One for the road part 2

I’m a foolish woman. There, I’ve said it.

I vowed never to get into the car with my husband after the last incident but like Britney Spears, I did it again.

After the last ‘incident’ I’d had enough stress to last me for at least 12 months, so when the big day arrived to drive across town to my husband’s aunt’s place I dug my heels in and told him that I would be driving. I saw him cringe but I ignored it. Let him have a taste of his own medicine.

I packed my trusty Navman into my bag to set up in the car. I trusted this little device more than I trusted my gynaecologist. Nothing could go wrong with this  gadget showing the way, could it?

Everything was going fine for the first half hour. I was zig-zagging in and out of the traffic like a pro, enjoying the look of discomfort on my husband’s face as he white-knuckled the door handle every time I braked. I was confident that the key to my salvation rested on the proper-English voice leading the way from the dashboard.

‘Why did you pick a woman’s voice?’ My husband ground out through a hair-pin curve.

‘Because a woman telling me what to do is not stressful.’ I smiled sweetly at him and continued on my way.

We hit the freeway and I relaxed a little more. It was only a matter of finding the right exit point now. My ‘Navwoman’ could do that standing on her head.

We had passed about 6 exit points when Navwoman started waffling about going straight ahead and veering to the left at the same time. I wasn’t sure what that meant so I queried it with my husband.

‘It means go straight ahead but stay in the left lane.’ He barked at me and pointed to the Navman screen. ‘See?’ All I could see was a bunch of arrows, 3 pointing straight and 1 veering to the left but I didn’t argue.

I continued straight ahead in the left lane. Sailing past yet another exit point.

‘Now recalibrating. Recalibrating now.’ Navwoman squeaked.  I looked at my husband and back at ‘Navman’.

‘You’re going the wrong way!’ he snapped.

YOU told me to go straight ahead and NOT veer off!’ I snapped back.

Navman was silent as we continued on down the freeway. I prayed for instruction. ‘Continue straight ahead, continue straight ahead.’

My husband was tapping the dashboard and going red in the face. ‘Pull into the next exit regardless of what that thing says and pull over. I’m driving!’

‘Over my dead body!’

‘That can be arranged today!’

I gnashed my teeth, pulled into the next exit and found a place to stop. My husband bolted out of the passenger seat around to my side. ‘Get out! Before I get run over!’

I looked at my husband. The veins on the sides of his neck were popping out.  I scrambled over the drivers side seat to the passenger side. There was no way I was getting out. Getting left behind and/or getting run over by a truck were distinct possibilities.

‘Recalibrating, recalibrating.. ‘ My husband went to grab the Navman. I wasn’t sure if he was disconnecting it or attempting to heave it out the window, so I grabbed it first.

Stop it! Just leave it on in case you need it.’

‘I will find my own way there like I was going to do in the first place.’

‘Oh yeh, that’s right, like the drive to the funeral the other day.’ I glared at him. He insisted on leaving the Navman at home because he knew the way and yelled at me when he got lost.

‘Be quiet and let me concentrate, will you?’

‘Fine,’ I snorted, ‘you do it your way.’

So I was quiet and turned my attention to other drivers on the road for the next half hour. Maybe there was somebody else being yelled at who I could sympathise with.

He eventually found an entry on the other side of the freeway and made his way back to our missed exit point. I gripped the handle and closed my eyes as he exited the freeway at breakneck speed and swore. He drove like a madman for another 10 minutes, swore again and pulled over. I opened my eyes and saw the same street I had seen 10 minutes ago.

He turned on the Navman again. I continued to ignore his rants.

We arrived at our destination a mere 15 minutes later than expected, as we had left early.

He looked at me. ‘For God’s sake woman, why are you not speaking to me?’

‘Because you told me to be quiet.’ I smiled sweetly again.

‘That’s never stopped you before.’

We also arrived before my husband’s brother, who came in ranting about ‘the blasted Navman’ that got him lost on the freeway. I looked at my husband, raised my eyebrows and shook my head. ‘There you go, I’m not the only dimwit here today.’

My brother-in-law looked from me to my husband. I told him what had happened. ‘Oh… that’s nothing,’ he sighed. ‘we went up the same street 3 times and MY wife sat in the back to get away from me.’

