World Book Day 2019 – quite an experience!

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  • #4569
    Squidge
    Participant

    If you’re a parent, you’ll probably have had to rustle up a costume for today – there will have been lots of Wallys, Gangsta Grannies, cats in hats and other favourites going to school to today.

    I went to Coventry, for an all day author visit. Although the visit itself went well, it was a bit of a nightmare morning.

    I set off at 7.30am, allowing an hour and a half for what google traffic told me would be a one hour and one minute journey. At a little after 8, I came off the M69 and onto the A46, where traffic just…stopped. We crawled for miles into Coventry, and I watched the time tick away, thinking I’ll just about make it for 9am, when the school expected me.

    I had not bargained for the Coventry Ringway. I knew that I only needed to be on it for a very, very short time – literally on-and-off. But I missed the turn. And unfortunately I couldn’t find another way because the GPS on my phone was refusing to work and I only had instructions written which relied on taking the right turn.

    If anyone knows the ringway, there’s nowhere to stop. So I had to turn off. Somewhere. The GPS decided to co-operate so far, in that it told me I was only 3 mins from my destination, but refused to give me directions. People I stopped to ask didn’t know how to direct me either. I phoned the school to say I was lost, but they couldn’t work out where I was or how to get me to them either. Eventually the GPS worked. I got back onto the ringway – but took another wrong turn. I looped back, as per instructions, but Mrs GPS kept telling me too late which lane I needed, so I ended up doing figure-of-eights and panic started to rise.

    I’ve never had a panic attack, but I was dry-sobbing by this point, almost screaming ‘I need to know where I am!’ I pulled into the forecourt of a Ramada Hotel and went to ask for help at reception. At which point, I blubbed. I wanted to give up, but I hated the thought of this road defeating me. The receptionist couldn’t have been nicer – she gave me a map which at least showed the whole of the ringway, and told me roughly where I needed to be. But I was now seriously freaked out by the concept of going back onto the ringway and trying to get to where I needed to be. (At this point, I’m in the very southwestern corner of Coventry, and I needed to be in the Northeast!)

    I phoned Mr Squidge. Who talked me calm(er) and then stayed on speaker phone, directing me across the city by sitting on google maps at home, for twenty minutes.

    He got me to the point where I could SEE the school – hooray! (Although there were still a few wrong turns and two-times-round-a-roundabout in the getting there). But we couldn’t work out how the flip to reach the school.

    Now…who puts a road through the middle of a hospital car park? There were some very frank exchanges with Mr Squidge as I tried to explain I was going into a car park and he was adamant that it was a road. Course – he was right, but he was looking at a map; I was seeing the reality and it screamed ‘NHS car park’ from all directions. Three times round the same block later – this bit of the city was all one way, and the school looked to be the wrong way up the one way street – I gave up, decided to park in the NHS car park, and walk along the road to find the school.

    What I had thought was the entrance to a building site right next door to the hospital was – you guessed it – the school gate. I hadn’t seen their signage because it was angled to catch the attention of drivers coming the right way up the one way street, which I should have done if I’d never taken that first wrong turn…

    When I pressed the buzzer on the gate and heard the relief in the receptionist’s voice when I told I was finally there, I was an hour and a half late. I’d missed one whole session with Y7’s.

    I decided I was OK to crack on, so it was straight into a Y9 assembly. The school was a faith school, so no shoes in the hall – first time I’ve ever done a barefoot author talk!

    After lunch, and a chat with some of the staff, teh English teachers came in for a discussion about how they could get creative writing more to the fore. Another first – usually the staff are happy to let you do you thing, but won’t ask for ways to put what you’re presenting in workshops or talks into practise. And then a Y7 workshop – what’s in the bottle?

    So the day definitely improved, and it only took an hour and a minute to get home, because the GPS was totally compliant and I only needed to be on the (blasted) ringway for moments.

    On balance, it was a good day – and when I’ve had a G&T tonight, you might even persuade me to face going back to Coventry again in the future. Providing I set off hours earlier than I need to and have a fully functional GPS/hubby on standby!

