Wednesday, 30 April 2008

On the Street Where We Live

To understand the cartography of North Oxford it's helpful to imagine a tuning fork. St. Giles in the center of Oxford splits into Woodstock Road and the Banbury Road to the north. Our house is between the tines of Woodstock and Banbury, in a neighborhood called Summertown. We're fortunate, though, that our street doesn't link those two arteries, and, thus, we don't have too much traffic.

But we do have some and we are often entertained from the comfort of our lounge by watching trucks try to negotiate our tiny lane. We'll be seated at the dining room table or on the couch when suddenly the sky will darken and a lorry from Argos will ease slowly by. It reminds me of a ship passing through the Panama Canal. It's a tight squeeze. You can park on both sides of our street and the space that remains is about as wide as a double bed:

That white box truck has just navigated the road. They don't all make it. Europeans know that when they parallel park they should fold in their wing mirrors, but even that won't help if the lorry is just too big. Occasionally a massive truck will turn down our street, its driver desperate to leave the warren of lanes in this part of Summertown. Hoping to find the sweet release of the Woodstock Road, he instead discovers that he just won't fit. He throws it into reverse and searches for another way out.

When we arrived here last September it was in a rented VW Transporter. It was the biggest vehicle they had at the airport and the only thing that would accommodate our ragtag traveling circus (children, suitcases, dog, dog's wooden crate, family of Latvian aerialists). With my heart in my throat, and my own wing mirrors tucked in, I carefully threaded the needle, silently cursing Volkswagen for putting three coats of paint on the van instead of two. There's nothing like going 24 hours without sleep, flying across the ocean, going through passport control, retrieving your luggage, retrieving your dog from the quarantine facility, and then driving on the wrong side of the road in a vehicle that has the steering wheel on the wrong side of the dash.

I pride myself on my driving-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road skills. We hire a car every few months and I can go from motorway to hedgerow-sided lane with ease. The only thing I can't do is parallel park on our street. Doing it is like trying to do a Rubik's Cube while looking in the mirror with an eyepatch on.

14 Minutes Left
I'm supposed to be on Sky News tonight around 7:30, talking about things on the web. It means going all the way to London for about 3 minutes of air time. But who was it who said one should never turn down the opportunity to be on TV? Gore Vidal? Paris Hilton?


mark from alexandria said...

I hope you're "ready for your close up, Mr. DeMille." Perhaps you kids can capture it and put it up on Youtube for all of to enjoy.

wiredog said...


Candadai Tirumalai said...

I remember Banbury Road and Woodstock Road well and the warren of lanes between them.Fortunately, I had to negotiate them only as a pedestrian.
If your trip to London gets tedious try Philip Larkin's poem "The Whitsun Weddings," even though his journey began in Hull.

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