On the general scale of competency as a functioning human being I’m sure I’m about midway – not brilliant but still able to tie my own shoelaces and string a sentence together. However, I did use to be a good driver – did the RAC advanced driver training course when I worked for them, and clocked up thousands of miles zooming up and down the UK without penalties or injuries to me or my car. But something insidious happens to your driving as you get a little older. You lose a bit of confidence, maybe aren’t quite so sure of directions, aren’t as assertive. Or you just become really rubbish overnight. Like me.
Lunch in Vasto with an American friend was on the schedule, so my first guest Ms S and I decided to gird our loins, as it were, and brave the A14 autostrada. Now in my defence, I’m sleep deprived after four nights of an icky cold and a rattly chest that sounds like Chewbacca on acid. Plus today even getting out the door is a challenge – you know that incredibly irritating moment when your coat sleeve is caught up and You Just Can’t Get Your Arm In? One of those. In the car and I’m complaining that the phone (with the oh so essential sat nav) isn’t charging. It’s not plugged in, says Ms S, trying not to roll her eyes. As it turns out it wouldn’t have mattered terribly much anyway if it was plugged in or not, as I’d contracted Sat Nav Neglect – I’d hear the words “Turn right” OK but I just didn’t feel inclined to act on them. We go to get petrol…I go the wrong way. Get to the service station (a visit made extra special by the sighting of a local gent proudly carrying what Ms S coined a huge “pasta baby” tummy) then go out the wrong way, swing around and wave feebly at the puzzled attendant on our way back. The next hour involves more missed turns than a drunken footballer attempting pirouettes, being tailgated at speed, and suffering harassment at the hands of a toll coin machine, which refused to take my €2 coin – but then strangely accepted and gave change for €1.50.
After a walk round Vasto old town and a lovely lunch of chargrilled lamb with rocket, tomatoes, parmesan and small roasted potatoes, we head back to the car, left in a multi story car park nearby. Panic ensues as I can’t find the car keys. Well that would be because they were still in the ignition. What. A. Plonker.
We deliver our friend back to her apartment, who cheerfully joined in the spirit of confusion by screaming “There! There!” from the back seat when she spotted a parking space, but not being clear about where “There” actually was. The fun and games continue on the way back home, with me successfully ignoring the sat nav a number of times at key moments, including the approach to a busy toll road and then cutting across in front of a lorry when I did actually get there.
We reach Sanctuary and close the door behind us. Ms S had coffee, I reach unsteadily for alcohol, and we ponder the miracle of “How the hell did we make it there and back in one piece?”. Might leave it for a while before I do that drive again. Oh, and I’ll try and get some more sleep.