Mind you, on my last trip to Spain, from which I returned recently, my experience was that the drivers there hadn't been listening to their mothers. I lost count of the number of times I was tailgated so closely that I could see what brand of cigarette the driver was smoking and what type of mobile phone they were texting their friends on while hurtling past innumerable crashes, twisted motorbikes, trucks on their sides and cars up trees.
There was a film that came out a few years ago written and directed by David Fincher, who also did the marvellous Fight Club. It was called The Game and in it Michael Douglas' brother, as a birthday present, hired a shady organisation to supposedly make Douglas' life more interesting by trying to kill him. I sometimes think when I'm driving in Spain that there seem to be so many attempts made on my life - being stopped in front of at 120km/h on the motorway, being forced onto the hard shoulder - that somebody has booked the same organisation for me, but luckily they only operate within the borders of the Iberian peninsula and certain parts of east London.
There is one way in which the habit of driving more dangerously abroad has affected life in Britain. Just as holidaying Brits in the last 30 years have brought back to this country a taste for more exotic cuisine and decorative styles, so I think the practice of leaving flowers at the sights of road accidents was also imported from overseas. What I think happened was that tourists from the UK, passing the sites of numerous road accidents as they were driven to and from the airport or to the beach, noted the bunches of flowers left by the side of the road and subconsciously decided to do the same when they got home.
However, there is a problem. On the Continent this habit is one part of an ancient tradition going back many centuries, whereas in the UK it is a much more recent affectation grafted onto our own more Anglo Saxon culture. In Mediterranean societies there is a respect for old things, for tradition, that is absent from our way of thinking. We instead have a passion for newness, for novelty. I imagine there is no house in the UK that has not had its original windows ripped out, there is no pub that hasn't been totally refurbished five times in the last 10 years.
I predict that simply leaving flowers at the location of a fatal crash will soon not be enough for sensation-hungry British people. Within a few years I reckon people in this country will tire of just laying simple flowers at the side of the road and instead will start leaving fruit baskets and hampers full of muffins. In a thousand years' time archaeologists will wonder why the wrecks of so many crashed cars have a complete set of season six of The West Wing on DVD, a canteen of sterling silver cutlery and a Jack Vettriano painting lying beside them.Reuse content