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by Squidge.
    #4573
    JaneShuff
    Participant

    Oh dear Squidge. My sister lives in Coventry and I go to great lengths to avoid driving on any part of the Ringway so I sympathise. Sounds as though your day went brilliantly though!

    #4583
    Raine
    Participant

    Oh Squidge, what a nightmare! I’d have been getting panicky too, being lost and in heavy traffic and with a deadline is a terrible combo. Hope the G&T therapy helped and today is devoid of traffic and Coventry. But all that aside, your visit itself sounds wonderful, so huge well dones for that. x

    #4588
    Squidge
    Participant

    Thanks both – I can honestly say I have never experienced the stress/panic I did yesterday. Once I knew I was safe – ie at the school – I was OK. Quite cathartic to write it all out though and wonder why I responded like I did when I don’t usually react in this way.

    #4589
    JaneShuff
    Participant

    The Coventry Ringway was designed by someone with a grudge against all mankind.

    #4590
    Philippa East
    Participant

    Oh my, Squidge, I sooooooo empathise! I am not a hugely confident driver on unfamiliar roads, and many’s the time I’ve driven around lost, being beeped at by angry drivers (because I’m breaching all kinds of road codes), crying and freaking out. It’s the WORST!!!
    So pleased you made it in the end, and the school visit itself went well.

    Being a writer is HARD. Bloody ring roads.

    #4595
    RichardB
    Participant

    You have my sympathy on two counts, Squidge. Fifteen or so years on, I still shudder at the memory of my only encounter with the Boulevard Périphérique in Paris – which will remain my only encounter if I have anything to do with it. And losing the GPS signal just when you need it: I’ve been there too, more than once. So frustrating.

    Glad the day turned out well in the end.

    #4597
    Bella
    Participant

    Ugh. What a hateful drive. Glad you made it in the end.

    I remember a family holiday to Belgium. We took 2 cars – stepson had not driven on the continent before. The idea was to drive in convoy, with an understanding that if we got separated hubby and I would press on to our destination because we had a fairly limited time slot in which to pick up the villa keys.

    All went fine through France. Our channel tunnel train had been delayed, though, and we hit the Brussels ring road, the airport stretch, at rush hour. Anyone who has been on that will know how foul it is. Four or five lanes with entry and exit slip roads ON BOTH SIDES. Stepson likes to keep a nice, safe, 2 second gap between him and the car in front, and we saw him in the rear view mirror falling further and further behind as Belgian drivers swarmed into his gap from every side. Poor sod. We just had to leave him to it. He eventually arrived unscathed (physically) but he got through rather a lot of beer that night and might just have had a blub or two on the way, though would never confess to that.

    Well done for pressing on, and then having the gumption to speak at the school. You are made of sterner stuff than I, Squidge. Hats off.

    #4616
    Squidge
    Participant

    I am so glad to hear that I’m not the only driver who goes through this!! Part of me was thinking I was a real idiot for getting so worked up after over 30 years of relatively trouble-free driving…but maybe getting majorly lost somewhere is a rite of passage that I’ve just managed to delay?!

    #4617
    RichardB
    Participant

    None of the holidays we used to have in France (we haven’t been there since we’ve acquired a sat-nav) used to be quite complete without getting comprehensively lost at least once.

    #4618
    JaneShuff
    Participant

    I parked the car in the middle of Rennes once and after I’d wiped away the tears, got out and walked until I found the road I needed…

    #4621
    RichardB
    Participant

    Toutes Directions, yes yes, Autres Routes, yes yes yes, but where is the bloody road to [insert town as appropriate]?…

    #4627
    Squidge
    Participant

    Oh Jane – yes, I can totally imagine that. And Richard – it would be so much easier if they actually had the right info on the signs, wouldn’t it?!

    #4634
    Bella
    Participant

    Yes it would be lovely if they had the right info on the signs. Especially before you find yourself on a toll road going the wrong way…

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