Sunday, 10 March 2013

Right or wrong?

My very good friend Skip enjoys his little teases (as, indeed, do I) such as when he recently made a comment saying how "the English don't know on which side of the road to drive".  (And it's worth following that link - not for Skip's profound thoughts (of which there are none) - but for his link to a video of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain.)  Although I told him that driving on the right was made compulsory by Napoleon, I thought I should check my facts.  A few minutes research resulted in finding a web site from which I quote:
In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him. Moreover, it reduced the chance of the scabbard (worn on the left) hitting other people.
Furthermore, a right-handed person finds it easier to mount a horse from the left side of the horse, and it would be very difficult to do otherwise if wearing a sword (which would be worn on the left). It is safer to mount and dismount towards the side of the road, rather than in the middle of traffic, so if one mounts on the left, then the horse should be ridden on the left side of the road.
In the late 1700s, however, teamsters in France and the United States began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver's seat; instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team. Since he was sitting on the left, he naturally wanted everybody to pass on the left so he could look down and make sure he kept clear of the oncoming wagon’s wheels. Therefore he kept to the right side of the road.
In addition, the French Revolution of 1789 gave a huge impetus to right-hand travel in Europe. The fact is, before the Revolution, the aristocracy travelled on the left of the road, forcing the peasantry over to the right, but after the storming of the Bastille and the subsequent events, aristocrats preferred to keep a low profile and joined the peasants on the right. An official keep-right rule was introduced in Paris in 1794, more or less parallel to Denmark, where driving on the right had been made compulsory in 1793.
Later, Napoleon's conquests spread the new rightism to the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Russia and many parts of Spain and Italy. The states that had resisted Napoleon kept left – Britain, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Portugal. This European division, between the left- and right-hand nations would remain fixed for more than 100 years, until after the First World War.
There is a lot more to be found at the site here. I knew that business about swords and scabbards but whoever wrote that piece did it much better than I would have done.  Besides, why re-invent the wheel?  So there's your trivia for today, Mothering Sunday.

Which leads me into more trivia.  In England, Mothering Sunday (not Mothers' Day - that's American) is traditionally the 4th Sunday in Lent.  Mothering Sunday was a day when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family.  Another name for Mothering Sunday was Refreshment Sunday because delicacies given up for the rest of Lent, could be enjoyed, though why that should be is something I have yet to discover.

Now you can't say you don't get information from this blog, even if most of it is absolutely useless in the 21st century.


I used to like Nina, my cousin's daughter-in-law.  Nina is one of the BBC weather girls and it was the forecast she gace last night that has turned me against her.  (Only joking, of course.  She's a delightful lass really.)  She forecast brisk north-easterly winds and snow during the week ahead.  Snow?  In mid-March?  Oh, spring can be so fickle.


Mothering Sunday, and the daffodils should be out in all their glory.  It just ain't so this year, and although the earlier varieties have been in bloom for two or three weeks in this part of the country, the mainstream varieties are still to show.  In Withdean Park, the snowdrops seem to have been fully in bloom only for a few days but they look to be going over already.

Must get on: daughter is driving down from Sutton Coldfield to join younger son and others in taking the Old Bat and I out for lunch as it's Mothering Sunday.

1 comment:

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

Sweden was late to the drive on the right group.
I understand it could get somewhat exciting when driving across the Norway border?