Real life

Here’s the worst that can happen when you go on a date

A wild goose chase on the M6 toll road then the police threw the book at me

5 December 2015

9:00 AM

5 December 2015

9:00 AM

Go on, they said. Go on a date. Let your friend fix you up with a nice eligible man. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Try something new. Be open-minded. Give it a chance. What’s the worst that can happen?

I’ll tell you what’s the worst that can happen. It started with me trying to get to his place to meet him. In my head, the 150 miles between us made it a non-starter but the wisdom of well-meaning crowds was that I was being a boring old stick-in-the-mud. Go on, they said. Give it a go. You never know what it could lead to. Well, I’ll tell you what it led to.

I stopped overnight at my parents’ house near Coventry. How could even I louse up a journey of a few miles from there to Leicestershire?

I managed to get myself on the M42, and the iPhone satnav sounded happy enough for a change. Usually it insists on trying to take me to Lostwithiel in Cornwall, no matter what I programme into it. But on this occasion it accepted that we were going to Leicestershire and chirruped that we would be getting off at junction 10.

At which point I should have carried on but I weakened and phoned my date to tell him I was 20 minutes away. There then ensued one of those driving conversations in which the person at your destination suggests better and more interesting ways to reach them. The cut of my date’s jib was that I didn’t want to get off at junction 10, I wanted junction 11. And then the A-something or other.


I was approaching the slip road to junction 10 as this was happening, shouting ‘are you sure?’ into the speakerphone. Yes, he was sure. And so, not wanting to question his judgment before we’d even met, I stayed on the motorway looking for junction 11. But junction 11 came there none. On the other hand, I did suddenly find myself on the M6 toll road. I got off at the first exit I could, but had to put my credit card to the reader of the barrier, paying £5.50. And then I took a long detour trying to get back the way I came but the only way to get back was on the M6 toll — and pay another £5.50.

Hence, £11 down and 40 minutes later I was approaching my date from the way I had nearly come in the first place feeling a tad indisposed to the whole escapade. However, I have to say that when I got there the date itself — in which he and I took our dogs for a walk together around the countryside where he lives — was absolutely delightful. When I set off for home as dusk fell, I was almost feeling like I had been wrong in assuming it would be a total disaster.

Maybe we would decide to meet again. Maybe the 150 miles between us would somehow dissolve in fairy-tale fashion. Maybe we would walk off into the sunset, via the M6 toll.

I drove away with his instructions to take this left turn then that right turn, and go up this hill and round that bend, and then I would find myself on the A something or other and all would be plain sailing.

I found the first few turns but then I was on a big main road in the pitch black, which may or may not have been the right one, with drivers tailgating me and flashing me to go faster as I crawled along not knowing where I was. I switched on the iPhone satnav and it maliciously made its pitch for Lostwithiel.

I was on my own. In desperation at the peeping horns and cars screeching past me on hairpin bends, I took a right turn into a smaller country lane, which I meandered along, desperately looking for a sign. No signs. Just a flash. Then another.

The letter from the police came in the post two weeks later. They were throwing the book at me. Of course they were. I had been doing 35mph in a 30mph zone.

Informing me in doom-laden tones that I was being prosecuted, they included a handy menu of penalties I might face, which ranged from pretty much rotting in jail down to a ‘speed awareness workshop’, but only if I hadn’t attended one for three years, and only then if my offence was not deemed excessive. Who knows? Doing 35 in a 30 when you’re a woman out driving alone after dark might be a capital offence in the area I stumbled into, which knowing my luck was probably an enclave run by Sharia law.

But never mind. Because I was being open-minded. I was trying something new.

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  • davidshort10

    My satnav always takes me across country when I try to get to Sandwich. My friend there says there’s a longer but quicker way and I’m sure that’s right. There’s a quicker way from the airport in Malta to Mellieha but the satnav doesn’t know about it. Only the locals do. I wish I could programme both routes into the satnav. I cannot so I just follow what the posh lady tells me to do…..You get there in the end.

    • rorysutherland

      I’ve had the same experience using satnav to go to Sandwich and to Deal. I suspect that the algorithms used, although mostly good, are not brilliant when it comes to distinguishing between the different kinds of unclassified roads: these can vary from perfectly good two lane roads where you can average 50mph or so….. to single track roads “with passing places” where you are reduced to a crawl. I largely ignore my satnav’s advice in East Kent, where the best advice is “take the fastest road in any direction which leads to the A2/M2/A299/M20 and then proceed from there”.

      There is a free mobile phone app called Waze which uses actual driver experience to update its recommended routes. I can’t speak for its coverage of Malta, but it seems pretty good at avoiding this problem in the UK.

      • davidshort10

        Thanks, I think I might do that when I go there for New Year and not be long-suffering as usual. It can add at least half-an-hour or more to the journey and is frustrating for the drivers behind me who are used to the windings of the road and you are right about the passing places!

