15 September 2008

London Travels

I'm writing this from the Oxford to London coach known as the Oxford Espress (not quite express, not quite espresso; never mind...). There are two companies that run effectively the same service so the resulting arms race means that both companies offer increasingly "luxurious" services ("we'll serve breakfast weekday mornings between 7 and 10" / "well, we'll offer free onboard wifi"). As one company drops off literally across the road from the new flat, obviously, there is only one obvious choice for me. I had a Grauniad to read, anyway, but free wifi is always good for an addict such as myself (especially given that until I buy myself a dongle, I have no internets yet in the flat).

I was definitely too smug about my perceived ability to navigate sans problème in the Big Smoke. After a clear run down the Road to Nowhere, I cast an eye to the first relevant step on the Google Maps directions I had printed out. This involved me following signs for the "North Circular S/W" and listed several A roads for me to follow too. Fine. Except "North Circular S" and "North Circular W" were completely different directions so I ended up guessing--wrongly, with hindsight. After this point, none of Google's directions were any use, so I kept following signs for "central London" (which I thought couldn't get me too far wrong) and before long, I used my default navigational device of following the Gherkin. Again, with hindsight, this wasn't ideal as my route ended up detouring through the City (which was, of course, deserted, except at Lehman's) and driving right past the Gherkin, before eventually seeing a sign for Holborn and swerving across three lanes of traffic to take the road in question. Once I got to the ToCoRo, I knew all was well but my, how stressful it is navigating in London without a navigator or a satnav and when the signs available tend to be a) intermittent and b) only intermittently useful. Not to mention those bloody cyclists--when you're trying desperately to navigate, the last thing you want is to have to pay attention for bold, helmet-free, two-wheeled folks!

By contrast, driving from the flat to Oxford yesterday afternoon was a piece of cake and Google turned out to be overcomplicated. The real directions, door to door, should have been, turn left, turn right, turn left onto the Marylebone Road and drive straight on for 50 miles until you reach The Shire; turn left off M40 and follow the road for two miles to mon village. I'm not sure why Google made it so complex, though after the stress of Saturday morning, I was just glad to have got my vehicle out of the city in one piece, even if I will now be at the mercy of public transport and even if I will miss driving my baby. Still, as long as my parents don't sell her, I will still be able to visit her when I'm back in The Shire.

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