Instructions not needed, I can use my inner sat-nav

The car with the sat-nav was in for its MOT and I had to head for unknown parts (the University of Essex campus at Wivenhoe) in my Ford Ka, with directions e-mailed from the event organisers.

Unfortunately, as many men will attest, giving a woman directions or instructions is not regarded as offering assistance but as an attack on their ability to work it out for themselves.

I wasn’t having any of it.

“Here are the directions, Lynne,” I told myself, “now ignore them, like you always do.”

Nine times out of 10 it works out fine.

This was the one out of 10.

Like the time I put the back board of a self-assemble chest of drawers on back to front; like the time I was sure I could make an all-in-one sponge from memory; like the time I ended up standing in a pile of filter coffee after opening the packet in my own way.

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I had not learned the lesson of my drawers falling out, my sponge being adopted as the official Team UK discus, or finding coffee grains in my underwear.

I glanced at the instructions for Wivenhoe, memorised the salient parts and headed off.

AA route finder said 42 minutes so I gave myself an hour.

Now I knew the turn that said Clacton-on-Sea (A133) was probably not the right road (note brackets) but I knew Clacton-on-Sea A133 was the right road. Ah, what the heck, it seemed as good a turn as any other, so I took it.

It was a pleasant drive and I looked out for signs pointing me towards Wivenhoe. Harwich beckoned but I ignored it and stuck to my course which, 15 minutes later, was definitely taking me into Clacton-on-Sea.

I was on the A133 but instinctively felt that continuing in this direction would eventually lead to the sea. The clue was in Clacton’s name.

By now, the signs were offering me “seafront”. I knew I had gone badly wrong but was now in a one-way matrix, designed primarily for people who intend to be in Clacton.

Think, Lynne. In other moments of utter desperation, I have occasionally been known to heed my husband’s advice. And one pearl of wisdom is that in mazes, (eg Somerleyton) you should use the “system” which is: “If you keep turning left, you reach the way out.”

The supporting evidence is not conclusive.

On holiday in the late 1990s, I lost him and the children in the Longleat maze for an hour-and-a-half.

They emerged defeated, tired and dehydrated, walking with a slight list to the right.

Back in Clacton, I was starting to feel a bit dry myself. Don’t drink the sea water.

I was due in Wivenhoe in five minutes and so, I tried my husband’s “system”. It was not really designed for one-way streets and, to be fair, Clacton isn’t really a maze

Eventually, I was back where I started – no, not at home but at the beginning of Clacton. Happily, I chanced upon the B1027, a road, according to my discarded instructions, that would take me to Wivenhoe. I was cock-a-hoop. But should I turn on to it left or right?

My sense of direction is not good and at the height of British summer, of course, there was no sun by which I could calculate north. And so I went the wrong way again.

With no sign of Wivenhoe, I turned back, now 15 minutes late.

Surrendering, I stopped the car and rang the venue to ask for help. Amy, my saviour, answered. “Where are you now?”

I had halted beside a holiday park – handy if I needed to book in for the night. But it was all right, Amy was quickly able to identify my position and confirmed I was now pointing in the right direction.

“I can talk you in from there,” she said.

I felt like an air passenger brought up to the cockpit to fly the plane when the entire crew had been overcome by in-flight coleslaw.

With her succinct and clear instructions, I found Wivenhoe and my destination. I was only 35 minutes late.

Not so much Satnav as pratnav.

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