To the beat of a dif­fer­ent drum

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

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.

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