I never thought I’d live so far away from the town I grew up in.
To be fair it’s not really that far away. It’s twenty five minutes on the M25 and M11, but I have a motorway phobia (even stronger than my prawn phobia) and so it seems I spend my whole life avoiding motorways. Therefore, I take the long route, via Woodford, Grange Hill, Chigwell, Hainault, A12 and A127, until I finally reach my home town some forty five minutes to an hour later.
If only I could drive on motorways. My life would be easier, my journeys would be shorter, my petrol bills would be less, but I can’t do it. I find them a terrifying, frightening, fast, confusing, real-life nightmare.
I do not have a very good sense of direction or quick reflexes, which is a recipe for disaster on such big roads. I have driven on a motorway once, and nearly twice but luckily my future father in law came to my rescue on the nearly second time. It was also the second time he has come to my rescue, the other time being when I was locked out of my flat, but that’s another post.
During my first motorway adventure/nightmare my friend met me at a meeting point and I followed her blue car, with sweaty palms and a racing heart. I pleaded with her to promise me she would not drive too fast, she would always check her mirror to confirm I was right behind her, and she would provide plenty of warning and signalling when changing lanes and directions. It was unfortunately impossible to visit her new home without driving on a motorway, and I decided that at the age of 33 I could no longer avoid travelling on the M25.
“I can do it, I can do it,” I continually repeated to myself and tried to reassure my anxious self during the whole scary experience. We stopped at the toll both to chuck our pound coins in the bucket and she shouted (proudly?) at the toll assistant, “It’s her first time on the M25!” He must have seen my panic stricken, ashen white face, because he shouted at me, “Good luck!” and it was all I could manage to stick my thumb up at him, through my gritted teeth, not trusting my voice to work without concealing just how petrified I was.
But I did it. We were only on the M25 for about ten minutes but it was one of the longest ten minutes of my life.
When we reached my friends house I was so relived and pleased with myself that I could have wept with joy. Until I realised I would have to complete the return journey home ALL ON MY OWN! I spent the entire time at my friend’s house worrying about this.
“It's easy,” friend assured me, explaining very carefully and slowly, as if talking to a small child, which turning to take and which junction to come off at.
Guess what? It wasn't easy, I went the wrong way. I panicked, questioned which lane to take for too long, took the wrong lane and the wrong turning and then practically screamed with pure horror that I was driving on the M25 and I had no idea where I was heading.
Cars zoomed past me in their confident, cocky, we know where we’re going kind of way. I drove as slow as I dared, holding the steering wheel with trembling hands, peering out of the window and willing a huge flashing neon sign to appear with an arrow and the words: NIKKI! THIS IS THE WAY HOME.
Alas this sign did not appear. But I managed to calm myself, concentrate on the road signs and eventually found the correct way home, with my stomach in knots and my head pounding with fear. I vowed never to drive on the M25 ever again. And I have kept solemnly to my word.
So I gladly take the long way to my parent’s house, to the town I grew up in. I don’t mind that it takes twice as long, sometimes longer. I don’t mind that I drive through many towns, past many parks and buildings and join A roads.
I can do A roads, they’re a welcome pleasure after my M25 disaster, A roads are a dream compared to a motorway. Besides, it’s a great excuse to listen to a whole Wham! or George Michael CD. As if I really need one. But it means I can confidently return to the familiar streets and houses, past the school I grew up in and the park I used to play in, and the pub I used to drink in.
Memories always come flooding back, the scenes are always comforting, and I always feel relaxed, even if my throat is sometimes a little sore from singing very loudly. And I’m always happy to see my parents, checking their cupboards and fridge for food in the process, and feeling mighty grateful that I’ve avoided a motorway once again.