  • seangrainger

    Now that you are a hot jock please may I ask an off topic question. I don’t bet much but I do love watching At The Races in The Wine Lodge — I find racing to be a magnificent spectacle. Q is am I right in deducing jockeys can do nothing to control their mounts who swerve at the last second when approaching a fence?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Britisher pals, you don’t know how fortunate you are to have Ordnance Survey maps. Sure, there’s still a certain amount of Imperial-metric mishmash, the clarity is outstanding. Plus scale, contour lines, compass direction and grid lines for a map reference. Great products, shame about the customers, the dumb Muppets that can read a map.
    Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

    • EUSSR 4 All!

      “Britisher pals”, eh?! … On behalf of “Frank” (not Gallagher!): Don’t mix “Speed” and Alcohol with Olanzapine or Risperidone, lads!

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Looks like the syphilis has hit his brains.

        • EUSSR 4 All!

          An old boy of Northfield Comprehensive, Billingham, N. Tees., Co. Durham, Mr Andy M?!

    • Disqust

      You look down at the map beside you for a second and immediately there’s a bend which you can’t negotiate or someone coming at you on the wrong side of the road . . . Believe me, I have occasion to hate GPS (my car is still in the garage because it took me into roads which turned out to be narrower than the car, with multiple bends and hills) – but it’s less dangerous than a map.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Prepare your route notes before setting out, or when taking a break. Clip board with light, don’t forget a spare bulb. Presupposing you are driving alone or have a passenger who can’t read a map.
        Obvious surely, even to the meanest intelligence.

        • Disqust

          And when (not if) you come to a T-junction with no indication of which way to go? Clipboard with light? Just as dangerous as looking down to receive or send a text. Yes, I drive alone and no, I’m not someone with just the meanest intelligence.
          Don’t the comments give some people the ability to make snide remarks for no reason and under cover of anonymity. Gosh, that’s intelligence and bravery combined.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            “Under cover of anonymity”
            Sure, Disqust, whatever you say.
            Road narrower than the car? Sounds like you were on a footpath. All the information you need is on the OS map. And hey, what’s a bit of damage between friends?
            Suspect your misspent youth didn’t include a few years of club rallying.
            Not the meanest intelligence … Let me get back to you on that.
            Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

          • EUSSR 4 All!

            Someone who lives in Japan is best qualified to comment on driving in Britain, I am sure! (Raw) OS maps … the foldable ones?! Good luck with using them in a non-Country busy road! ALL British road maps are really OS maps anyway, so what is your point?!

          • Disqust

            They don’t have OS maps here in Spain. They do have village streets narrower than cars.
            Sounds like you need to get out and about a bit more yourself, Jack!

          • EUSSR 4 All!

            That inbred alcoholic from Billingham (now in Japan) strikes again!

    • WTF

      With that much advice your brain must be the size of a planet !

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Call this job satisfaction, cos I don’t.

        • WTF

          OS maps, great for hiking on foot, frigging expensive, bulky, unwieldy and unnecessary when driving distances. These days its quicker, easier & cheaper to google map the car journey for a list of possible routes, pick one that suits and print the list of places you need to go through or by-pass. Use a GPS as a general back up to ensure you’re on the right track but especially to find the street at your destination town.

          Works for me all over Europe and the USA and implements a similar triple redundant method that Concorde had for its flight computers. If two out of three mapping systems gives the same result, the odds are in your favor you have it right. A car compass is not a bad idea as well if the sun isn’t shining !

          • EUSSR 4 All!

            Use A-Z if you must, but never Google (which are user-edited)!

            What drugs are this ex-Teesside Troll on these days now?!

        • EUSSR 4 All!

          Living off your expat wife in Japan is work now, is it?!

  • flydlbee

    Back in the old days highwaymen used to wear masks to cover their shame. Now they wear police uniforms because they have no shame. Everything else is the same

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Suspect it was to prevent identification.

      • Clive

        You can still identify them, they have numbers on their shoulders

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    First date questions should include, “Can you read a map? Think we know the answer to that.
    Oh, and why are you driving some agricultural left-hooker?

  • Freddythreepwood

    You took your dog with you? On a date? A homing pigeon would sound more appropriate.

  • Sounds like your date went fine but you just suck at driving

    • Clive

      Or the M6 area sucks at signage

  • Builder boyfriend

    No the worst that can happen when you go on a date,is your date is Melissa kite!, I refer to the book Real life by Melissa kite. In it she blames all her past boyfriends and there’s lots of them!,everyone from millionaires to an unwashed Albanian handyman,for not being up to her standards!. So my tip to any uber driver or Syrian refugee would be RUN AWAY FAST AS YOU CAN HAHA. Ps you can get the book on line for under a £1now!, I use them as pet bedding!,cheaper than cat lit.

  • Tom M

    What a cad! Why didn’t he come to your place?

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