I haven't dared mention this before, as I am trying to be positive, but I am going to have to say it now: Probably the thing that has made the transition to England most stressful, is the driving. I HATE driving. There are three particular reasons for this:
1. I am a natural wuss.
2. A couple of years ago, I was driving four little girls along a winding road, with sheer drops on both sides, most of the way, when the car had a hissy fit and went out of control, proceeding to throw itself all over the road as if possessed by the devil before ploughing hard into an earth bank. We were about twenty feet away from a bridge over a river and if it hadn't been for an unseasonable amount of rain just prior, the earth bank would not have been as forgiving as it was.
3. Last year, I had a head on collision with a woman driving a massive four wheel drive, who turned out of a side road without considering that someone might be driving along the main road and it might be worth looking first. Two weeks after my car was returned from being repaired, a young man drove into the back of it, because he hadn't thought to look either. Neither incident helped to make my internal "other-drivers-on-the-road-want-to-be-safe-too" monologue, at all convincing.
Now add to that, the fact that I am now driving on roads that are a quarter the size of the ones I am used to, in conditions I've never driven in i.e. unlit country roads, ahhhh!!!!!, snow, frost, suicidal rabbits. Our car here is half the size of the car I drove in Brisbane, but it feels as big as a tank. Plus, I think the fact that I have lost all confidence in myself as a human being, makes me even more nervous as a driver.
But I am learning:
1. It is not much fun to drive around the blind corner of a narrow country lane and have your brakes go on strike because they don't like snow - just as another car approaches.
2.The squelch of a rabbit under your tyres is one of the most horrible feelings in the world.
3. It is not the done thing to slow down when approaching a roundabout, but rather to drive right over, relying on emergency braking and swerving, to avoid hitting other vehicles.
Now, I don't put myself on the road to annoy other drivers. I put myself on the road because I have to. Every day when I get back from driving Juliette ten minutes to school, my legs are shaking so much I can hardly walk. After driving to Hemel Hempstead and back, my shoulders and neck are painful to the touch because of the tension of gripping the wheel so tightly. Whenever I drive, my heart is pounding, my hands are sweating, my legs shaking. This is not a choice, but a reality.
So this is my plea: if the driver in front of you is driving 59 in a 60 limit, please don't feel the need to beep at them and drive an inch away from their bumper. You don't know why they are nervous and it is worth your while to give them the benefit of the doubt, because they are more likely to slam their foot on the brake if intimidated. If the driver in front of you wishes to give way to oncoming traffic at a roundabout, please be patient. They might be a driver from another country who doesn't yet know the road rules. Again, beeping at them, giving them the finger, or driving up their backsides, is likely to result in them slamming on their brakes, or simply stopping the car and screaming.
Post Script. Though still nervous, I am infinitely more confident then when I first came here, so there is hope on the roads, ladies and gentlemen!