The Signs of Austerity
I have a long way to go, so I emerge from the cocoon of the Eurotunnel train and resolve to stop at the first motorway cafe before continuing my drive to the Midlands, here in England. The weather it perfectly unremarkable and so I negotiate my way along the path that leads to my intended route.
It’s odd how driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road can bother some people so much. I have friends who are adamant that they will never drive in places like the UK or Australia precisely because they find it too confusing. Having learnt how to drive in Malta, which follows the British way of life in many ways, I confess to having been a little apprehensive when driving in Belgium for the first time. Now it is second nature. Now, I easily switch from one way of seeing the road to another without even thinking about it. Perhaps the fact that I now tend to drive a left-hand drive car in Malta too helps.
Before I know it, the familiar road signs guide me towards an unremarkable cafe that serves a full-English breakfast just the way it’s supposed to be: Sausages, bacon, tomatoes, baked beans, toast and lashings of tea. It’s like eating at McDonald’s only not as healthy.
A few hours later, I am on the road having passed many road signs and impatient drivers who negotiate traffic like they’re inside a giant pinball machine. I am nearing my destination and take the appropriate exit towards the town centre. The ambient noise starts to dull a little as the drone of rubber on tarmac fades away behind me and a tree-lined road rushes up to greet me. Suddenly, the names on the boards that I passed translate into buildings and estates as they take shape around me.
I slow down and stop at a traffic light controlled junction. I can see that I must be in one of the primary arteries in this town as the street has the semblance of a high street of sorts. There are many shops, but a lot of them are closed or boarded up. The buildings mope in silent protest at the ravages of economic turmoil we’ve all been going through. Somehow the place looks a little less cheery than it could be. The fact that there aren’t that many people out – where would they go? – also adds to the general atmosphere of melancholy.
In fact, as I glance to my left to see if it’s time to progress further, the shops are not the only things that have been hit by things; I’m sure that the unemployment figures are higher than they should be. After all, even mechanical devices aren’t allowed to work full-time any more:
Related Unexpected Traveller Posts:
- Bottling It Up
- Gare Du Midi: Lost By Translation
- Toilet Humour
- The Dam(e)’s Not For Turning
- As Fresh As … ?
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