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|