HOW I TRADED IN MY HUSBAND FOR A SATELLITE AND DISCOVERED ENGLAND
I love driving and I love the access to distant areas of England that are pretty much denied to the slaves of public transport, who are abused and fleeced by the operating companies whose sole mission seems to be to keep the population in the cities.
Unfortunately my enthusiasm is counterbalanced by some serious character flaws. I have no sense of direction, I cannot read a map and drive at the same time, I can’t remember a route until I have driven it at least twenty times without deviation of any kind and I frequently get lost coming out of my own bathroom. For years I travelled from Somerset to Northamptonshire via Stoke on Trent because I simply could not remember that the M42 had restricted junctions.
Previously, I had relied on my husband and his encyclopaedic knowledge of England and its roads to take charge of our frequent excursions around the country with the children. But when we parted company, I was back to square one, loping from county to county with hot tears of bitterness and failure coursing down my flushed little face as I added fifty miles to every journey through cartographic confusion and ineptitude, blood pressure soaring, mildly asthmatic lungs letting the side down from anxiety.
But then, one happy, happy day my step-daughter gave me a birthday present that changed my life. I tore off the wrapping paper to discover a SatNav device. A talking map that will not only give me directions but will re-adjust my route should I hit traffic or roadblocks. A still small voice of calm that can take me on the fastest, or shortest route, can wilfully avoid motorways or toll roads and can be instructed to detour Basildon or Stoke without demur.
I ran through the choice of voices and quickly settled on the southern Irish male labelled, somewhat disappointingly, ‘Sean’, and we have been together ever since. Not for me the flattened vowels of Tim the Kiwi or the slightly high-pitched RP of Kate from London – no thank you.
I am in love with Sean. He speaks softly to me in his delicious Irish accent, he rarely lets me down and, in his company, I travel from one end of England to the other with confidence and joy in my heart. He takes me from the one-way systems of Leeds to the B roads of Somerset with calm and equanimity. He never shouts, he never swears and not once has he suggested that my ineptitude is bordering on a medical condition.
Thanks to Sean the SatNav, the world outside Northamptonshire has become my playground and I guffaw at the six-exit roundabout and the confusing contra-flow. I have seen the wilds of Lancashire, the endless planes of Heathrow and, I have even gone north of the wall to Scotland, without fear or incident. And I have never, ever ended up in Stoke on Trent.