‘Recalculating route,’ she says.
I’ve only heard that voice a handful of times but I’m beginning to bristle every time she speaks.
It’s the inbuilt navigation system in our car.
She’s been more vocal than usual just lately because we’ve had a few days away. Visiting friends.
It was an ambitious five days. Lots of driving. Lots of catching up to fit into respectable time slots. Three nights on hard b&b beds. Why do people insist hard mattresses are good?
Day one was the worst. We had to abandon the south-west-bound motorway early. What should have been a three or four hour journey took six. But the slow-roaded Welsh borders were pretty.
The first hard-b&b-bed-night didn’t help our mood as we set out for Devon next day.
By mid-afternoon prissy Miss Satnav would’ve been thrown out of the car if she weren’t built-in. But thanks to written instructions from our host – and a map book bought at a petrol station – we reached our beautiful, isolated destination.
Next day, well fed on food, wine and art (our hostess is an artist), much conversation and a little dog-walking to our credit, we set off back to Bristol without ‘her’ help.
In Bristol the sun shone and the company of old friends was convivial, but after two more hard-b&b-bed-nights it was time to strike out for home.
It took about forty five minutes of the manic motorway before we resorted to lesser roads and ‘her’. Sleep was sneaking up. The hard beds had taken their toll.
We stopped for a wake-up cuppa – and the world stood still. That’s how it felt. The pace of life had shifted underneath our wheels.
An odd man in the car park yelled, ‘Are you all right?’ the moment we opened the car doors.
Round of tum, middle of age, he carried a large brown envelope as Don Quixote carried his lance.
‘Park here,’ he commanded, in vain. Then he chose another spot – and another.
He was plainly obsessive – and not a little strange. Which prepared us, somewhat, for the café we chose.
Outside, the blackboard boasted a hand-drawn picture of a dog. Dogs and their owners, it said, were welcome.
I’m not a doggy person, not often around dogs. But I was wearing a shirt that had been tugged by a happy dog, jeans licked by her, pawed by her. A nice dog.
And it did look quirky, the café.
We stepped in.
Quirky was an understatement.
‘No mobile phones, please,’ a handwritten sign requested. Polite, but firm. You could tell by the writing.
Many with feature-cats. (Was everyone in this town obsessive?)
The inner blackboard listed the usual drinks, but also that quaint old hot beverage – Milky Nescafé.
A slice of ginger cake came warm, with two forks.
Revived, an amble down the road took us to a cornucopian wholefood shop. We bought bread, grains, teas, condiments. Cheap olive-oil soap.
It was hard leaving. Everywhere I turned was an, ‘ooh, look,’ enticement.
But leave we did. Despite a notice telling us that if we stayed till June 21st, we could join in solstice dancing, round a tree.
Back in the street, in the warmth of a fine mid-morning, everyone was walking slowly.
Not a single person gazed upon a smartphone. One or two wheelchairs, a mobility scooter, prams, wheeled baskets, dogs on leads. But no mobile phones.
As if the café were ruling the world for the day.
It seemed we were in a county of witches, warlocks and deep, old magic. This we discovered further along our route, when we turned right (contrary to ‘her’ instructions) to find a mammoth.
A cast of the massive mastodon was the high point of a rather good exhibition devoted to hill forts and landscapes, castles and history, mystery and superstition
Yes, Shropshire had begun to beguile us with its magic.
En route again, an hour or more later, eyes drooping once more, my chauffeur saw a sign for a garden centre with café – and turned left.
‘She’ was busy recalculating route when I switched her off. Oh, that felt good!
But it began to look as if we’d made an error of the human kind.
The road wound deeper and deeper into the enchanting Shropshire countryside. Was a mischievous spirit leading us astray? Would we end up spell-bound, deep within a dark, dank cave?
It was serendipity.
For we found ourselves in a paradise of roses.
Row upon row. Climbers and shrubs. Standards and ramblers. Red, yellow, white, pink, purple and orange. Nine hundred varieties.
A secret garden. Well, except for the other people.
As chance would have it, we were in search of a rambling rose.
‘We mustn’t buy much,’ I said, in vain. ‘We don’t have room in the car.’
Half an hour later we’d fallen for a pert-flowered rambler with bright red stems. A subtle Rosa glauca with delicate pink blooms.
And a sensuous Dusky Maiden.
‘You can’t leave without me,’ her message oozed from every dark bloom.
I surveyed the three beauties.
‘Recalculating room in car,’ I thought, with that inner warm feeling that simple pleasure brings.
Poor little Miss Satnav.
No wonder she sounds so flat. She has no roses in her life. No sunshine, no scents, no gentle breezes.
Just a box, in car. And always travelling, to other people’s destinations.