See You Later, Navigator!

That’s the way we oldies – such as me & the missus – still potter around Europe in our three-year-old ‘Bored Siesta’ (no clandestine advertising on my blog, especially since I’m not being paid for it). A younger colleague of mine who acts as our joint IT advisor – more like our IT foster father – says that without the ‘Navi’ (as it is called in German) we, that’s me & the missus, are just a public nuisance; with the Navi, we shall be a public menace.

He’s right, of course. It’s the way the Navi Aunty, as he calls her – hunh? Navy aunty? Oh, the woman who gives the instructions on the gps. The thing that really gets on my nerves is her infinite patience: you can make any kind of mistake, even take a U-turn instead of going straight, Navi Aunty will never call you a fool or box your ears but recalculate & tell you to go to the left or go to the right as if nothing has happened; whereas I would have told the driver in question to go to hell, he being too stupid to drive anyway.

“Dear Arun-da, you can’t even operate your smartphone, you think you can operate a Navi?” His smartphone transforms itself into a Navi, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Still, I call it disrespect for a senior colleague. The fact that I’m not smart enough to operate my phone does not mean that I cannot navigate my way around a Navi – and that’s exactly what I, we, that’s me & the missus, did. We decided to do without a Navi this time as well, while travelling all the way from Bonn to Dinard in our Bored Siesta.

What or where is Dinard? It’s in Brittany in northwestern France, close to the more famous town of Saint-Malo – until the Wales national football team decided to make Dinard their base for the Euro 2016 football championships. When we went to Dinard, they still hadn’t taken down the flags – so just ask Gareth Bale the next time you meet him where Dinard is. Or you can ask your navy aunty.

The missus still mourns for those maps from the German automobile club on which the lady at the counter used to mark out the route with an orange marker – ADAC has done away with the service now. Today you get sheafs of printout detailing every stage of your journey like a ship’s log or a rocket launch. Or you can buy or download – maybe even steal! – a Navi to take you from Bonn to Dinard. Get into the car, check whether the dog is in, then give the address, Boulevard Albert Lacroix Number Such-and-Such, Dinard to the Navi and watch Aunty tell you how to get out of Plittersdorf, Bonn and head for the wide open spaces by turning left after 25 metres.

The Aunty on my younger colleague’s Navi has a rather sexy voice, I thought. I even told the missus about it. That’s when she objected to our acquiring a Navi, I think. Be that as it may, while the world is going ga-ga over Michelle Obama’s Carpool Karaoke, nobody’s kept a tab on the magnificent fights that me & the missus have had because she should have been watching the road signs while I was driving – or the other way round. This time it ended in: “If you saw that it was the exit for Dinard, how come we’re heading for Dinan?” They have two such places right next to each other and both are pronounced Dina, in all probability, knowing the French, God knows how they manage to communicate. “I’m going to Dina and you’re going to Dina, so we can’t meet for lunch. Let’s have dina at Samalo, shall we?”

We’d made a stopover in Amiens on our way to Dinard. The missus had booked a couple of rooms in an Anubis (no-clandestine-advertising-on-my-blog) hotel in Abbeville, for the return journey. Why ‘a couple of rooms’ for a married couple of our antiquity? No, not because we are practising separation but because (i) we had the dog with us & (ii) because I snore – you figure out the rest. Going to Dinard, we’d entered Amiens from the wrong side and had a wonderful drive down a street whose name we couldn’t find on any signpost – in any case, it went downhill and had a wonderful row of two-storeyed Breton houses… Forget it.

Just as we shouldn’t have got lost trying to get back to the road from a motorway service near Abbeville. This was on the way back. Turned out that we were heading back towards the English Channel, so we took the exit at Douchy-les-Mines and asked a kind-looking gentleman in which direction Belgium, Germany et al might lie. Took us five minutes to understand that the man was talking English but he saved our souls better than any automobile club or salvation army or navy aunty.

Like the man looking like a carbon copy of Alain Delon who came down the steps of an impressive pile – a bank? – and tried for around two minutes – in French, with lots of à droites and à gauches – and then told me and my younger brother to follow his BMW (a car or a man of that kind doesn’t need any clandestine advertising). He told us to get into our car and follow his i.e., he’d take us to the place we were trying to go to, bless him and all split infinitives. This was in Paris in the middle of the ’nineties, did I mention?

Ten years later me & the missus were going round in circles in Milan trying to find the Holiday Sin hotel where we were going to make a stopover on our way to Florence. There were some people – very formally dressed, for some reason – standing outside an old building of sorts. Then a young man in coattails came out and got into a car. I charged towards him in my desperation. He listened to my rant for around 30 seconds and then said what Alain Delon had said in Paris: “Follow our car.” When I came back to ours, the missus said: “Did you see the woman sitting next to him?” “Yes, she had a funny sort of veil on her head and a long, billowy kind of dress which filled the whole leg space…” “That’s the bride, you numskull” (or its German equivalent), “you just hijacked a pair of newly-weds to show you the way to your ruddy Holiday Sin. Before they take off for their honeymoon.”

Thank God I had a Bismillah Khan CD in the car, practically new, which I presented to the bridal pair when we parted. Sehnai was Indian marriage music, I told them blandly, knowing that the maestro was nowhere within earshot.