From the front passenger seat Mr B keeps up a sustained complaint about "that **** lorry driver!"
I, in the driver's seat, keep peering in my rear view mirror and both
wing mirrors (no, not both at the same time, I'm not that clever) to see if I can see the object of his disdain. There are a fair number of lorries on the road but none of them, as far as I can see, are Lorries Behaving Badly. At the fourth or fifth complaint
from my passenger, I am moved to ask which lorry driver has so irritated him. It turns out it is no lorry driver of my acquaintance but rather the lorry driver who ran into the bridge on the M20 bringing half of it crashing down, though miraculously wreaking
no major injuries.
Owing to the fact that bridge and carriageway repairs have been deemed essential, the whole of the M26 and part of the M20 have been closed for the weekend - the very weekend, moreover,
that Mr B and I were due to drive to Kent for a long anticipated lunch with Mr B's cousin Keith and his lovely wife, Sue. We will be accompanied by the Eldest of the Darling Daughters, who has arranged the meet-up, and her fella. She phones me in the week
to break the bad news and asks if I will be comfortable driving cross country? I say, with sunnily optimistic confidence, that it will be Just Fine.
Mr B, it seems, shares neither my optimism nor my confidence,
hence his haranguing of the unknown lorry driver who has forced a change of route on us. I arm him with a print out of directions from the AA and tell him that it's only in the second half of the journey that I will need his navigational skills.
You are wondering, I can tell, why I am not making use of a satnav - but think about it from my point of view for a moment, enclosed in the relatively confined space of my car with Bossy Sally Satnav and Equally Bossy
Mr B, both telling me where to go. In the best possible sense, of course.
Mr B, in between complaining bitterly about the inexplicable carelessness of the absent lorry driver, reserves special contempt for
the directions supplied by the AA. They are, he says, total rubbish. I point out that the directions include what are presumably meant to be helpful explanations of special offers available at a number of hostelries we are going to pass. Not that we are planning
to stop at any of them, I add hastily, not even the fascinatingly named Crow and Gate. Mr B harrumphs like a tetchy elephant from which I deduce that he is Not The Least Bit Convinced.
We reach beautiful Barnsgate
Manor Vineyard on the A26, venue for many a conference I organised for local government marketers back in the day when I was a Working Gal. The lure of the vineyard, the happy memories are so strong I have to hold tight on the steering wheel to stop myself
veering off along the winding drive to the Manor, surrounded by lush East Sussex countryside peopled by llamas no less.
From this point on, I tell Mr B, I am not sure where I am going. I am relying on him
and the list of AA directions. Mr B mutters something about "that damned lorry driver."
We finally meet our daughter and her fella at the extravagantly named Hadlow Manor and I leave my Grand Old Lady in the
car park there while we head off together to our lunch date.
Lunch is deliciously calorific. Conversation flows across the table as we catch up on family news; our differing views on Brexit; life, love and
the passage of time. We play for Sue, who was unable to be there, the clip of our oldest four grandchildren singing at our Golden Wedding celebration. It's the next best thing to being there.
Despite the gathering
darkness and heavy rain, we sweep homewards with surprising ease. We don't bother with the AA directions but rely on road signs which turn out to be mist helpful, even though they don't highlight the culinary excellences of passing hostelries.
We play my CD of André Rieu in concert. There's no one like André to help a car journey along.
Mr B doesn't mention the errant lorry driver once.