Himself decided recently, that I have been working too hard.
With great kindness and generosity, he took it upon himself to organize a nice break, on the Dorset Coast, to help me recharge my batteries and relax.
We leave just after 9 am when the rush hour has done its worst.
Beforehand it is agreed that I should drive, and himself would take the important role of Navigator. A role for which he is more than adequately qualified, possessing as he does, the ability to read a map without turning it upside down.
If at this point you are asking yourself “what is wrong with your satnav?” then I should explain that himself, does not ‘do’ technology.
He owns a satnav, kindly given to him by a friend, and which he has used on one or two occasions, but I think it is fair to say that he regards it with great suspicion and mistrust. Something only to be used in an emergency.
And so it is, that a large road atlas accompanies us on our adventure, and is studied at intervals by himself, with accompanying ‘nods’ and the occasional ‘ah yes, of course’
The first minor dispute occurs about three hundred yards from home
“Where are you going” exclaims my co-driver as I make to turn in the direction of the A303, our trusty route westwards on many an occasion
“No, no , no” he interrupts “Turn right, turn right”
“We, are going on the scenic route. “
“The scenic route? “
Patiently he explains the situation to me. “We are going to travel through the New Forest in a leisurely manner, stopping en route at a scenic pub, with views across heathland whilst ponies graze happily in the sunshine. That kind of thing”
“I am trying to make this a nice experience” he adds pointedly.
I am appropriately grateful and appreciative. But I do need to make a tiny point.
“Fine”, says I. “But you really will need to direct me, as I have no idea how to get to the New Forest. “
He rolls his eyes in the way that all experienced navigators do when their well-honed navigational skills are called into question ‘ just drive’ says he.
So I do.
Peace and tranquility
I should probably mention at this point that prior to our departure we both agreed that it was very important that no-one get snarky on this trip.
We only had three days, and we needed to enjoy each one of them to the full. So there would be no irritation at hold-ups, no moaning at minor emergencies, or indeed anything that the day might throw at us.
All toys would remain firmly in the cot. Peace, tranquility, and above all laughter would reign supreme in the car. At all times.
My first instructions are to head for Winchester. This seems like a good start, Winchester being in a Westerly direction.
We laugh and chat, and even sing a happy tune.
We are soon well past Winchester and onto a large section of motorway on which the number of carriageways is increasing at an alarming rate.
I gently point out that large signs are telling us to ‘get in lane’, and that it might be a good idea if he could suggest which of the twelve or more lanes now all heading in an apparently westerly direction I should take.
Himself studies the map intently.
“hello?” says I
“Keep right!” he says with a warm smile to show that he is still keeping his part of the peace and tranquility bargain
“But” I venture tentatively, “the left hand lane has a W for west on it, are you sure you want the right hand lane?”
“Ignore that, it’s misleading, just keep bearing right.”
So I do.
What a good thing, I ponder, that I have a competent navigator to help me. If it were not for him, we could have ended up heading right back towards Portsmouth again.
We laugh about this and continue for a while in what appears to be a Westerly direction. The road then begins to sweep in a large and disconcerting curve. We are soon heading North, The curve continues. Himself begins to rustle his pages anxiously and mutter.
Everying all right? Says I?
“No, says he “This map is wrong” he adds
“Yes, wrong” and sure enough, there it is, clear as clear on the road sign ahead – we are now heading East, back towards Portsmouth.
And he was right. It wasn’t his fault at all. The map was indeed wrong. It turns out, as it happens, that the map was seven years wrong, having been published in 2008,
We smile at our own foolishness, for bringing such an old document with us. And I do not say a single word about the mildew across the bottom half of Hampshire being a bit of a clue. Not a word!
A tour of Southampton
Still cheerful, himself instructs me to take the next turning off the motorway so that we can recover our Westerly bearings.
“We’ve got all day” he reminds me. And it’s true, we have only spent a couple of hours on our journey so far. There is plenty of time.
Southampton is an interesting if unexpected diversion. I have never toured the suburbs before. Never queued for the docks with all the container lorries, nor visited the vicinity of an oil refinery. This is all new to me.
It is an experience. And it only takes us an hour or so to find our way out.
We have all day, we remind ourselves again patiently. And we sing another happy tune
On leaving Southampton behind and heading to the New Forest , I pull out to overtake a lorry.
Not an event of note under normal circumstances, except that as I draw alongside the lorry, my rev counter swings wildly into the red and the car appears to be losing power.
Fortunately we come to no harm, and when I drive more slowly, the car responds normally. I try to describe to himself what I had experienced.
