Not another spy agency in Britain is the M25. No 007s here. But plenty of nefarious goings on and skullduggery galore. The M25 is 117 miles (188kms) of motorway (highway) surrounding the great city of London, England. I’ve travelled the whole thing many times and am still in one piece. A miracle really. The M25 is paved madness.

I’ve driven in other countries and have seen how they drive in yet others. The worst I witnessed were in Morocco and Tunisia. No rules for motor vehicle driving. Hell bent for leather maniacs in bubbles of steel on 4 wheels. The cab drivers are the worst I’ve ever had the misfortune to travel with. I’m sure you have stories of drivers from other climes that are even worse. I’ve never been to India, but I’ve heard stories.

So, pardon me for complaining about a motorway in this country that is fairly well organised and at least paved. But, I have to say, there are parts of this patchwork thoroughfare that don’t make sense, especially when people use it….and since that is what it’s designed for, the results are predictable.

I grew up in and around Toronto in Ontario, Canada. The main highway (motorway) running across Toronto from east to west (or west to east to be fair) is The 401, The MacDonald/Cartier Freeway (514.5 miles, 828 kms). When I was a young lad, there were 4 lanes. Now there are 16. The potential for disaster has simply increased many times over. When I go back to visit, I notice that driving habits have deteriorated over the years. A combination of traffic volume and just plain bad drivers. I’ll leave you to figure out why the latter.

The main artery leading into the centre of Toronto runs north and south. From the 401 north it’s called the 404. From the 401 south it is the Don Valley Parkway. The southbound lanes can be congested at any time of day. Northbound lanes fares no better. For years, it has been affectionately called The Don Valley Parking Lot. But only when you’re not on it. I always tried to avoid it.

The marina where I live is fairly close to two major motorways, the M1 that runs north and the M25 that goes all the way around London. I’ll call it like it is….a nightmare. We only use it to go back to the old stomping ground in Kent where my best friend’s parents live. We have learned to leave for their place very early in the morning to avoid accidents or slow downs caused by volume of traffic. Mostly that works, but not always.

As I said earlier, the M25 is at least paved the whole way around. There are a few annoying bits that defy the art of proper paving. One in particular is a kind of sandy/beige colour section just after one tunnel on the north section around Potter’s Bar. It’s noisy and rough. Somebody’s idea of a better surface gone wrong. And there are some serious potholes going on too.

But it’s the drivers that are the real problem. The speed and the weaving in and out of lanes. Lorry (truck) drivers from the continent changing lanes willy nilly doesn’t help the road’s cause. We had good friends run off the M25 by a lorry from the continent. They are lucky to still be alive. The slip roads (ramps) on and off the M25 are a constant reminder of how crazy people drive these days. The word merge is a forgotten concept. There seems to be a total disregard for vehicles already on the main section. Instead of it being a dance of synchronicity, it becomes a chaotic game of bumper cars.

The usual accidents on the M25 are caused by drivers trying to get onto the motorway from these slip roads. Going off can be a trial as well. These drivers that insist on not queueing to get off and would rather risk life and limb cutting in at the front of the exit ought to be shot. Literally. The speed limit is 70mph (113km/hr) and is rarely adhered to. We drive at 70 and are passed by almost everyone. Sometimes we get up to 80mph and still feel like we’re standing still. If speed kills, the M25 is the perfect killing ground.

Then, when you think all is going well, here comes the Dartford Crossing, either by bridge, going south and east, or tunnel, going north and west. The spaghetti road and bridge configuration that greets you as you negotiate to stay on the M25 or manoeuvre to get onto the A2 (which is an M road no matter which way you slice it) is mind-blowing. Then as you head toward Gatwick airport, you’d better leave in lots of time as the traffic jams are notorious. Then there’s Heathrow traffic to contend with and getting on and off the M25 to the M4 and M3 or any of the the M roads around the M25. Madness. You need to be 007 to navigate this monstrous snake of a road.

That’s probably why we leave really early in the morning if we want to go anywhere. Even then, the volume of traffic can be daunting. So many drivers in a small country. Not only that, most cars carry only one person, the driver. Car pooling seems to have escaped the attention of Brits. And police reports tell us of the number of foreign drivers who are not properly licensed and insured. It shows by an ignorance or disregard for the rules of the road over here. That may be true in most countries, but is particularly evident in a country known for its manners and politesse. Those, by the way, have gone the way of the dodo.

Two of my favourite writers are Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (RIP). Their individual writings are excellent enough, but their collaborations are brilliant. In one of those, ‘Good Omens’, the writers state that the M25 is “….evidence for the hidden hand of Satan in the affairs of Man.” True, even if you don’t believe in the devil. Some wicked force seems to be at work here. I don’t drive in this country. I refuse. My best friend does all the driving. Frankly, I don’t know how she does it. But I will tell you that by the end of any trip involving the M25, she is wrung out emotionally and physically.

That’s why we practice the art of SADS at the end of each M25 experience. Safe Arrival DrinkS.

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