I’ve done a lot of driving in the past few days to and from Bordeaux, calling in at Limoges on the way back to leave some vital stuff eldest son had forgotten to take with him to Uni. It reminded me of my couple of years as a sales rep for some publishing companies back in the late 1980s, a couple of incidents in particular. One was the sinking feeling I got when I missed a turn and instead of circumnavigating most of Limoges, I found myself at the city limits faced with busy dual-carriageways and no inkling of where I was. This used to happen a lot when I went to a city for the first time in my repping days. Since I covered roughly half the UK, there were a lot of first trips! However, my rep training came back and I headed confidently in a random direction, looking for useful signposts or, this time, for anything I recognised from previous trips to Limousin’s principal city. You mustn’t show fear when driving in a city. You have to square your shoulders and grip the steering wheel tightly or else the old age pensioners, mums with kids in the back and teenage just-passed-the-testers will run you off the road! Luckily I got my bearings and negotiated my way to Benj’s block of flats to leave his stuff at reception since he was tied up in classes.
The other nicer incident was when I finally got round a lorry I’d been stuck behind for 31km of single carriageway on the N141. That’s a dire stretch of road and the main reason I prefer the longer but more expensive way (€16 of tolls) to go to Bordeaux. Anyway, when I overtook the tanker at the start of the dual carriageway again, I gave him a goodbye wave and he gave me a hoot and wave back. We’d been companions for a good 45 minutes. That sort of thing happened a lot as a rep and cheered up the tediousness of a lot of boring driving.
Talking of bored, the people behind the large digital motorway signs suffer from boredom quite a lot I guess. These big announcement boards, you know the ones that stretch right over the whole carriageway, are useful when they’re warning you of traffic jams or roadside fires (as on our last trip to Bordeaux) or errant chiens (stray dogs). However, when there’s nothing important to say, they’re a bit of a nuisacne. I went under one that told me to check my tyre pressure (I can’t remember the exact French phrase). What, right here and right now, I wondered? We were in the middle of nowhere with no handy services coming up to do as suggested so it all seemed rather a waste of time. Another read, ‘Covoiturage, je pollue moins’ (car pooling pollutes less). Fair enough, and fortunately I came across that one when I was taking Caiti out to the seaside so I was sharing the car! The last one I saw on the Bordeaux ringroad told me firmly that using the bus or tram was less polluting too. Again fair comment. I’d used the tram all day the day before, so I felt virtuous, and if the powers that be want to lay a tram track all the way to Nouzerines, or provide a handy bus, then I’d happily leave the car at home to visit Caiti! Not going to happen though. So these vacuous motorway sign remarks can be a tad annoying or disingenuous. But clearly they have to say something and can’t be left blank, that would never do!
I’ve readjusted to country life after 48 hours of cosmopolitanism. Here’s the proof. Spot the blue string? A sure sign I’m home! Don’t worry, I don’t usually hold my trousers up with it – it’s just to tease Caiti (although I did need something to keep the jeans round my waist!
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