Adventures on the Wrong Side of the Road

When I started dating V., there were about a million embarrassing/annoying/crazy things he chose not to mention about himself. Like how if my phone alarm rings first in the morning, he’ll just turn it off and get back to sleep by my side, and I’ll end up being hours late for work and hating his guts. Or how it’ll take him four hours to pick out a pair of sneakers, much to my despair and that of half a dozen shop assistants he’ll have bugged with infinite questions and requests throughout the process. Or how if he’s sitting at his desk at home and feels sleepy, he’ll just put his head on the keyboard and have a little nap right then and there, making it super fun for me to walk in, see him like that, decide he’s had a stroke and become absolutely hysterical.

In time, I’ve learnt and accepted all these little nuggets of singularity, and though I still constantly moan about them, they’ve become an integral part of our life together and I’d probably miss them if they were gone. Or not. Who knows, relationships are weird.

But one thing that’s been sitting at the top of the things-that-annoy-me-about-V. list for several years now, has been the fact that he didn’t have a driving license. I know! You can imagine it almost put me off going out with him to begin with. I mean, what the heck, in your late twenties and no license? Something was definitely wrong with him.

Against better judgement, I actually agreed to give him a chance, but this driving business has ever since been a thorn in my heel. So it was for the good of our relationship that we decided V. should get some driving lessons and take his license test. It’s probably high time I mentioned that, although I’ve had my license for almost 10 years now, since we’ve moved to London I’ve not driven once. It’s got to do with not having a car, not really needing a car, but mostly with the fact that people here drive on the absolutely-let’s-not-fight-about-it-wrong side of the road. Laugh all you want, it’s a problem. But I figured, V. would learn his driving in London, he’d have no issues with driving on the completely-annoyingly-wrong side of the road, he’d be super duper confident and willing to drive me absolutely everywhere, and all would be right in the Universe again. Yup, that’s how things tend  to work out in my imaginary life.

Real life, you ask? Why that’s an entirely different story.

Now, if I’m going to moan about V. and his amazing driving skills, I might as well mention that he passed his test on his first try, a most miraculous feat if I may say, considering his main practice consisted of playing computer games for hours on end. And not even the driving, let’s-run-over-as-many-pedestrians-as-possible kind of games (which I at least would have approved of, all things considered!), but the who-cares-about-driving-I’m-shooting-zombies kind. But I digress.

He passed the test, we got a car, life was grand. And then we had to drive it home from the dealership.

It was the Monday after the London storm. October 29th, 2013. A date I’ll forever carry tattooed on a part of my brain that has since been permanently damaged. Overnight, trees had fallen, cranes had collapsed, roofs had been blown off houses. In the morning, train and tube services were an utter mess, which is always good news. So, professional as always, we decided the best course of action was to watch-youtube-videos-and-call-it-work from home and end the evening with a quick trip to the dealership to pick up our car. Fun and games.

If you live in one of those exotic places they’ll never give me tourist visas for, like Hawaii, or The Bahamas, or somewhere sunny-beachy-let’s-all-wear-speedos-everywhere, you probably have no idea that for the past couple of months, my sun has been setting at 4 PM. Not that it makes much of a difference, I hardly ever see it in all this rain and fog anyway. But back to the story. By the time we were leaving the dealership, it was pitch dark, windy and raining. Imagine a Noah’s Ark sort of rain. Except we had no giraffes and and our means of transport was, I assume, way flimsier than Noah’s contraption. The first wonderful surprise of the evening was when a gust of wind blew both Learner plates off our car just as we were leaving the parking lot. It was a tragedy. Those Learner plates, they had been our only hope of making it through this in one piece. They were our scarlet letter, and one we would have worn with infinite pride. “Pay attention to this moron.”, they said. “He is a lousy, lousy driver and he will do incredibly stupid things behind the wheel. Keep a safe distance. Expect the unexpected.” But they were gone, and without them, we were presumed capable until proven otherwise. We were terrified.

That’s when we noticed all the fallen trees.

They were everywhere, surrounded by pointy reflective orange markers or soaked, suicidal looking road workers. And they were not budging. It was like half of London’s tree population had decided to take off one night, only to realize that those tangled roots were not made for walking after all. Trees are dumb that way. A normally 20 minute trip took us just about 3 hours, a time of prayers, dedicated cursing and what-does-this-button-do moments. We only took the wrong turn three dozen times, which was to be expected, and quite a thrill in the super duper, end-of-the-world, pouring rain.

It’s been several weeks now and the memory of that drive still gives me night terrors. But it wasn’t all lost that fateful evening. A few therapy sessions later, V. felt he could handle another driving experience. And then another one. And now, things are definitely looking up. We’ve only got to work on how to handle roundabouts, parking of all kinds, stopping at red lights and sticking to the speed limit. Piece of cake.

