. Imagine my surprise when, just as I approached the road end, a numpty brained cyclist came into view cycling on the pavement straight across in front of me! As I already had my foot on the brake and was probably only moving at walking pace it was not any problem not the run over him. He sheepishly lifted a hand in thanks for my magnanimously leaving him capable of staying out of the hospital and continued.

I speculated quietly to myself on his parentage and obvious lack of intelligence and after a car or two went past got out onto the main road then after a few yards noticed the cyclist doing the same thing to my neighbour who even more generously rolled back a couple of feet to give him room to continue to be a hazard to pedestrians for whom the pavement is intended.

It hit me then that if I had not slowed to avoid running into my neighbour as he rashly came off his drive I would have in fact been that fraction of a second earlier at the road end and would have, I believe justly, been parked on the top of the cyclist and ringing the police and ambulance to sort out the mess he would have made of the front of my car. Instead of that scenario, we were all going to get to work roughly when we had intended when we all started our respective journeys.

Driving time

Time to think about what might have occurred and to ponder why the hell adult cyclists think they have any right to ride on the path. We have enough idiotic regulations governing cycle paths, cycle boxes at traffic lights and cycle crossings which are all paid for by motorists who pay a lot of money for the privilege of using the roads and the cyclists, meanwhile, ride anywhere but in the cycle lanes. That fails to address the other issue of jumping red lights which cyclists think they can get away with because they ride on the path.

Time spent behind the wheel or pushing the spokes around on a bike is more dangerous than sitting on the sofa so using the senses to ensure safe driving or cycling will reduce the danger and maybe keep you alive.

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Christmas comes but once a year (all 365 days of it)

How does Christmas now start in September?

Please wait until Christmas

Fed up with this stress

Even though I have had the conversation with my wife about the holiday pressures coming straight after The Easter eggs have been finished we still find ourselves part of the process.. How can two normally sane people who have lamented this hi-jacking of what should be a time to ease back and chill with family and friends get so caught up in the hype?
It is not as if we actually have to get it all sorted before November gets here, or that we will somehow run out of time to put everything into it’s appropriate slot if we don’t start to plan in August but we do begin to feel the stress building up as more and more shops start parading goods we don’t need to purchase before the 12th of December at the very earliest!

Christmas tree small

About the right size for table display

We have already booked our Christmas Day feast at our local which is a boon not to have to decide what two people need for one days food supplies. This started a couple of years ago after we just couldn’t be bothered to sort all of that out even though I really don’t mind doing it it was idiotic to spend half a day getting all the ingredients together and then cooking a meal for six which only the two of us were ever going to attend. Other changes to the grown and flown families also dictated that we only really had the older generation to have a meal with which is traditionally on Christmas Eve, again already booked up (in September) so that all we really need to organise now is post the two day madness for the younger generations who now have their own agendas for the 25th and that involves travelling and maybe a hotel night or two so not much stress in that for us. The real problem now is what to sort for the Australian returnees who are arriving just before the main event but will again probably not come until after the 26th to visit us here. Shouldn’t really be stressful at all as they haven’t made any plans yet either!

Keep calm it's nearly Christmas

Keep Calm Christmas

We need a law to prevent shops which do not have the word Christmas as part of their official name and marketing plan from promoting and selling anything to do with Christmas before the 12th of December. That gives them two weeks to sell all the crap that mainly gets chucked in the bin on the 26th and the rest of the planet can merrily live their lives without Christmas stress levels starting to rise until after my birthday.
There, that’s all sorted then!

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As a lot of my driving posts are rambling accounts of this and that it occurred to me to read them. Now I know that regular bloggers and people like journalists and such know the value of the post writing edit but I’m not a journo nor am I a serial blogger so this technique of writing is not ingrown or natural. Hence this new blog which includes a lot of already written pieces patched together.

So speed then hmmmmm……

Well I know that when you start to drive you “feel the need for speed” which is why a lot of young people are now being targeted by insurance companies to have a “black box” to determine if they drive outside of a set of parameters. These being set by whom? Some individual who has years and millions of miles of experience? No probably not. It is more likely that they will be set by some “speed kills” adherent or possibly even a committee of “experts”! As anyone who has ever set off to sea knows you can’t drive or sail or fly by committee. One person has to be in charge and that is the person at the controls.

