Throughout our six week stay in London we had no car and travelled by train with the occasional taxi thrown in to get us from station to high street if needs be.

It was just as well really, journeying by rail back to London at night was far preferable to driving.

The single carriageways that criss-cross southern England are treacherous to the uninitiated; there are no street lamps just dark shadows of trees flanking the roads that twist and turn with cats’ eyes glinting and the glare of oncoming headlights, seemingly in our lane, almost blinding the driver and disorienting those of us used to driving on the right side of the road and finding ourselves as passengers on the left side of the car!

We drove the two and a half hour journey to London in my brother’s car once (and once only as I tell myself each time we succumb to his generous offer of a lift).  I navigated using my iPhone Maps dodging and weaving in my seat, slamming on the brake that wasn’t there with my right foot, my stomach knotted tightly, my eyes growing dry from not blinking and my head aching from concentration.

“This must have been a draining trip once or twice a week when you came and spent time with Tony,” I gasped as I ducked my head to escape the stream of lights.

“Not that bad,” he said in his typical stoic manner.

“Well I think it’s a nerve wracking drive and you are to be commended for doing it regularly for nine months.”

I’d have taken the train – it only takes an hour and a bit – no oncoming traffic to scare the dickens out of me just the hypnotic clatter of the rails, the occasional thwack of a train hurtling past in the opposite direction and a glimpse of passengers dozing, reading newspapers or just gazing sightlessly into thin air or at the train whizzing by on the opposite track.

At the beginning of our trip I enjoyed this racing through lovely little towns in the early mornings that I’d never been to before, with their ancient names; Rustington, Lancing, Goring-by-Sea and Angmering, all begging a visit or a stroll along the harbour wall at sunset.

We chatted to our taxi-drivers as we sped to Goring to pick up property keys, or Rustington to buy packing tape and bags.  They complained of all the construction going on in the area as people moved south out of the city to retire by the sea-side.  They lamented the ruination of the hedgerows and trees as rural became urban startlingly fast.

“I hear you!” I said, “it’s the same where we live in America only on a much larger scale.”

We found our grumbles about subdivisions and road widening in Weston, Texas, weren’t exclusive.  The housing boom and demand for ‘new builds’ was everywhere.

We spent a day in the beautiful, historic town of Arundel,

walking from the station to take in the south downs and capture the castle across the river Arun;

Picture perfect and English to the core.

We took in the old world charm of hanging flower baskets, in January,

and climbed the steep hill to visit the cathedral complete with gargoyles.

We ended the day at a cafe where we drank our usual lattes and ate a couple of hazelnut cream-filled cannoli.

A sweet break in the middle of an emotionally draining few weeks.


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