Quotes On the Road

April 9th to 15th


… when at last I turned inland through a huddle of rounded hills and woods I had run myself clean out of my known marks. Beyond that precise hamlet which stands godmother to the capital of the United States, I found hidden villages where bees, the only things awake, boomed in eighty-foot lindens that overhung grey Norman churches; miraculous brooks diving under stone bridges built for heavier traffic…


This is from the opening passage of “They“,  collexted in Traffics and Discoveries, a haunting journey of discovery the storyteller, driving across Sussex, happens on an beautiful old  house.  Its lovely formal garden is  full of the happy cries of children playing.

He makes the acquaintance of the  lady of the house, who is blind. When he makes a  later visit  he comes to realise that these are the ghosts of dead children, including his own lost little daughter.

… since the King’s highway is used for every purpose save traffic, in mid-career she stepped aside for, or flung amazing loops about the brainless driver, the driverless horse, the drunken carrier, the engaged couple, the female student of the bicycle and her staggering instructor, the pig, the perambulator, and the infant school (where it disembogued yelping on cross-roads …


This is from “Steam Tactics” collected in Traffics and Discoveries, a hilarious motoring tale  involving Chief Petty- Officer  Pyeroft.

The storyteller sets off in his temperamental steam car and by chance picks up Pyeroft and a shipmate  who is an engineer, fascinated by the car and its ways.

This passage describes the scene on the road on a journey crowded with incident, including  a breakdown , a rescue, and an attempted arrest by a local policeman for speeding, whom they kidnap, and a drive into the depths of the country before marooning  him in  a park full of strange wild beasts.

… the life of the English road which to me is one renewed and unreasoned orgy of delight. The mustard-coloured scouts of the Automobile Association; their natural enemies, the unjust police; our natural enemies, the deliberate market-day cattle, broadside-on at all corners, the bicycling butcher-boy a furlong behind; road-engines that pulled giddy-go-rounds, rifle galleries, and swings, and sucked snortingly from wayside ponds in defiance of the noticeboard…


This is from “The Vortex”, collected in A Diversity of Creatures

This passage is the background to a motoring  story involving  a garrulous theorist of Empire,  driving with colleagues  through the English countryside, a crash with a bicycle carrying boxes of bees,  chaos in a crowded village  as the bees sting all in their path, and the abandonment of theory by the much-stung apostle of Empire.