Now I don’t want anyone thinking that I know better than them but I do so there. No honestly you need to find your limits and those of the vehicle you are driving and there is only one way to achieve this feat and that is by actually doing it. No other option is available, you must know how you react and think and you must know how each movement you make reflects in the vehicles response.

So by trying to go faster you can find the limits of both yourself and your car/van/lorry/motorbike or bicycle. That is not to say just get in or on and go blast the countryside away. How silly would I be to propose that?

But think on this; if you take a vehicle and go round and round a race track enough times you can keep going faster and faster until you or the car cannot manage to stay in control. Then you can go back and change a few things like line into corner, braking point, turn in point or ultimate speed until you achieve balance and the fastest lap time. Now change the vehicle and you have to start all over again with one massive but. You already have learnt or taught yourself how not to over-react which means a part of the re-launch does not need to be re-learnt.

This is how experience (that word again) is built and for any new driver the need for speed has to be tempered by the need to know what speed means and you only get that if you constantly test yourself. I still do this even though I long ago stopped needing to go the fastest because on roads the fastest is not necessarily the quickest. To explain, if you try and go 50mph in a 30 mph limit you will be forever slowing down behind drivers doing 30 and if you test this out for yourself over a given journey you can soon see all you are really doing is using fuel to gain mere seconds.

I used to drive from Margate to Bracknell every fortnight. Starting at around 5:30 am I would easily hit 95mph from the start of the A299 dual carriageway right through to the M2 at Faversham. Trying to keep up to that speed or close to it when you are on a two lane Mway means you keep coming up on HGV’s overtaking at 58mph, the resultant slowing and speeding up again uses more fuel than doing 70mph because you catch up with less slow moving folks and you lose less speed anyway and don’t accelerate for as long. So on to the A 249 to head south and pick up the M20 now on three lanes again but having now the extra traffic heading towards London at around 6:30 then you get onto the M26 and back to two lanes again and more slow moving trucks as they are now beginning their daily routines so I guess an average speed for that 6 mile or so would be around 65 mph and this is where you can check out the time gain. I’ll come back to that but to continue the journey, join the M25 at J5 and now for the fun time. This is where you really learn about motorway driving. If the motorway is moving you will find lots of people trying to go the fastest they can in the outside lane but on the M25 it probably isn’t as the weight of traffic keeps it slowing down and speeding up so you will probably get better average speed in the middle lane and from there you can drive in the correct lane when not overtaking i.e. the nearside lane. To be honest as you are going faster than the 3rd or now even the 4th lane you are technically undertaking, a manoeuvre absolutely decried by police chiefs who haven’t learnt a thing since they left the advanced driving course they went on when they joined the police. But it isn’t your job to police the roads and you cannot be held responsible for all the idiots who are hogging the outside lanes and going slower than you and let’s be fair here, it has only got worse since the introduction of 4th lanes. Now we have the police with the ability to pull over drivers in the wrong lane and giving them a spot fine, only marginally different than pulling them over and suggesting they take driving lessons with the added bonus of inflating treasury funds, we might see this changing but I seriously doubt it until driving is not allowed on motorways until you have passed an additional test

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New driving spot fines

Sadly, this will lead to more court appearances not less. The concept of policemen as judge and jury has long been avoided by not trying out this continental idea. As the current laws stand, although the offences are not new the validity of the premise, e.g. tailgating can be argued in court, but if a driver with little or no experience of judging distance, especially when looking in a mirror, complains that someone is tailgating the court can look at the driving record of the following driver and take that into account. It seems very likely that a policeman would err on the side of the leading driver.
While middle lane hoggers annoy me the concept of “undertaking” is inherently pre-judged by the use of the word. If you are on a motorway or multi lane carriageway minding your own business in the left hand lane and the traffic outside of you slows or even stops you will go past them and in some circumstances slowing or stopping yourself in order not to “undertake” could be very dangerous if you are being followed closely (but not being tailgated) by a HGV. Most drivers will assume that the ebb and flow of traffic in such cases is temporarily allowing differing speeds in different lanes and will carry on, although anyone with half a brain would realise that some of the middle and outer lane drivers will try to change lanes to gain advantage and be more aware of such manoeuvres.
The arguments heard on the Jeremy Vine show this lunchtime for allowing individuals to hog the middle lane were at best spurious (young drivers won’t let us out with our caravan), to downright pig-headed (if I’m doing the speed limit how can I be wrong?) and all were failing in one respect i.e. they can’t drive.
I have been changing lanes on all roads since I learned how to drive and it is not either dangerous or difficult if you drive with more than just your own needs in mind a.d the simple answer is – this is Britain and we drive on the left. If you don’t like it piss off to France where they drive on the right

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Uk airports and the debate around a third runway for Heathrow

This letter from Midlands chambers of commerce and local MP’s MEP’s and businessmen and women will hopefully focus the attention of parliament on the need to promote all of the UK to the world business community and give them thoughts of how best to go forward with any proposed increase in  aviation capacity. 