All things aside, this whole being-the-proud-owners-of-a-car-with-the-steering-wheel-on-the-wrong-side thing is making us feel uncomfortably grown up, and it’s become the heaviest thing anchoring us to this country we’re still not sure we’re happy being anchored to. It’s a strange feeling. Also, V. recently realized that, as we’ve been irresponsibly living in sin all this time, if he’s suddenly abducted by aliens one day, his mum would get the car instead of me. I stared at him in disbelief for half a second, then laughed at the thought of his mum at the wheel, this stupidly placed wheel she’ll be positively outraged at. And then I realized I’d just reached a new low. I’ll soon be one of those ridiculous will-writing-life-insurance-policy-signing-ressponsible-adults I’ve always felt superior to. How will I then face the rest of this carefree planet?

November This and That: How To Lose a Blog in 30 Days

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few days now. And then I didn’t.

It’s a pity really, it was going to be a truly wonderful read. About how my life is turning out to be so incredibly exciting, that it’s just unrealistic to expect I’d find the time to actually blog about it. You would have loved it, every badly spelled word of it. She’s so interestingly busy, you would have thought, if only I could be exactly like her! If only my boring little existence didn’t allow for hours upon hours of 9gag browsing and Pretty Little Liars marathons! If only I weren’t such a loser.

I sigh. Imagining other people’s lives are lamer than mine, unlikely as that is, gives me a strange sense of accomplishment. It hasn’t all been for nothing. In this super duper whose-life-is-cooler competition, I at least haven’t finished last.

And then I turn back to the matter at hand.

I haven’t had the most miraculous of Novembers. I haven’t been living the dream, any dream, for the past month.

I’ve just been living.

At times, it’s been interesting. Like when V’s sister and her husband visited for a week, and they didn’t like to do anything we liked to do, or eat anything we ate, or my very innocent swearing, and went to bed before 9PM every night. And then they broke our guest bed (don’t ask, I’ve got half a dozen unconfirmed theories about how that happened!) and left. Then at times, it’s been boring. Like going through our every day house-hunting-queueing-not-getting-enough-sleep-sticking-to-a-budget-figuring-out-what-to-order-for-dinner-fighting-over-every-small-thing-just-so-we-can-ignore-the-big-things-for-a-little-while-longer business. And of course, at times, it’s been plain old depressing. Like booking flights for our Romanian winter holidays and realizing they cost us more than if we decided to spend Christmas in London, shopping til we dropped, eating out every night and drinking ourselves into oblivion.

As always, just when I was starting to come to terms with my November, it turned out December had sneaked up on me when I wasn’t looking (too busy clicking my way through 9gag, I bet!). And with this brand new, beautiful month came a lot of beautiful things. For once, tons of food, some of which I even cooked myself, go figure. December 1st being Romania’s National Day, V. and I decided to invite ourselves to the home of our only two Romanian friends in this country, and by way of pretending to help them prepare some national Romanian dishes, pretty much eat their food and drink their booze and voice our complaints about all things Romanian, whether they were willing to listen or not. Whether they’ll ever be calling us again I don’t know, but at least we’re all a couple of pounds fatter than we started, so this year’s national celebrations have been quite the success in my book.

And now that you’ve had a glimpse of my extraordinary past few weeks, hold your enthusiastic applause for a few seconds longer, while I present to you a sneak peek into what’s coming up next in this exciting world of mine.

Everything is pretty much still green here, but seemingly overnight they’ve put up a million billion little Christmas lights. They’re everywhere, including on top of my desk at work, where they blink away continuously and sing a bunch of tiny holiday songs in a loop. The blinking can’t be turned off, nor the happy music, which is great, because I hear they’re really good at pumping super duper holiday spirit into numb, pitiful souls like mine, and holiday spirit is what all the hype’s about these days. If all that works out, I’ll be all high on holiday spirit and traveling to Romania in a couple of weeks, where hopefully the local armies of Christmas lights will be reflecting their awesome blinking in a couple of healthy layers of snow. I’ve probably forgotten what snow feels like by now, but I’m sure I’ll remember soon enough. I’ll be attempting a bit of snowboarding and trying my best to survive the yearly holiday family drama, and then I’ll be making my way back to London, all rejuvenated and frostbite free. I’ll try to write throughout it all but you know I can’t be relied upon.

My Christmas lights installation is just about to start playing “Jingle Bells!” so I’ll leave you for now and focus all my attention, for the 80th time today, on the beautiful holiday spirited music. Jingle all the way!