Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Big Fat Family Holiday

I'm somewhere in Devon, I couldn't tell you where. I'm in a barn (a converted one) with 6 adults, 5 teenagers, 3 dogs and lots of laminate flooring.  Dogs and laminate flooring do not go together.  The constant tapping of claws on floors is driving me slowly mad. But in the depths of the South Hams, no-one can hear you scream.......

We set off from Wiltshire two hours late in a hail of shouting and recriminations at The Boy and The Girl. Both had failed miserably to do the jobs I had asked them to do.  The Boy was glowering and The Girl was firmly attached to her iPod with a Whatever look on her face.  The Husband, conveniently away filming in Bulgaria until Christmas, phoned to wish us Bon Voyage, knowing full well that this, our first holiday with my extended family, would likely be holiday hell rather than holiday heaven.

Moira, the SatNav, was chatting away gaily, which was just as well, as The Children certainly weren't.  I'm rubbish at long journeys. Within an hour my eyes start to feel heavy and the only known remedy is a Starbucks skinny latte, or, at a push one from Costa.  But the road to Devon is just that, a road. Not a motorway, most of the time not even a dual carriageway, and not so much as a Wild Bean Cafe.  Eventually Moira told me that I would be turning left onto the M5. Hallelujah! There was bound to be a service station. Sure enough, Exeter Services appeared on the roadsigns. We turned off. We were halfway back to Wiltshire by the time we found it.  Moira was very upset that we had deviated from her chosen route.

The service station was heaving. You could tell it was practically the only one between Exeter and the rest of the known world.  It was like a French service station at midday.  The man at Costa was overwhelmed. 45 minutes later I was the proud imbiber of a lukewarm, bitter latte and a hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream that refused to be whipped - I know the feeling!

We set off again on the last leg of our journey. Moira was anything if not confident and cheefully instructed us to 'Turn Right on Blackwell Road'.  Road was somewhat over-egging the pudding. Small, narrow lane with grass growing up the middle was a bit more like it.  We followed the road, as instructed.  It was one car wide with high hedges on both sides.  'Follow Blackwell Road for two miles', Moira told us.  Blackwell Road got narrower, the hedges got higher and we ran over a squashed chicken.

"Mum, was that a...." asked The Boy. "Yes".

'Turn right on road' shrilled Moira.  You know you are in trouble when the road doesn't even have a name. By now the hedges were touching both sides of the car.  'Turn left on road'. That'll be down the one signposted 'Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles' will it Moira, you cow!   By now The Children were starting to take a bit of notice.  "Where are we Mum?" asked The Girl.  Damned if I know, I thought.  We turned left up  a narrow lane which seemed devoid of road surface.  'Continue off road', said Moira cheerfully. Now if I'd been in the Disco, I might have, but the low slung Audi is not exactly built for off-roading.  Vorsprung Durch Technik it might be but the Technik hasn't quite stretched to 4 wheel drive and hydraulic jacks to lift it up over the potholes.  I decided to reverse back into a farm gate we had passed. Backwards, round  a bend on a narrow lane would appear not to be my forte. Never mind. I'm sure the scratches will polish out.

I reached the gate and reversed in. There was an almighty crunch as I grounded the car on a lump of tarmac. There's no tarmac on the road but there's a big pile of it in the gateway to a field. Go figure! I told The Boy to take off his flaming headphones and help me navigate. Moira was just intent on sending us round in a circle and back to where we were. We decided to outfox her by setting off in the opposite direction, trying to navigate back to where we had turned off the main road, defying the instructions sent to us by the owners. Why is it that we always think the SatNav knows best?

Wherever we turned, it led to another tiny, narrow lane. We passed a tractor with a hen sitting in the driving seat. It watched us with black beady eyes as we drove past.... and then when we went past again.... and then again the third time.  In 45 minutes we hadn't seen a single living soul except for the hen and a rabbit.  "We could get lost here and no-one would ever know" said The Girl helpfully. The Boy starting humming the theme from 'Deliverance'.  The chicken watched us go by again.  The instructions said we needed to take the second turning on the left. There was no turning on the left, or the right for that matter.