My sister-in-law and I exchanged knowing nods and smiles and left them to it.

He insisted on driving home and I let him. He got lost again and we ended up in the city, then he got booked for speeding 20 minutes away from home after I suggested that he slow down.

Next time we travel he can take any car he wants. Just as long as I’m not in it.


Boating beauty

My husband took me out in his new boat the other day.

Well, it was more like a second-hand small floating device for 3 or 4 people, but he just wanted it for commuting back and forth from the island to the mainland and for going fishing with my dad, so he was happy.

I, on the other hand, am happy having my feet on solid ground.  I’m a big advocate of the old saying, ‘the more firma, the less terra.’ Just because I  live on an island doesn’t make me an old salt.  I only do the ferry on a glass-perfect day and even then it’s only a 7 minute run – according to my wristwatch – on a hair-raising gale force ride across the bay in the now-distant past.

It was one of those perfect glass-like days when my husband suggested a test run in his new craft. He sealed the deal when he announced that he was taking my precious dogs for their first boating adventure to try out their ‘sea legs.’  Horrific visions danced in front of my eyes of my husband jumping overboard to rescue one of my precocious pets while the now abandoned driverless tinnie continued on it’s merry way out to sea with my 2 remaining distraught  furbabies. I found myself nodding a mute yes as I gathered the closest of my fur-children to my chest. If they were going down with the ship, then so was I.

A crowd had gathered down at the boat ramp as blokes of all shapes and sizes jostled to show off their crafts. Our little boat was  lost in the fray as the mines-bigger-than-yours brigade sized up our meagre offering and our pitiful attempts to back it into the water. Our tinnie was so small that even on the trailer it still could not be seen in the rear-view mirror, which made it extremely difficult to tell which direction it was being backed to. There was a lot of chortling and a final cheer as we succeeded in making it to the water. The only thing that was missing from this picture was a fine bottle of wine to crack on her bow.

One local wag decided to wander up to us and have a go at my husband’s navigational skills, but backed off pretty quickly when my husband glared at him and barked something about not having to back a God damn ship into the water, as it was already in the God damn water.  The irony of somebody who can drive a ship, but can’t back a boat into the water was not lost on me either, to be honest.

Of course, my husband had something to prove now, so he installed me at the front with the dogs and opened up the throttle. Pretty soon we were hurtling across the bay with bravado and at breakneck speed.  I ground my teeth together and tried to hold onto the dogs with one hand and the side of the boat with the other  as we slid around like hockey pucks on the front seat. There was a bone-jarring crunch as we we became airborne and hit the deck.  I lost my hat and would have lost one of the dogs if I hadn’t had a death-grip on his collar. My husband banked sharply to the right and then circled to the left in an effort to retrieve my hat before it floated off with the tide. I closed my eyes, thanking God again that this wasn’t a dog.

I looked at my husband’s grinning mug and demanded to be taken back to the ramp before I hit him with one of his new oars. If he wanted me out here again, it had better be on the blasted Australia Sky cruise ship, and only then in first class.

One for the road

A couple of months ago I decided to bite the bullet and buy a GPS for my new car.

I’d decided that I was going to get one a few years back after my husband and I went for a holiday to the other side of the country and hired one of these gadgets along with the hire car we were to get around in. To say that these little Navmans are marriage savers is an understatement. We arrived at our designated destinations on our tour in good time and good spirits. There were no arguments about maps, driving abilities, or shortcomings and everyone remained calm at all times, which was a miracle in itself when you consider the ramifications of two short-fuses in a confined space.

I’d pretty much put it on the backburner after that, because I rarely travel and I generally know my way around the local region, but when my mother suggested a trip down the coast,  I made a beeline for the nearest gadget store and purchased one.  My new Navman proved to be a valuable asset in getting me out of what could have been a mind-numbing exercise driving-around-in-circles-and-getting-nowhere all day. My mother was also impressed that I didn’t yell once and she didn’t have to white-knuckle a map for the entire trip.

I’d been itching for another chance to use it, and when we had to go across town into generally ‘unchartered territory’ recently to a funeral, I asked my husband if he would like to take the Navman along and test it out.

