I’m off to Bourges today, hooray! It’s the longest journey I’ve undertaken on my own, completely solo, without the steady guiding hand of my partner. It’s OK though, because I’m bringing my ‘trusty’ satnav with me. So nothing can possibly go wrong.
Which basically means things will possibly go wrong. I mean, why else would I put the word trusty in inverted commas?
Anyway the reason for this trip is the procurement of a Nintendo Mini SNES Classic, a sold-out item that I have managed to reserve at Micromania, in the Carrefour shopping centre in Bourges. It’s an in and out job, I just want my piece of retro-gaming nostalgia and then I’m out of there and back home, so I can get stuck into said bit of retro-gaming nostalgia. The journey there is trouble-free, it’s effectively a straight line, with the odd slight curve, and then a left turn at the end. Easy-peasy.
I’m out of the car, in the shopping centre and heading happily back to the car, hard-to-find gaming-system in hand before you can say ‘Well that was unexpectedly easy’. Then it all goes wrong.
I boot up the satnav, head out of the car-park and confidently press the ‘Go Home’ button. It’s not till I’m sat at the traffic lights that it dawns on me that something is wrong. It’s 10.30 a.m, it took me an hour to get here, so why is it now saying I won’t be home till 7.30 p.m? It’s saying that because I haven’t updated it since we moved to France, so it thinks ‘Go Home’ means home to West Yorkshire.
So I frantically choose ‘recently found’ as I watch the traffic lights change, keeping one eye on the car behind me, which has taken up the standard French position of being just one inch from my rear bumper. He seems to be aware that there’s an Englishman in distress in this car. At least that’s what his eyes tell me. I can see all these nuances because he is parked an inch from my rear bumper. It’s standard practice in France you see.
New info input the satnav seems to take an age to ‘recalculate’. I love the way my satnav says this. It sounds like someone underwater. A lady underwater, maybe Aqua Marina from Stingray, a TV series with marionettes that I used to watch when I was young and we didn’t have Youtube. She was a mermaid who helped the main character defeat his nemesis. She must have made an impression because I can’t remember his name, or the main bad guy’s name. Although now I think about it I don’t think she could talk. So maybe not her.
As the lights change – giving me just enough time to receive updated information without causing my bumper-hugging friend behind me to actually attempt to mount my car – I follow the new route and pull a hasty right turn. Hasty, but not illegal. I’ve driven about 5 yards when the drowning-female-tones inform me that the route is once again being ‘recalculated’. I recognise this area though, I think to myself. I’ve had a bad Chinese buffet here*.
Then lady satnav makes me take a right turn and I’m in completely uncharted territory. I know now that I have to listen to her every command, because I’ve just remembered I forgot to bring my phone, and the scenery is starting to look a bit creepy.
Picture in your mind the locales used in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes and, particularly, Deliverance. Transpose those locales to France – so basically take the yellow filter off the lens – and you can see why I’m getting worried. So many abandoned buildings. So many abandoned rusting cars. Who did they use to belong to? Did I see a curtain twitch in that window just then? Was that sunlight glinting off a shotgun’s barrel?
I once saw a film called Calvaire, set in rural France, about a traveller who breaks down and gets taken in by a local farmer. The local farmer gets confused, and thinks the traveller is his dead wife. Did I mention the traveller is actually a man? Hilarious scenes follow where the traveller is forced to dress like a woman, and a pig is raped. The theme seems to be that there’s nothing much to do in rural France, except rape pigs and then dress up stranded men like women. Oh and the traveller gets raped too.
I only watched it once.
So films like this plus my overactive imagination, as well as my complete lack of any means of communication – bar screaming – make me feel all kinds of worried. The roads get narrower and narrower, and the buildings look ever more sinister.
Satnavs always do this to me. A straightforward route to wherever I’m going is followed with a ‘scenic route’ on the way back. The worst one was one in the UK, when I was driving to Wales. That journey involved lots of animal skulls, men with few teeth, and a road that would have been better suited to rally-driving. I think satnav manufacturers are actually angry farmers, who try to make people drive down their windy roads, so that they can accidentally run them over in their cars with their tractors.
Like I said, I’ve got an overactive imagination.
Just as I’m despairing of ever getting out of this rural hell, and begin thinking that I actually died back at the traffic lights, and am in a hell of rusting tractors and scared-looking farm animals, the satnav tells me to turn right and I see a vision: the main road home. I breathe a sigh of relief as I head back down this familiar road, winding the window down (something I was loathe to do ten minutes earlier) so that the sweat down my back can dry.
I smile at the driver behind me, as I drive home, imagining him smiling back at me. Actually I don’t have to imagine it, I can see it. He’s a she, and she’s not smiling. I know this because she’s driving an inch from my rear bumper. It’s standard practice in France you see…
*I have yet to have a good Chinese in France. They are edible, and you can’t really complain, but it’s a bit like that scene in The Fly, where he puts a cut of meat in the teleporter, cooks it, and then invites his lady-friend to try it, and compare it with a non-teleported piece of meat. One’s fine the other one tastes synthetic. Well that’s how I always think of Chinese restaurants in France, when comparing them to the UK ones.