Eventually we found the main road.  Moira told me to go left 'Eff Off, Moira, I'm going right'.  The Boy sighed. "It's the wrong way Mum".  I don't care. At least the road is big enough that you can fit two cars side by side on it.  Eventually we reached the sea. The barn is most definitely inland.  Moira suggested turning up a road that was half the width of a suburban driveway. I declined her invitation.

Eventually we ended up back on the same road we'd started on.  The idea of spending a week in the car lost in the lanes of the South Hams of Devon was starting to look  a distinct possibility.  The Boy snatched Moira from her holder.  "Right, I'll sort it out" he said punching away at Moira's screen.  "Turn down here" he told me. "But we've already been down here god knows how many times. Look, there's the bloody chicken again!"  "Actually it's a different one" came a voice from the back seat.  "Trust me" The Boy told me calmly.  We set off down a lane which we could have already driven down several times for all I knew.  Eventually we came to a sign that said  'Private Property'.  I stopped the car. "Keep going" said The Boy. "But it's someone's house."  "Just drive Mum, we can get out the other side". Don't you just hate it when your kids are right.

My phone rang.  Thank God that at least I had a signal.  Maybe they could send us a police helicopter to guide us out of this maze of identical looking lanes.  It was my brother.  "Where are you... and where is this bloody place we are supposed to be staying?"  "No idea to both" I told him.  We rounded a corner to find him and his two children parked in the gateway to a field.  "The Boy says it's the other was so you'll have to turn round".  A 35 point turn later and we were all heading in  the right direction.  Half a mile further on it started to look familiar.  Google Street View familiar that is.  The Boy smiled smugly.  We were here. 2 hours late and nearly out of petrol but we were here.  The Big Fat Family Holiday could begin.

It's the Devon Flag in case you were wondering

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22 comments:

Steve said...

Why am I thinking of National Lampoon's Vacation...?!

Good luck.

Wylye Girl said...

Steve, you may not be far wrong!

The Return of the Native ... sort of. said...

On the odd occasion I venture from the single track roads of Dorset to the single track roads of Devon, my satnav seems to throw some kind of a fit and we too go round and round and get crosser and crosser - and eventually end up in a pub, have a drink and drive home using the sun as our satnav!

Macy said...

Bless...this is all bringing back memories. I remember I always tried to get lost on the way to holidays with extended family - just to delay the dread hour of arriving.

I'm looking forwared to the next installment...

Elaine said...

Ha ha! I know it must all have been really frustrating for you, but you write so entertainingly that it made me smile.

mrwriteon said...

You make me long to drive on rural Devon roads just once again in this lifetime. What you relate is exactly what I recall. Oh, and never try to get a meal in Bideford past 5 pm. If you aren't sufficed by crisps at the pub, you'll starve.

Wylye Girl said...

RoTN, a pub would have been good but we didn't even pass one of those. Nothing but 8 foot high hedges

Macy, The Girl has already commented, wistfully, only 6 more days to go!

Wylye Girl said...

Elaine, we did see the funny side of it....eventually!

mrwriteon, really? Are you sure? I'm starting to feel claustrophobic. Seriously though, oh my goodness this place is so beautiful

The Vegetable Assassin said...

Bahahaha! Is it wrong that I guffawed at calling a GPS "Moira". Although, being Scottish and part ginger and everything, I should thoroughly endorse it...

Also, I thoroughly enjoyed the time my TomTom got confused on a drive from Montana back to North Dakota and placed me, according to the on screen diagram, right in the middle of a damn field looking utterly confused, because someone had built a new lane on some highway or other and not told it. :) Dumb things.

I will say in their defence, whenever I want a Sonic limeade, it can locate fast food joints like nobody's business. Ha!

Wylye Girl said...

Veggie, we named her after Moira Stewart who used to read the news on the BBC. I would swear it's her voice. She's a bit of a mixed up gal bless her, the GPS, not Moira. God now she'll be suing!