No, he said. And that was it. He said that he could find his way over there easily enough. He knew where he was going, he’d been that way before. I tried not to cringe and I weighed up the merit of sneaking it into my bag just in case, but decided against it. My husband could navigate ships around the world. Surely he knew what he was doing.

What my husband didn’t allow for was the passage of time. You can’t update an old memory the way that you can update a Navman online, that’s for sure. There were more new roads and highways post 10 years or so than you could poke a stick at. My husband drove head-on into the mayhem, determined not to admit that he was lost and that he might just need a little outside intervention at sometime in the preferably-near future.

Of course, by now the clock was ticking, and we were late, which made his decisions a little more erratic and unpredictable. I asked if I could go to the toilet and he looked at me like I was insane. I ‘suggested,’ while resisting the urge to swear at him, that he ask the service station attendant for directions while I use the amenities, therefore killing 2 birds with one stone. He conceded and I stopped crossing my legs.

We arrived at the church just in time to hear the last 10 minutes of the service and greet the relatives. Then he got lost again getting to the wake.

We have to go out again in two days to the west side of town to see an old aunt of his and celebrate her birthday.  I have never been there before in my life and he hasn’t been there for as long as I have known him, which is a long time.

I have already written down the address and stashed this and the Navman in my bag.

Where I live

Living on an island has its pros and cons. A benefit is I get to ‘get away from it all’ without having to actually get away. My island isn’t that far away from the mainland, less than a kilometre. It’s so close it’s still classed as a suburb of the city, and the region, that I live in. But  it’s far enough away from the rat race not to have to worry about the rats. It has its drawbacks, that’s for sure, but that’s another story better left for another blog.

Living on an island, you are inevitably subjected to ‘island mentality,’ which may or may not necessarily be your mentality, but you are subject to it anyway.  It doesn’t matter how much I stay away from the goings on and the gossip, it finds me sooner or later.

The fact that we are a small community cut off, essentially, from the mainland by a body of water, tends to make the community itself more people-orientated and people-interested. Small news is a matter of constant circulation. Big news is around the island in 24 hours. My husband once said to me that a body couldn’t fart on one side of the island without the other side knowing about it the next day, which is essentially true – although what started as a fart may end up as a colonoscopy. You have to keep an open mind around here. Nothing is what it seems.

My husband and I generally keep to ourselves, but we get along with most of the locals. We are basically a condensed version of the larger community, but a hell of a lot easier to categorise, if you have the inclination.

On the far side of the island we have ‘the gentry,’ or they like to think they are. A little more money and a lot less commonsense when it comes to the art of public relations than the rest of us. To the left side are the heinz variety set. You never know what you are going to get, from hippies to ferals, it’s a mixed bag. Over in our neck of the woods is the middle-lot who want to be left to their own devices unless otherwise notified.

The jury is still out on whether you have to have a french fry short of a happy meal to live here, or whether you start off all right and you end up that way after a few years of island life. I’m okay most days, but my reclusive habits have not gone unnoticed by the rest of my family.

I’ll admit I’m a little eccentric at times, but this is a product of larger environmental and social influences, rather than 3 years on a 3-kilometre-round island. In comparison to some of the more colourful identities, I’d say I’m pretty much holding my own at present.

Take the woman who lives in the next street who gets around on a battery-operated 4 wheeled scooter and tries to run you over if you get in her way. Even if you are in a car that is 4 times the size of her and her scooter combined, she will have a go. My strategy here is to try and avoid all eye contact in case she sees it as a threat, because she knows where I live.

Another lady who deserves a mention is known to get around the island doing odd jobs here and there.  I often pop into her house to make sure she is still alive. She is the only person I have ever seen step on a rake and knock herself out as the handle has flown up and hit her square between the eyes. Up until that point, I thought that this was just a staged act reserved for old comedy skits. She has fallen from a tractor, fallen into a ditch, fallen from a boat, fallen from a push bike and stepped on at least a half a dozen nails. I have lost count of the times she has been in emergency. I have only known this woman for 3 years. Her heart is in the right place, but her body needs to be behind a desk where she can do no harm to herself or others.

