Friday, 1 June 2018

Travels & Travails...

I have really taken to living by the seaside. I find that I dislike leaving Margate and its environs more and more, especially when the weather is good. However, one cannot insist that one's friends always do the travelling, and so, last Bank Holiday Monday, I went off to visit one of my friends in London. Fortunately I enjoy train journeys, which made the fact that I was heading in to the sweltering, stuffy city on what promised to be a beautifully sunny day with a pleasant breeze somewhat more bearable...

My latest mobile phone has a really snazzy camera. I amused myself by trying to take a few photos out of the window on a very fast-moving train...



I was particularly impressed by the shot I got as the train sped over the bridge... I anticipated seeing nothing more than blurry bridge iron-mongery...


I had a great day with my friend, though I was shocked by the amount of grime and grit on my face by the time I got home. The clean sea air was a welcome contrast.

Tuesday morning was warm, but overcast. I had arranged to visit my mother (with my car, so she could do some shopping) and, as I left Margate, it started to rain. I had heard a weather forecast predicting showers, and so I hoped it would all soon pass over. It didn't. The rain got heavier.

There had been very little traffic as I headed to the M2. Gradually, as the rain became heavier, the traffic began to build up. I dislike driving in heavy rain... there are too many people who whizz past at stupid speeds, sending up huge amounts of spray. However, this time the rain was so heavy that people were driving very slowly. There was one section of the road which had so much surface water that, driving at 15 mph, the water was being pushed up in a wave as high as the car windows... and then, just before we got to my exit, traffic ground to a complete halt. The rain was now so heavy that my windscreen looked as if I was in a car wash.

After about an hour, we managed to crawl forward far enough for me to get to the motorway exit sliproad. A few impatient souls had actually risked using the hard shoulder to get there sooner... and, when I reached the bottom of the sliproad and saw these vehicles stationary just a short distance away, I knew that this was not going to end well. The police arrived and directed us all round back to the M2, as the A249 was completely flooded... I found myself in another traffic jam, but this time heading back towards home.

I didn't fancy driving all the way back to Margate in order to follow the coastal route, so I switched on my phone's Google Maps directions app. It started well, but then directed me off the main A roads onto a much narrower road... and then onto a road which didn't have any markings... and then onto a single-track road... surrounded by huge hedges...

I then spotted a woman in her front garden, putting something in the bin. The rain had eased up a bit, but not much, and I was beginning to lose faith in my navigational aid. I stopped to ask directions. Unfortunately, I didn't know exactly where the map was taking me, and asking how to get to Eastbourne didn't seem particularly helpful. So I asked if the track hit a main road any time soon. Which main road? Any main road. As long as it had tarmac and road markings. She assured me that the road was at the end of the track.

I set off again. The track was becoming very muddy, and very narrow and the hedges were getting higher. However, I thought that I must be on a recognised route because by now there were two vehicles behind me. I drove over a slight rise, and braked to a dead stop. The road ahead was completely under water - about six car-lengths. The water went as far as the hedges at the side of the track,and I had absolutely no way of gauging the depth.

Because it was a single track road, the two cars behind me meant that I couldn't reverse. Fortunately there was a small passing place to my right, and so I reversed back into it, praying that I wouldn't end up in a ditch, and stopping at right-angles to the track. My plan was to watch the two vehicles which had followed me. I assumed they were locals, and would know how low the road actually dipped. The car directly behind mine was about the same size, and I thought that I could watch how high the water went before venturing across myself.

Alas! The woman in the car behind mine didn't like the look of the water either. She copied my manoeuvre, ending up next to my car, on my right, and blocking my view. The third car was a big one, and the male driver had obviously become impatient with us, as he promptly sped through the waterlogged patch. As my view had been blocked by the other woman driver, I still couldn't work out how deep the water was. In the meantime, the cautious woman driver sped off back the way we had come. I hesitated, but all the horror stories about people getting lured into deep water by their sat navs kept preying on my mind, and I tried to retrace my steps.

Meanwhile, Google Maps kept telling me to go back. I followed the track again, but there must have been a fork in the road which I had missed first time around, because I eventually drove past the cottage I had asked directions at... but facing in the same direction as before! I could feel a rising hysteria, as I seemed to be trapped in a Kentish Bermuda Triangle. Another 4x4 drove up behind me. I could sense waves of irritation hitting me from the driver. As soon as the track widened a bit, I pulled over as far as I could and he overtook by driving over the bank of the road. I then did my best to follow as quickly as possible. When we reached the flooded patch, he drove through at speed, which seemed to get rid of some of the water. Muttering a Hail Mary under my breath, I positioned myself as near to the centre of the road as I could and started to drive forward...

It was a pretty close call, I think. 

I eventually reached a main road. I had no idea which direction I was travelling in,and I had given up on the Google Maps app which was still trying to direct me down side roads. Finally I spotted a sign for Maidstone, and followed that. Tunbridge Wells was signposted from there, and I knew my way pretty well from then on.

It took me a total of six and a half hours to get to Eastbourne... the journey usually takes around two and a half hours. To add insult to injury, my mother informed me that she had been busy watering the garden, as there hadn't been a spot of rain there all day...

I will never trust Google Maps again.


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