Slow ways

It’s painted on every road in Wales. “ARAF” means “SLOW” in English. In Wales it applies to not just cars. It also applies to so much of life in general.

I am not sure how we acquired the local code ourselves, but there is an obvious answer as soon as you drive a car round the narrow lanes. You soon get to know the passing points once you are off the main roads and you can see the thoughts going through each driver’s head as you get to an impasse in the road.

“He should have pulled in 50 yards back,” you think.

The other person is likewise thinking “That bloke has got plenty of room if he backs up 49 yards.”

It’s always swings and roundabouts in the end. If luck is on your side and another car, or better still a lorry turns up behind you, the unwritten law is that the single vehicle does the backing up, of course.

After a while, you get to know the local cars – and their drivers. Then you have to obey the next rule that a giving way means a winding down of the windows to say thanks – and for a brief chat. It would be rude not to, even if it’s just to ask after each other. You can do this and still edge slowly along with a bit of practice, if you are in a hurry.

Our near neighbours as the crow flies, but a bit further by road, are two brothers who look as old as the hills but are in reality only a few years older than us. No matter the weather, their health, or the state of the world, they are always a laugh to talk to.

I sometimes wonder how they ever get to wherever it is they are headed, as if you encounter them on the road, it is assumed you will stop and pass the day.

The brothers farm mainly sheep, and also a field of rusting cars. Like many farmers, they never throw anything away that might come in useful, might be able to sell on, or might burst back into life again.

For a year or so, the old boys transport will be a car that has probably had its last ever MOT but is fine for getting around for a bit before being left in the field next to their house. As long as it can still take a sheep on the back seat when needs be, then it is fit for service.

So, when the windows wind down for a chat with them, it’s best to switch the engine off as you may be a while. But we always end up moving on with a smile ourselves. For some bizarre reason, one conversation started with “Is it you? Or is it me?” from them, and that still makes us laugh.

That’s how to live life in the ARAF lane.

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