To the beat of a different drum
I have driven across Italy with my left foot in a plaster cast and idled around the Hawaiian Islands in a convertible so lengthy I couldn’t park it anywhere except frontwards into a field. Paris at peak hour? The spaghetti tangle of the Los Angeles freeway system? Bring it all on.
But a simple drive, supposedly of 30 minutes from a rental car depot in Windsor Bridge Road, Bath, in deepest Somerset, to a heritage house and garden in Bradfordon-Avon, Wiltshire, takes more than three hours up and down lanes that wind like gymnasts’ ribbons and lands me in a hedgerow where an organic gardener in pyjama pants comes to my rescue.
The rental car agency chap is harried and has no time for idiots like me who are unfamiliar with satellite navigation systems. I ask him for a map. He gives me a pitying look. He tells me my booking includes a Tom Tom. Oh, that’s intriguing. So, a set of drums to signal my distress? No, a portable navigation system to stick on the dashboard.
He cannot wait to see the back of me but I insist on further instructions. Apparently, you tap in the co-ordinates of your destination. In England, this is a combination of letters and numbers, like a kind of posh postcode. Happily, I have this information so ask him to program the device accordingly. He taps the screen seven times and hands me the Tom Tom before scurrying off to help more enlightened customers.
He says it will sit neatly on the dashboard with a sort of suction thing. Of course it falls off within 20 minutes. I will not bore you to shreds with full details of my unfolding journey but suffice to say that I cross borders into untold numbers of counties and see signs for Dartmoor. All I can do is follow the Tom Tom’s instructions because no matter how erratic it all seems I don’t know what else to do. Finally I tip up beside a grand but rather decaying pile somewhere near Derry Hill. Tom Tom tells me I have arrived. There is a For Sale sign on the rusty fence.
The lane is narrow and I try to reverse and make a bit of a hash of it and that’s when said semi-clothed organic gardener pops out of his driveway. I am close to tears. He puts aside his shovel and I show him the itinerary with the co-ordinates of my destination. “Gosh!” he exclaims. “You are hours off course.” He knows a thing or two about Tom Toms and studies the device’s screen. The coordinates are completely different. He surmises they are those of the previous driver and the rental car agent forgot to save my new information.
The house for sale has attracted a lot of stickybeaks, he tells me. Most of them have landed in his plot, with brambles in their hair.
Suffice to say I eventually reached my destination and days later returned the vehicle to another branch of the rental company. The charming chap at the desk didn’t even blink when I shoved the Tom Tom at him, complete with its reeking residue of compost. His colleague in Bath would have told me to sod off, of course.