Wednesday. August 29, 2012

To: The Editor, Daily Telegraph, London

Dear Sir

With the current debate raging about the future of the UK aviation, focus remains that a ‘hub airport’ in the South East offers a single solution to the future aviation needs of the United Kingdom. But this continues to favour a small, congested, and already economically strong part of the country. The current debate apparently ignores the immediate and future economic needs of the UK as a whole.

Economic rebalance around the regions will help resuscitate our wider economy. To secure growth, we need gateways close to the manufacturing, research and development of the Midlands and the north, linking these regions directly to BRIC and other emerging markets.

Evidence suggests overseas investors are discouraged from investing where there are no global links. For the UK, over-reliance on one large, full airport, risks national resilience and leads the rest of the world to believe there is just one gateway to this country.

Airports in our great industrial cities have huge spare capacity. In the West Midlands, Birmingham Airport’s current spare runway capacity is 27 million passengers per annum.

Birmingham is at the heart of the rail and motorway networks, and its airport is the most accessible in the UK. The Airport and NEC station will be the hub of the proposed HS2 network, potentially with half of the population less than one-hour away.

Longer-term, developing Birmingham as a major gateway at the centre of the UK would reduce unproductive surface travel time and leave Heathrow as a gateway for London and the South East.

With its proposed second runway, Birmingham’s spare capacity could rise to over 50 million and create 50,000 jobs in an area with some of the UK’s highest pockets of persistent unemployment.

We call on Government to encourage and assist Airports to work with Local Enterprise Partnerships and stakeholders to declare longer-term options to benefit UK Plc. They should examine how the impact on local communities can be mitigated, and a balance be struck between employment, economic growth, and local nuisance.

Government infrastructure planning needs to both recognise airports and provide sufficient confidence for airports to be able to plan well into the future both their contribution and connectivity. But in so doing, recognise that UK aviation is not just a South East issue, but is a driver for regional economic growth – growth in areas that have languished behind the South East. Importantly, Government must support expansion of Birmingham’s airport to maximise the regional growth opportunity.

We must encourage growth now. The solution should lie at the heart of the UK in the Midlands.

Yours Sincerely,

Conservative West Midlands MPs

Mark Garnier

Michael Fabricant

Mark Pritchard

James Morris

Jesse Norman

Richard Shepherd

Aidan Burley

Andrew Griffiths

Chris Kelly

Harriett Baldwin

Paul Uppal

Robin Walker

Dan Byles

Marcus Jones

Daniel Kawczynski

Gavin Williamson

Margot James

Conservative West Midlands MEPs

Philip Bradbourne

Malcolm Harbour

Anthea McIntyre

Labour West Midlands MPs

Ian Austin

Gisela Stuart

Steven McCabe

Valerie Vaz

Dave Wright

Adrian Bailey

Tom Watson

Khalid Mahmood

Liam Byrne

Emma Reynolds

Labour Council Leaders

Cllr. David Jamieson (Solihull)

Cllr. Tim Oliver (Walsall)

Cllr. John Mutton (Coventry)

Cllr. Darren Cooper (Sandwell)

Conservative Council Leaders

Councillor Mike Whitby

(Leader of the Conservative Group and former Leader of Birmingham City Council)

Chambers of Commerce

Jerry Blackett

Chief Executive

Birmingham Chamber

Burton Chamber

Chase Chamber

Lichfield Chamber

Solihull Chamber

West Midlands businesses.

