In retrospect, the journey to Dublin wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.
This unprecedented level of semi-success was, of course, absolutely nothing to do with either The Sister or myself, but largely thanks to Maxine (Sister’s SatNav), some good-natured toll plaza attendants, a couple of painkillers and CD one from the Now 28 compilation.
If I were to find any fault with Maxine, it would concern her communication difficulties. For example, if she’d said “Don’t leave the motorway at this bit here where it branches off into two, just stay on it for 30 more seconds, but keep to the left lane and be ready to take the next exit,” I would have had no issues with obeying her instructions. Half an hour later, as we sat grumpily in a mile-long tailback of single-lane traffic at some roadworks in, erm, Belfast, we talked things through and realised that this was probably what she had indeed meant by “Keep Right. Exit on left.”
Anyway, once we’d ironed out that little misunderstanding, things went swimmingly. I mean this literally – for Maxine, at one point just over the border, seemed to think we were in a river. Sister and I broke off from our enthusiastic chorus of You Don’t Love Me (no no no) as we heard the SatNav go into meltdown. I turned the music down, and Sister looked enquiringly at the screen. “I think something’s wrong with Maxine,” she said in concern.
“Turn right. Turn right.” said Maxine, sounding a little nervous, as the onscreen map showed Rio the Clio heading directly for a vast body of water. I looked around. Clearly, we were on a very long stretch of motorway, where rivers are scarce. I chose to ignore Maxine.
“Recalculating,” said a harrassed Maxine, screen flashing frantically. “Turn right. Turn right.”
“I can’t turn right,” I explained patiently, “because on our right there are two lanes of traffic coming in the opposite direction.”
Sister turned the music back up , but I was too unsettled to sing. Maxine continued to flash lights and make a lot of confused beeping noises.
“Why does she think we’re going into a river?” I asked, irrationally nervous, as if I expected a large expanse of water to open up in front of us (which Maxine indeed seemed to think was likely).
“Turn right! Turn right!” shrieked Maxine, obviously panicking now.
“I can’t turn right, you stupid cow!” I howled, momentarily losing my poise, “We turn right, we die!!”
Sister gasped involuntarily as the on-screen Rio the Clio took a dramatic nose-dive into the river.
Everything went silent.
I gripped the steering wheel with grim determination. We drove bravely and quietly along the river bed for several minutes. Maxine, her lungs presumably filled with water, did not speak. I grappled inwardly with the knowledge that I had drowned the SatNav and would somehow have to negociate my way around Dublin City Centre completely unaided. Then, to our joy, something flashed on-screen. There was a beep. Maxine was clearly having an epiphany of some sort. We held our breath, and, to our delight, Rio emerged from the river and rejoined the road.
“Recalculating,” said Maxine, sounding slightly embarrassed but unharmed. “Continue straight ahead.”
“I think Maxine might be blonde,” said The Sister.