“hello, Sir, my name is Colin and I am a taxi driver from Abingdon,” I said to a man, on whose door I had knocked after dark this week, to ask for directions. I can’t come to any harm, I had said to myself, as the Holy Spirit and liberal use of English common sense should protect me.
He lived on a huge farm, in the middle of a valley in Buckinghamshire, at the end of several tracks, four or five turnings from the nearest properly paved road. It was not, however, what could credibly be described as a main road at all, itself beset with potholes and falling apart at the edges, as is the modern way, symbolic of the age in which we live.
It was almost half an hour since we had left the A41, between Bicester and Aylesbury, travelling on unlit single track roads. What I had envisaged would be a relatively trouble free journey up the A34 from Abingdon, then right at Bicester on A41, and right again at Ludgershall, following satellite navigation for no more than ten minutes.
And at Oakley, there was yet another cultural reference not understood by one of my passengers because I am too old and have lived in the wider area - and been mostly familiar with its roads for more than half a century. “Look, there’s Oakley, where the great train robbers had a hide out.”
“Who are they?” my passenger asked.
In the Buckinghamshire darkness, at the bottom of a valley where the mobile phone signal had run out, we could not locate the destination address where the satellite navigation system had told us that it should be. So I resorted to the old fashioned method of knocking on someone’s door. He did provide us with directions, but we had got lost again, after crossing the railway line three or four times further.
“Let us drive to the top of the hill,” I proclaimed, where we could get a mobile phone signal, so we called the property and someone there drove out to meet us, in the middle of a tiny village, the name of which I had never previously heard.
Another passenger had been safely delivered to their destination. But it was slightly disconcerting to be on unfamiliar territory, in the ‘Middle of Nowhere’, as it is euphemistically termed and without the use of the technology on which we are all reliant these days, to a lesser or greater extent. With my prediction for useful gadgetry, me more so than most people.
It reminded me of a journey I had made as a passenger in a dear friend’s car this week, rare in itself, even rarer that I should accept their offer of help, doggedly independent as I am. I thought it quaint that they had a stack of paper maps in their car. But perhaps the use of paper maps is not so quaint after all, even in this age and day.