Neil Rami              Marketing Birmingham

Charlie Shiels        GeoPost UK LTD

Kate Beech          Noble-Lancaster Partnership

David Smith          Mezenet Solutions Ltd

David Sedgley       Roadlink International Ltd

Fay Goodman,      Goodmedia Limited

Dean Parnell         Sydney Mitchell LLP

Michael Ward        Gateley LLP

Steve Brittan          BSA Machine Tools Ltd

Parveen Mehta       Minor Weir Willis Ltd

Byron P Head        Rical Group

Graham Eden        Cognitor Ltd

Steve Allen            Mills & Reeve LLP

Simon Topman,      The Acme Whistle Co Ltd

Marc Stone            Stone Consulting Ltd

Adrian Burton         Erlsmede Consulting Ltd

Glenn Howells        Glenn Howells Architects Limited

Terry Gibbs            Harrow Green Ltd

Ian Greaves            PMG LLP

Colin Leighfield       Wedge Group Galvanizing Ltd.

Paul Schnepper      Holiday Inn Birmingham Airport

Bill Almen              Al Fereej Trading UK Ltd

Stephen Jones       Clear Solutions Wealth & Tax Mangement Ltd

Prof. Mary Carswell Birmingham City University

Balwinder Dhanoa   Progress Care Solutions

K. Raindi                K&K Clothing

Clayton Shaw         Sampad

Ms Amina Bukhari Acorn Primary School

Sangeeta Nazran   UK Property group

Levi Cheng            Guerbet Laboratories Ltd

Mrs Joy Farrall       Learning Impact International Ltd

Mark Tonks            Mark Tonks & Associates Ltd

Mark Petty,            NextiraOne UK

Rick Grain              Effigy Blinds Ltd

Ronnie Brown         Hotels.tv/Birmingham

David Caro              Federation of Small Businesses

Craig Errington        Wesleyan Assurance Society

Paul Thandi            The NEC Group

Richard Holt           Evans Derry Solicitors

Calum Nisbet,        City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

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That’s odd why did they call it that?

I’ve thought about this for a while and finally have decided to get around to actually writing this blog.

Number 1 in an occasional series will hopefully educate anyone interested in the really odd road names in the West Midlands.

Marvel at The Darkies, gasp at The Goss and wonder at Ross. Be frankly, dumbfounded at Audnam and laugh your socks off at the truly wonderful Mincing Lane which I can tell you leads you to Bell End!

I feel duty bound to shed some light on the origins of these names where I can, but as a matter of principle, my main idea behind this is just to get the names out there in the bigger world for all to see and puzzle over.

So to start as I mean to go on we commence at the very start of the alphabet with Aaron Manby Court.

Named after the builder of the first steamship to be built of iron and prefabricated at the nearby Horseley Iron Works and shipped to Rotherhithe in London and assembled there.

Next up Abelia in Tamworth. Other than it being a genus of Honeysuckle named after Clarke Abel, a surgeon who went to China with Lord Amherst in 1816 and tried to bring back some seeds which were lost when the ship foundered.

The next street is not only a short name but also a short street being only 30m long. A B Row has a debated history but there seems a consensus that it stands for the “Row” or border between Aston and either Birmingham or Bordesley. Take your pick but don’t come along here having a go at me because I don’t have a definitive answer and neither, it appears, does anyone else.

I’m going to skip over some names as they are only a bit odd and some are there only to celebrate a long forgotten, (otherwise) local hero or upstanding member of the community.

The next street of interest is Alfreds Well. Quite why this street is called that I haven’t a clue but I runs from Nibletts Hill down to the junction with Fockbury Road and Cockshutt Lane so make of that what you will.

Allard is a slightly odd one because it is part of an estate in Tamworth where the road names are all cars. The chap who named all the streets used mainly well known names, mostly from the local car industry, but with some exotic types like Lagonda and Lotus but the inclusion of Allard and Belsize shows a historical knowledge of car makers.

The Alley in Dudley doesn’t seem to be an actual alley but a road and isn’t too far from The Straits but neither shows up on any searches except for Estate Agents pages so no further  information is available.

Back to Tamworth again for Ariane which street name goes along with Gerard, Mariner, Legrange, Cavendish, Kepler and Landsberg form part of Lichfield road industrial estates. I think it must be something in the psyche of Tamworthians, if that’s what they are called, that gives them the drive to come up with odd names.

I’ll finish this blog with Audnam because it’s just down the road from us. I can’t find why it’s called Audnam but there are several books about the place surrounding the street. Part of Amblecote between Wordsley and Stourbridge it is the name that started me on this trek. I asked myself who the hell called it Audnam and I was off looking at all the weird names in the West Midlands.

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