Driven To Distraction
Are you sure you know where we are going?"
With fingers crossed, I said, "Of course, I know where we are going, Sam". But, really, I didn’t know where we were going. In fact, I wasn’t even sure which road we were driving on.
We were heading for the Lake District, for a late November weekend break. At this rate it would take us all weekend to get there. We had been driving for hours. We had intended to arrive at our destination at about four p.m., but it was that time already. Sam was beginning to have doubts regarding my map reading skills. Perhaps, Sam’s doubts were raised after noticing a familiar road sign. We had passed it an hour earlier. The name on it was not on the map that I was supposed to be reading. In fact, I couldn’t find it on the map the first time we passed it.
We had left Manchester at lunch time. Sam had reckoned that the journey North would take about three hours. We had travelled about one hundred miles on the M6 then left the motorway at junction forty. That’s when our problems began. There are so many places in the Lake District that have names ending in ‘Dale’. The printing on the map was so tiny, and this, together with the movement of the car, made it very difficult to read the place names.
Looking up from the map, I saw a road sign, pointing left. Someone had pasted a notice on it advertising a country fair. I only managed to read the first word, ‘Ullerdale......’.
Taking a deep breath, and hoping for the best, I said, "Right, turn left”.
"What did you say?", said Sam, who was concentrating on overtaking a slow moving truck, "Turn right, here?"
The junction was coming up fast. I said, quickly, "No, I said right, turn left".
"Do you mean, take a right, then a left?", said Sam, exasperated.
"No", I screeched, "Take the next left, right?"
"You mean take this left first, then a right. Is that right?" Sam was trying to turn on the indicator, change gear and look in the rear view mirror, all at the same time. By now, we were both sounding hysterical, the junction was only yards away.
I shouted, at the top of my voice, "Listen to me, just take the next left. OK?"
We slowed down just in time to avoid cornering on two wheels.
I began to suspect I had given the wrong directions, again, when the road we were on, quickly deteriorated into a single carriageway and then into a dirt track. The trees were beginning to close in on us on both sides until they were beginning to scratch the paintwork on the sides of the car.
Then, just ahead, I saw an old wooden sign. It was nailed to a tree and covered in moss. When we reached it, it read, "Ullerdale farm two miles".
Sam stopped the car and looked at the sign, then stared at me. The stare said it all.
I said, limply, "I think there must be something wrong with this map. Are we lost, do you think?"
Sam said, with a tone of despair, " We’ll drive up to the farm and ask for directions".
Stopping just inside the farmyard, we saw a car parked.
"Well, at least there’s somebody home", said Sam .
I said, " Do you want me to ask for directions?", trying to be as helpful as possible.
Sam, sounding a little short tempered, said, "No, I’ll go. You may not be able to remember your left from your right".
Our situation did not improve. Sam stepped out of the car, and into a fresh cow pat. I really did try not to laugh, but just couldn’t help it. Sam slammed the door rather harder than usual and began to approach the farmhouse door. There was a barn just to the side. The barn door slowly creaked open. Sam walked towards the barn, and called, "Hello".
From the barn ran the biggest and most ferocious looking dog I have ever seen. Sam saw it too, and wisely, deciding to run faster than the dog, just made it back to the car, in spite of sliding on the same cow pat.
The dog put his two huge front paws up against the car window, its mouth drooling saliva and revealing teeth that looked like a scene from the Hound of the Baskervilles’.
Sam said, " I think it’s time we left . We’ll ask directions somewhere else".
" Left, yes, your probably right". Sam thought I’d just made joke. I hadn’t. Our sense of humour was at a low ebb
The track that led to the farm, looked different on the way back. It was dark now. There was an evening mist rising, giving a spectral appearance to the surrounding trees. The mist, billowing in the car’s turbulence, gave the illusion of phantoms standing at the roadside then disappearing as we approached, only to appear again further ahead.
The rain was turning the track muddy. The car’s wheels began to slip as we climbed the gradients. I was hoping we would be able to keep going to the end of the track before we came stuck good and proper.
The mist was still playing tricks. I thought I saw something. Putting my face close to the windscreen, and peering ahead, I said, "Is that someone standing in the road?"
"No", snapped Sam, impatiently. The strain of driving in such treacherous conditions was having effect on the nerves.
The shape ahead of us did not disperse as we approached. There was a man standing in the middle of the road, waving with one hand and shielding his eyes from the headlights’ glare with the other. Sam jammed on the brakes. We slithered to a stop just in time to avoid running him down. Sam ‘tut tutted’ as the man approached us.
" You couldn’t give me a lift, could you?", he said, as I wound down the window. He went on to explain, "You see, I’m heading for Ullerdale Holiday Centre, and back on the main road, I saw a sign that I thought was directing me there. But all I found along here was Ullerdale Farm. I parked my car in the farmyard. While I was knocking on the door of the farmhouse, to ask for directions, a vicious dog ran out of the barn. It cut me off from my car. I jumped over a fence into the woods, and ran for my life. I’ll go back and collect my car tomorrow. Silly of me, I know”.
"Isn’t it", muttered Sam, looking at me.
"Hop in", I said to the stranger, "We are going to the Ullerdale Holiday Centre too". Then I looked at Sam and wearing a smug smile, as if to say, "You see, anyone can make a mistake, can’t they?"
We made it back onto the main road and saw a sign for Ullerdale just a mile further on.
When we arrived at the holiday centre our hitchhiker thanked us then walked into the reception cabin. We were about to follow him when Sam said, "Well, they say women can’t read maps or road signs, but you take the biscuit."
I replied, "Does this mean you are going to tell all your women friends what a useless husband you’ve got, Samantha?".