“Your clutch is slipping” he looks worried
“It doesn’t have a clutch” says I – its an automatic.
He refrains once more from rolling his eyes or sighing, and remains patient and calm.
“There is a clutch” he insists “and it was slipping, we should check the transmission fluid.
We decide to drive slowly to Lyndhurst. We make it there safely, find somewhere to park and to check the transmission fluid.
We find the transmission! We are not mechanics, so we are quite pleased about this. There seems to be fluid in it.
We phone a mechanic friend. The fluid should be reddish brown he says. And it is. Is there a whooshing when you rev? he asks. There isn’t. This is apparently a good thing.
He seems to think its no big deal. Probably just needs a little top up, he says. We are more than half way to our destination. If the car is going to break down before we get to our destination, it will break down before we get home too. So we decide to press on.
We walk the streets of Lyndhurst. Many things are sold there. Transmission fluid is not one of them.
We decide to leave the town and look for a service station. We find one and himself asks me if I want something to eat.
I decline. I don’t normally eat carbs, and the garage is long on carbs and short on protein. Also, the worry over the car has taken the edge off my appetite.
They have no transmission fluid, but himself buys a nice hot Cornish pasty for his lunch
My husband has an amazing capacity to fall on his feet. If he were clinging to a log floating in the middle of the pacific ocean you can be sure that a passing boat would spot him long before hypothermia set in or sharks arrived.
So it is not a surprise to me when he spots a tiny MOT service unit in the industrial estate behind the garage.
Nor is it a surprise that the mechanics are between MOTs and very happy to suck out some of our old transmission fluid, which they assure us has some water in and needs replacing.
They top us up with new fluid, exchanging happy ‘man talk’ with himself, while I smile encouragingly and eat the Cornish pasty.
Then we are good to go! It’s time to sing a happy tune again, and find the forest.
All roads lead to Lyndhurst
After two attempts to make our way into the New forest in a Westerly direction and twice finding ourselves back at Lyndhurst again, himself decides to plug in the satnav.
At last we are on our way, heading West, through some amazing ancient woodland, then out into open heathland .
It is stunning. At times it feels as though we are the only people in the world. And there is indeed sunshine, and there are indeed beautiful ponies, grazing amongst the heather as far as the eye can see.
We love it, we really do. But it is now well into the afternoon, and we still have a way to go. A main road of some sort would be quite nice.
We drive for miles and miles on tiny roads unspoilt by other cars or buildings. We decide to trust the sat nav, let the computer take the strain.
We have stopped singing but we are still peaceful and tranquil.
The only slight concern is that the sat nav keeps telling us to turn right. At one point we pass under the main road that we think we need to be on. We gaze wistfully upwards at all the traffic passing westward overhead.
The sat nav turns us right yet again and after another mile or two of pony strewn moorland we can see the flash of traffic in the distance.
At last! The road we are looking for. We enter the sliproad and join the flow. And as we gather speed, thankful to be leaving ponies behind, we spot a road sign telling us that we are once more, heading for Lyndhurst.
To cut a long story short, we continued to put our faith in the satnav, and eventually, with the help of a roundabout or two, progressed on our journey in a Westerly direction.
We left Hampshire behind and travelled carefully onwards towards the Dorset coast.
And we almost made it. Almost.
We were just nine miles from Lyme Regis when I noticed the smell of burning oil. We’d just made a joke about how there couldn’t be too much wrong with the transmission when our car was making light of all these hills.
“This one will be a test” himself had laughed merrily as we climbed steeply upwards. And it was.
“Can you smell that?” says I
“Smell what?” says himself in an “I’m on holiday in the Dorset Countryside, there are bound to be smells” kind of way.
I look in the rear view mirror and wish I hadn’t
Huge clouds of smoke are billowing in our wake. I throw the car into a very useful layby and turn off the engine. Smoke pours from under the bonnet.
Himself lifts the lid with great caution. Transmission fluid is pumping, yes pumping out of the filler cap and pouring in rivers onto the tarmac below.
This is clearly the end of our journey. We are stuck on the edge of a busy dual carriageway in the middle of nowhere. And I need a pee.
Himself is in denial. He has planned this holiday and he means to have it. “If I were the driver” says he “I’d press on – it’s only another nine miles”
I can see the glint in his eyes – I know there is no point in trying to persuade him myself. I point to the phone. And we ring our mechanic again.
“No mate” says he “step away from the car!”
So we do.
We are transported in an RAC patrol car to Lyme Regis, where we spend the next day bathed in beautiful sunshine. And are for the most part, peaceful and tranquil, throughout.