Like any half-decent Englishman, I have learned, over the years, to accept and obey the traffic laws and by-laws dictated to us by criminals and lunatics in suits. I’ve been burned too many times now, and any fight I may once have had in the flower of my youth has deliquesced into a tragic slurry of sufferance. In my head, I remain a Knight Templar of fierce resistance; in reality, I’m that bloke who’s married to Hyacinth Bucket.
Anyway, for reasons completely beyond me, I was forced to drive into Swindon a few weeks ago. As I turned off the M4, I tried to remind myself of any saving graces it had to offer: I knew the band XTC came from there, and I found myself whistling Senses Working Overtime over the top of Radio 4 as the landscape morphed from remote pastoral beauty into a brushed aluminium and steel megalopolis. ‘No biggie’, I thought, ‘I can handle this.’ But then, as I mentally glossed over the brutal truth that was beginning to unfurl, everything ground to a halt. The satnav, which I had recently upgraded from a bossy American cartoon character into a satisfyingly British Jeeves, suggested ever so politely that I did a u-turn. Then ever so slightly less so. And then it really kicked off:
Satnav: Get the fuck outta here, dickweed!
Me: Listen, I’ve just paid an extra £40 for some manners and a posh voice. What’s going on?
Satnav: This is Swindon, man! It’s the wild fucking West! See that bitch coming up? See that? That’s the Magic fucking Roundabout, dude! No one gets out alive.
Me: Perfectly straightforward. If we simply obey the Highway Code and follow the signs, I’m sure everything will turn out just fine.
Satnav: Damn! I should kick your scrawny ass right down that motorway. TURN THIS MOTHERFUCKER AROUND NOW!!! Ain’t telling you again.
Me: I can see you’re upset. But it’s only a roundabout. And it’s not exactly Basingstoke, is it?
Satnav: Basingstoke’s got nothing on this. Do your research.
Me: I have. According to the Basingstoke Gazette, Brighton Hill and Thornycroft are the two most miserable roundabouts in Great Britain; particularly in rush hour.
Satnav: Yeah? YEAH??? Well, chew on this one – In 2009, the Swindon Magic Roundabout was voted fourth scariest junction in the UK by Britannia Rescue. And dangerousroads.org said it’s one of the most complex rotaries in the world. So fuck you.
Me: Where were the other three?
Satnav: It didn’t say.
Me: My money’s on Basingstoke.
Satnav: We don’t have time for this. You gonna turn around or no?
Me: It’s illegal to do a u-turn on the approach to a junction. You should know that.
Satnav: You brown-nosed, obsequious piece of shit. On your own head be it.
Me: Do you like XTC?
Satnav: They’re okay. Prefer their earlier stuff.
Me: Shall we put some on?
Satnav: As you wish, sir.