Roads Less Traveled

This time of year, with the autumn gold dressing the trees and hedgerows, is just about the best time to come to my rural part of England.

But don't use new technology to find your way there. For some reason, the GPS personal navigation systems that most strangers seem to use in our neck of the woods guide them into the most inaccesible parts of the county.

In March a truck driver from Belgium left a trail of destruction in a nearby village as he tried to follow his GPS's directions down a street that wasn't wide enough for his vehicle. He took a mail box and several front gates with him before becoming wedged at the end of the road.

A couple of months later a bus got stuck in similar circumstances and we all duly turned out to drive the passengers to a wedding ceremony in our own cars. The vicar made sure we each got a cup of tea and a slice of cake afterwards.

Last week, my nearest neighbor was slightly surprised when he was plowing, but not half as surprised as the Frenchman who chugged through the gate and into the ploughed field, as the consoling voice on the GPS reassured him that this was indeed the road to London. It took a couple of hours to tow him out.

But it was Yuri Odenhal from the Czech Republic who had the worst experience when he got stuck in one of our country lanes. Following the instructions on his state of the art personal navigation system, Yuri was on his way to pick up a consignment of TVs and take them back home. He was led off course by this electronic monster and began to trundle down increasingly narrow country lanes.

Now, where I live, the lanes are just about wide enough for a horse and cart, but certainly not for a trans-European forty ton articulated truck. Finally, Yuri and his beast came to a halt, tightly wedged, stuck fast. He was there for three days before his firm could arrange for someone to tow him out and a tree surgeon ensured minimal damage to the hedgerows.

In the meantime, the Auburn family provided him with meals and somewhere to wash, while the rest of us were stuck in the village, unable to get out. My pub was full of drinkers grumbling we were under siege. As the old blacksmith, Bill Sykes, remarked over his pint of warm Black Moon Stout: 'In my time, at least the Germans only came at night. This lot mess us up throughout the day'.
By Simon Bates