Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2002-02-04 Entry: "Driving Conditions"

Weekending in Leeds wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the drive. With gusting winds, random roadworks, and broken down vehicles, it took five hours to get there and four and a half to get back. It should have taken three and a half (maybe four at a push, if my car was being uncooperative).

The drive back wasn't too bad until nearing the M25, when the rain started. The wipers on my car don't work all that well - they've got funny fittings that mean that I can either clear the bit in the middle, or the top and bottom and leave the middle smeary. Unfortunately, once they're going at speed they default to the latter. I'm not sure the setting would have really mattered, as the wipers weren't really clearing any of it. Visibility was low - the speed of traffic wasn't. The less said about the bus cruising along at 70 in the middle lane the better.

I did observe what I've been informed is a common feature of slightly congested motorways however. When all three lanes are being fairly heavily used, they all tend to reach a common speed, so you don't really make any progress at overtaking. In fact, because people get blinkered into staying in the lane they're in, best progress is made in the inside lane, pulling out just to overtake the slower moving lorries - otherwise you can sail along undertaking everyone (which is mildly dangerous, but if they weren't being so damned stupid wouldn't be necessary). Apparently this is normal, but I learnt this from a BMW which appeared to be the only car making progress - so I proceeded to follow its example.

Leeds itself was as pleasantly wet as usual. We took in the usual haunts, drank copious amounts of alcohol (although I sensibly mixed with coke to reduce my state of inebriation - otherwise I'd probably still be suffering now), and managed to see a preview of "Monsters, Inc."

Presumably it was a feature of the special preview that we got an extra animated short before hand - some birds sitting on a telephone cable - which was vaguely amusing. Then the film, which started very well, ended well, and had a fairly weak middle section. Comedies should have more laughs in them... this one didn't during the "let's introduce the kid" section, but the scenes with the doors towards the end of the film are superb. As with the Toy Story's theres plenty of subtle humour for the adults - a restaurant called "Harryhausen's" being the one I most fondly remember.

Leeds, while I was a student there, had four branches of Barclays - three in the city center and one out by the university. There's been an advert for one of the other banks on television sometime in the last couple of years where someone complains that branches have been closed and her branch is now a "trendy wine bar." The connection? Well, one of the Barclays branches in the city center is now a Wetherspoons pub - better than a trendy wine bar as the alcohol is sensibly priced; and we didn't really need three branches of the same bank within about 500 yards of each other.

And I proved I have no tolerance for smokey atmospheres any more. Our last port of call on Saturday was "The Grove" and a cloud of smoke was our greeting. My throat was immediately raw, and I suffered through the single pint we had there. I slowly recovered my equilibrium when we left, but it was not an experience I'd particularly like to repeat.

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