Over the course of our meal, G. told me more of those sights around, such as Sherwood Forest and the Peak District National Park, and of his recent outings thereto so as to acclimate both to car and to driving on the left ahead of our trek north. I listened, rapt, to his descriptions of the Peak District and could only interject from time to time that I should greatly like to see it one day. Sensing my desire to wander, G. suggested then and there that, come the afternoon, we make for the Peak District, given its proximity to Sheffield.
After settling the bill, we retraced our steps over stream and before the occasional mosque back to hill and home. My companion disappeared through the tunnel only to reemerge some minutes later with a rucksack and a large bottle of water in hand. Fumbling for the keys, he managed in time to get the door open, and we set off for the national park.
This marked my first extensive outing in an English car, the ride from the railway station to G.’s having been relatively short in length. So, while simultaneously acting as navigator, I made the most of the opportunity to observe to what extent English roadways turn everything on its head. I remarked as much to the driver, who spent the next few minutes illuminating me on how unsettling it was to know that his every instinct was wrong.
Indeed, his first movements of head and hand could not help but be unfaithful. For, as he explained, his right hand inevitably reached to shift gears though that action now belonged to the left. Likewise, he made to look over his right shoulder when overtaking when he should instead turn to look over the left. The car, as an extension of the body, had been turned about on itself, so G., as the body so extended, had also been turned about on himself.
Despite not driving, my own reactions throughout the trip proved misleading as, like the driver, I would often check what I imagined to be a blindspot or would attempt to enter the car from the driver’s side, rather than the passenger’s. All the same, with two of us in the effort, driver and navigator, we managed to correct for enough of our false instincts as to travel in a reasonable approximation of safety. After twenty minutes or so, we had climbed considerably from Sheffield’s lowlands and now passed fence, hairpin turns and loosed sheep into the park’s outskirts.
The first days of spring found the plantlife much as winter had left it: yellowed grass, heather gone to rust. Not for the first time that trip did the vegetation strike me as alien, more precisely, as barren, sparse or otherwise diminished, far more than what I knew possible from my childhood spent on fruitful plains. With the car, we rounded a last flock of sheep crossing the way before coming to a halt, two hundred meters on, at a shoulder where a number of cars awaited their occupants’ return. G. cut the engine, engaged the parking brake and pointed the way to the nearest ridge. Content to receive instruction, I followed.