September 14th 2016
Today I got lost in the dark down an old country lane. I was late driving home from work because we’d gone out for dinner with my boss’s boss’s boss – who flew over from Germany for the day. As such, by the time I got in to my car to drive home it was half eight. I started the commute home on the dual carriageway, the same road I take every day, and noticed that it looks different in the dark. For one, it’s darker. I never noticed before that there were no streetlights.
Eventually I noticed some flashing lights in the distance. There were big blinking yellow arrows that told me to move out of the lane. I assumed that the lane was closed for some reason, but then the second lane closed as well, (which for a dual-carriageway effectively means you’re out of lanes in which to drive) so I had to get off the road at the junction. I drove past a sign and squinted to read it.
‘Road closed from 11th-18th September 20:00 – 06:00’
I realised that I’ve driven past that notice at least twice a day for the past two weeks, and never really taken the information in. ‘Eight o’clock at night? That doesn’t affect me,’ I thought, until it affected me.
So I started to follow the ‘Diverted Traffic’ road signs, and got stuck behind one of those bendy lorries that are split into two carriages but still manage to get around roundabouts. I was trying to drive from Gloucester to Swindon and the diversion ended up taking me via Cheltenham. Now, if you don’t know much about the geography of towns in the South and Middle West of England, then that’s like going from Chicago to New York via Las Vegas. Except on a much smaller scale and definitely not as much fun.
I followed the Diverted Traffic signs until I got to this roundabout. At this roundabout there were two diverted traffic signs. One of them said ‘Cirencester’ (which is the general direction in which I wished to be heading’) and pointed left, and the other one said ‘Cirencester’ (which is also the general direction in which I wished to be heading, funnily enough) and pointed right.
I did a few donuts around the roundabout until I made the decision to just follow the sign that said Cirencester. More specifically, I chose to follow the road that the lorry did not take. In hindsight that was perhaps my first mistake. Lorry drivers tend to have a pretty good sense of direction on the roads, what with it being their job and all that.
I drove the winding, narrow, hillside route in pitch black with one working headlight. I used my high beams more often than is probably advised, but I had no idea where I was. A few miles down the road it had also been a few miles since I last saw a ‘diverted traffic’ road sign. It was around about that time when I realised that I was lost in the middle of fucking nowhere.
Unpanicking for the most part, I continued on the road, because that’s what the road sign told me to do. And why would it lie? I considered stopping to configure the SatNav on my phone, but I knew that it was likely the SatNav would just point me in the direction of the road which I now knew was closed.
Eventually, after miles of solitary darkness, I saw a road sign. It wasn’t a ‘Diverted Traffic’ one – they had long abandoned me – it was a road sign for ‘North Cerney’. Now, I know for a fact that South Cerney is near Cirencester, and even closer to Swindon than Cirencester is. So I figured that heading to North Cerney would be a good way of getting home, because North and South Cerney are probably right next to each other, right?
The flaw in that logic is of course that Southampton and Northampton are 109 miles apart, and from where I was – wherever I was – North Cerney was in the wrong direction. It did, however, do what I wanted it to do, and led me to a sign post that said Cirencester. Following that road led me to a road that said Swindon, which led me back on to the dual carriageway, except now I was on the other side of the roadworks. The correct side.
So, I got home.
What should have been a 40 minute, 35 mile drive turned into an 75 miles in an hour and a half.
I’d like to say that it was an adventure that I enjoyed, I usually like driving on roads that I’ve never been on before, but that also necessitates being able to see where I’m going, and doesn’t involve a sense of dread that I’m going to accidentally drive into a quarry.
Until tomorrow, Diverted Traffic.