When the weather is nice, I am outside, and consequently spending less time at the computer, which means I tend to blog less. Even less than normal, which, frankly, is not that frequently, is it?
Plus I have been away. Properly, like a mini holiday. Middle Sis and I went to Ragdale Hall for a couple of days R&R for her birthday treat. It was marvellous. We booked one of their special offer three-day, two-night breaks, with a few treatments included, and had a lovely time. Neither of us had ever been to a spa before, and I think going to Ragdale has now spoiled us for anywhere else.
Yes, everything was marvellous, and if it wasn't on the other side of the country it would be even better.
The journey up there was uneventful and smooth, and I found the place with no trouble at all, arriving in the sunshine with a big smile on my face. Mr WithaY had kindly offered to lend me his Satnav, but I declined on the grounds that I had the route all written down on a series of Post-it notes.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well. I'll tell you.
Remember the day I went to help at the lunch party? Remember how lost I got, travelling less than 15 miles? I bet you thought that was impressive. You ain't seen nothing yet.
Driving all the way back from Leicestershire offers so much more opportunity for monumental navigation errors*, and I took full advantage of that fact.
I left Ragdale on our last day after a fine lunch, and drove across to visit a mate who lives sort-of-locally. I called Mr WithaY as I was leaving their place at about 7pm to let him know I should be home in, oh, about three and a half hours or so, all being well.
All was not well.
I bowled along happily enough for an hour or so, heading for the M6, from which I planned to join the M5, scoot down the left hand side of the country as far as Bristol, go through Bath, and then home. Easy.
I got onto the M6, making good time, driving in a beautiful sunny late evening light which made everything look pretty. There was very little traffic, so it was comparatively stress-free, and I was pootling along listening to the radio in a relaxed and cheerful manner.
However, the weather changed, and by the time I got towards Birmingham it was pissing with rain. As anyone who has ever driven on a British motorway will know, when it rains hard, visibility reduces to terrifyingly short distances. I slowed down, cursing the huge lorries which were kicking up clouds of spray and making it impossible to see the road signs.
Yeah, you can see where this is going. Unlike me.
I saw a sign that said the M5 junction was coming up, but not when. There were also road signs for the M42, which I had no intention of driving along, so I stayed where I was, carefully pottering along the M6 in end of the world weather and almost zero visibility. More road signs followed, alternating between the M5 and the M42, as well as signs for smaller local roads leading to places I'd never heard of.
There's a major junction on the outskirts of Birmingham where the road splits into two, possibly three different directions. One of these continues along the M6, going South and - this is important - East. The other goes to the M42, headed I know not where, and the last gets you onto the M5, heading South and West.
I squinted at the signs when I could see them, waiting for the one that said "M5 this way", ignoring the ones that said "M42". And I continued to ignore them as I went sailing past the junction, spotting far, far too late that the M42 sign also said "Oh yeah, and the M5...go down here if you ever want to see Bristol again, sucker."
I missed it.
Well fuck, I thought to myself.
Ah well, I thought to myself. There will be another exit for the M5 in a couple of miles, it's a big motorway.
Bound to be another exit, I thought to myself. Bound to be.
All will be well, I thought to myself.
Readers, I was wrong.
I drove for miles. And miles. And MILES. I passed junctions to places I had heard of, but had no clue where they were in relation to each other, or, more importantly, to where I was trying to be. I wished, oh how I wished, that I had borrowed Mr WithaY's Satnav. Or indeed had the brains to put a bloody map book in the car.
I just kept on going, down the M6, thinking "at least I'm heading South," and trying to gauge where the fuck I was by the names on the roadsigns. My knowledge of the Midlands is woeful, a fact I was increasingly aware of as I drove through them.
After several thousand miles, the M6 turned into the M1. At that point I thought "Oh fucking hell," and realised I was seriously, seriously lost.
The car was getting low on diesel, I was hungry and needed a pee, and so when I spotted a sign for Services I said a small prayer of thanks. That turned into a wail of horror when I saw that it was Watford Gap services.
Bear in mind, readers, that I was aiming for Bath.
Bath in Somerset.
Almost on the other side of the bloody country.
I stopped at the Services, filled up with fuel, used the facilities, got some supper - it was 9.30pm by now - and bought a map. I looked at where I was, and where I ought to be and sighed deeply, showering the steering wheel with service station food crumbs..
Readers, I had to backtrack miles and miles and MILES across country, driving to Northampton, Oxford, Swindon and then finally home. It took hours, and I crashed through** the front door at close to midnight.
Other news: We went camping at the weekend. But, fortunately, we have mates who own a splendid motor home, who offered us the use of the other bed, so we were warm, comfy and very smug. Marvellous.
It was a multi-period re-enactment event, what larks. I shall post some photos as soon as I find my camera. I didn't dress up, though, instead spending much of the weekend chatting to old mates, reading an excellent book in the shade and wandering around in the sun admiring all the various Uniforms Through The Ages.
*The polite term for "fuck-ups"