‘I’ve been trying to really engage with and enjoy the act of driving very slowly’
His first UK speeding ticket has prompted Jethro to embrace driving slowly
I am a guilty man. My crime was to drive at 36mph in a 30mph zone at 7.55am on a Sunday. It was a fair cop. Driving too fast in built-up areas isn’t a good idea ever, but I still felt a little aggrieved. It was a main road rather than a residential street and my youngest boy was in my ear about Minecraft or something similar as we headed to his junior Park Run. I was momentarily distracted and accept my wrongdoing.
He grew up fast on that journey, hearing new words used in innovative ways and at great volume. I’m not sure the last time Northamptonshire Police solved a burglary case, but they really are proficient at unearthing heinous offences such as mine. Anyway, it was my first ever speeding offence in the UK. I am pretty diligent, always try to abide by limits and I’m especially careful in towns and villages. I’m sure the road on which I offended has seen dozens of fatal crashes at 7.55am on a Sunday, so I’m not bitter. At all.
I am paranoid, though. I’ve become my dad. Seeing speed-traps everywhere and lying awake at night worrying about whether I crept over 50mph on that restricted dual-carriageway on the school run. Although I’ve stopped short of the stand-on-the-brakes-under-every-motorway-gantry that many people have adopted as part of their safer driving technique. I hope this fear subsides, but in the meantime I’ve been trying to really engage with and enjoy the act of driving very slowly.
I’ve always admired this trait. Oh, it’s driven me mad when I’m on, say, the Route Napoleon and a sightseer is doing 18mph and trying to take a picture as they amble along like the world’s slowest pinball. ‘Don’t they know they’re on the world’s greatest road?’ I’d rage. I guess I’ve been to many incredible parts of the world that are indelibly etched into my brain not for the views or the vast rock formations but simply the squiggle of tarmac that cuts through all that natural wonder. Maybe I’m the stupid one.
So, I’m embracing going slowly. It’s been fascinating. I’ve found a lovely new pub/restaurant on my little test route. I’ve discovered new podcasts to relax into and been enlightened about periods of history I previously knew little about. I sometimes listen to my kids and hear about their school day. Did you know TJ in Class 5 is fat but thinks he’s muscly, for example? Or that Fortnite is ‘dead’? Or that PE sucks? All true. I’m taking it all in. Just absorbing all this life as the world slowly passes by or I drive cheerily behind dawdling traffic and don’t even think about overtaking. And look at those mpg figures! Going really slowly is so cheap and educational. What a life.
I hate it. Sticking to the letter of the law is one thing, but never making progress or accelerating with a bit of intent at a derestriction sign or trying to get past the ten cars sitting at 27mph behind a lorry like lemmings is, for me, a truly deathly experience. Far from life-affirming and taking the stress out of my day, I feel powerless and controlled. Like a rail commuter when it’s a bit windy and suddenly the noticeboard spools around to CANCELLED after a long day at work. I love the process of driving – not going fast, necessarily, but reading the road, feeling the car settle into corners, keeping momentum with a light touch. Getting involved rather than reaching a destination with real insight to Franco’s terrifying regime but zero memory of the actual journey.
So as the salt on our roads slowly disappears, I’ve been driving my old Citroën D Super more regularly. It has 98bhp on a good day, a four-speed gearbox operated by a column shift, 180-section tyres and, by some distance, the world’s most comfortable seats. For such an old car, it also has two things that make the driving experience more rewarding than you might expect – sharp, light steering and excellent brakes. Not excellent as in you could do a track day without fade, but highly responsive and with strong, predictable bite.
Not having to wrestle slow, heavy steering or manage brakes with a mind of their own means it’s a really enjoyable car to hustle. Especially as its hydropneumatic suspension is so odd and makes you think deeply about how to keep the car within its comfort zone. The D hates rough inputs and feels all at sea if you’re heavy-handed. You have no choice but to delicately dissect the road ahead, preparing in advance with measured braking inputs and easing it into corners like a whisper. Get it right and this gorgeous sculpture can be teased along at a real lick, suspension effortlessly dealing with lumps and bumps that could burst a sidewall in a newer car, gruff four-cylinder engine busily thrashing away. I know this isn’t what a Citroën DS is all about. But desperate times, my friends. Never really bought into the ‘slow car fast’ philosophy, but for now it’s working. I can sleep at night again.
This story was first featured in evo issue 296.