The guy up the road who also appears to be in the odd-job game, in my opinion, should have quit while he was ahead a long time ago. He says he will do anything, which is true – the rub lies in whether he will do it properly or to completion. His last grand adventure involved an old boat that needed to be moved from it’s dust spot in a garage somewhere and  out onto one of the moorings. He had just the trailer to move it to the barge ramp so that it could be floated out to aforementioned mooring. The only trouble with that theory was that the old boat had a concrete bottom and the trailer was full of rust. The trailer gave up the ghost just as he was getting the boat down the ramp. The barge service was held up for 24 hours before somebody could work out how to get an old concrete-filled hull off the ramp. Nobody could get on or off the island for a whole day. Aforementioned idiot disappeared and was not seen again until the fuss died down. Aforementioned boat was last seen beached and broken about 500 metres east of the ramp just yesterday.

Sooner or later, if you live somewhere for long enough, you become a part of the story. I’m probably known on the island as the ‘eccentric dog lady’ who drives the 3 kilometres around the island just so the dogs can feel that they’ve been out for a trip. I’ve also been known to terrorise an elderly lady on my motorbike when she wouldn’t get out of the way, and tell the local so-called electrician what he could do with his light bulb. I keep to myself most of the time, but I’m reasonably sure that my ad-libs have done the rounds on occasion and perhaps twisted themselves into epic proportions. The first time I pulled out of the driveway on my motorbike, nobody would talk to me for months. I must have been a member of the local bikie gang, but I will never know, and I don’t care. At least they leave me alone.

The next time you are thinking that you are living in Melrose Place and it’s getting to you, think about living on an island.

Walking the dog

I went for a walk this evening.

I’m a bit of an evening person. Unlike my husband, who is a morning person. It makes for an interesting relationship. He’s up at the crack of dawn with a cheery ‘good morning’ practically shining out of all of his orifices, while I’m barely sliding a glance his way and mumbling incoherently something better left obscure. Honestly! Some people have a nerve to be so happy at that time of the day.

Mum and dad are the same. Dad is up before the sparrow farts. Mum doesn’t surface until well after the sparrow has farted, fed itself and its offspring and foraged for a good 2 hours into its day.

But back to my walk. I usually wait until its dark. By this time of the evening, there’s no getting my husband out of his armchair, which is a pity, as he is missing, in my opinion, the best time of the 24-hour day.

The fact that I live on an island makes the prospect of an evening walk that much more enjoyable. Sure, you can get your early morning kick from walking along the beach as the sun rises and  glistens over the gentle flow of the tide as it washes to the shoreline while you quietly contemplate your day, but nothing beats  the glow of the moon as it ripples into a black velvety ocean, bordered by the endless glint of the  night sky.

There is something peaceful, yet thought-provoking, as I meander along with my dogs, squelching the soft sand between my toes as I move forward. My sight is diminished in the deceptive black-greyness that surrounds me, but there is so much going on! My ears pick up the sounds of the wind as it slides through the trees and flicks the sand at my feet. I count the sounds as each tree rustles and moves along like a crowd-wave at a football game. I hear a curlew crying off in the distance. Others in the curlew contingent join in for moral support. This  triggers all sort of amazing whoops, titters, clacks, chirps, and chatters from the surrounding scrub. Life is teeming in every nook and cranny, exacerbated by the cloak of anonymity that engulfs us all.

I walk a little further, my mood light and my mind now clear. My shoes crunch along a pebbled path winding away from the beach and back onto a road. I can see a dimly-lit street amidst a canopy of trees. It is almost surreal as it beams off into the distance like a golden tunnel in a  system of street lighting that mixes island ambience with a touch of recent modernisation. It reminds me of something I knew as a child, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. It feels comfortable, like home.

I look into the sky. The half moon lights up a cloud sliver as it slides beneath its glow. I see the silhouette of a sea hawk as it hovers for a moment and disappears sharply into the trees. I hear a bluster in the bush and a squeal, and thank the lord that I’m somewhat bigger than a rodent.

As I turn towards home, I find that I am relaxed. The agitation of the day has disappeared into the clean, crisp air that envelopes me. My dogs are happy. I’m happy.

I might just make a habit of it.