Curry Queen said...

Serves you right for going on holiday with family...bad, bad move :-) The last time we went to the South Hams, we booked a cottage for a week. From days 1-4 it pissed with horizontal rain. On day 5 we left. Never, ever again. Hope your hols are better than that!

Wylye Girl said...

CQ, I'm already regretting whatever particular funk came over me and made me think we could ever possibly play happy families!

lavenderjack said...

Good luck travelling by satnav! I generally address mine as 'bitch', which usually follows an expression like 'oh, for god's sake, where the f*** are we now, bitch?". These satnavs do like narrow country lanes, don't they ... well, except for the one where we live, which doesn't appear in satnav world at all (handy for deliveries obviously). We travelled yesterday from Highbridge to Longleat via Street, Glastonbury and Shepton Mallet - the satnav wanted us to go via Burtle (middle of the moors), Wells and other out-of-the-way places. In the end we pretty much ignored her until the last few miles and we ignored her completely coming home again!

the fly in the web said...

We lived in the French version of the Bermuda Triangle as far as GPS was concerned....people ended up in all sorts of unexpected places.

I began to understand why when travelling with some of the more opinionated Belgian (male) drivers who religiously followed the thing's instructions down single track lanes with grass down the middle to get to Angers....the only other alternative being the autoroute!
It didn't seem to know that main, ordinary roads existed.

I am sure that I enjoyed family holidays as a child only because all the family's kids were banged up in cottages on the west coast of Scotland for almost all of the summer while the parents and assorted aunties took a week at a time to act as prison warders to look after us.
They didn't stand a chance.
And there was no GPS.

Wylye Girl said...

lavenderjack - Bitch! That made me giggle. If I wasn't staying in the arse end of the universe I'd be at home. a mere stone's throw from Longleat. I could have guided you in!

Fly, I like that idea and will moot it to my siblings. I bet they say no!

Iota said...

Our Sat Nav lady (I don't deign to give her a name) is always trying to come between me and Husband. She thinks she has better navigation skills than me and a map! Huh! I have resorted to dirty tactics. I sometimes switch her to Vietnamese, or Afrikaans. Failing that, I say to Husband "She says turn right, but I say left. Choose carefully. Who bore your children? Who is cooking your dinner and keeping your bed warm tonight?"

Wylye Girl said...

Iota, the SatNav and I are really just one thing in my husband's eyes. When both of us are present he uses me to relay the SatNav's instructions. She says 'In 200 yards, turn left', I say, 'It's the next left, husband dearest'. In France we put it into French Canadian for the amusement of our French friends and also used it as an educational tool to learn Cantonese. If you ever get lost in China, call me but apart from that it's a fairly useless skill!

Trish @ Mum's Gone To ... said...

I love this post! So entertaining and so, so true. Moira sounds quite a lady. When we use SatNavs we never get the distances right, so if the turning is in 200 yards we just turn off in 50 as soon as she speaks. Our SatNav was particularly irritating in Canada - speaking French in Toronto, taking us through tunnels in Montreal before losing a signal and then not talking at all.
Hope you're having fun on your laminate floors.

About Last Weekend said...

This was exactly my experience getting the kids to set off for Healdsburg in wine country. Of course we turned up here with no undies, sugar cereal and a harmonica. Oh well,they also insisted on packing for me (as I was blogging) so I have a full set of ski-great. Must say too the Devon flat is so chic!

Wylye Girl said...

Trish, The Husband does the same. I have to translate the satnav instructions for him which kind of defeats the object of having one.

ALW, well a harmonica is always useful but it makes rubbish underwear

Lou said...

Hilarious... I thought the flag was the map of the road on your SlapNav!

Perpetua said...

Glad you made it in the end, Wylye Girl. Devon lanes sound a lot like ours in Mid-Wales. Gladys, our satnav, excelled herself the time she took us OVER Ilkley Moor at dead of night, rather than round, because it was the shortest way! Sigh....

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