When driving, my husband has a habit of always trying different routes just to ‘ring the changes’. Living where we are in rural Lincolnshire, there are often several ways of reaching the same destination. So, returning from Crowland on Saturday afternoon, heading back to Holbeach, Dougie decided to take some of the back roads, to avoid being in a queue of lorries heading up the A16 towards Spalding. Sneaking down Stonegate, Cowbit, his great idea was scuppered as the road ahead was blocked by a large articulated lorry, the likes of which he had been hoping to avoid.
As we slowed down and neared the vehicle, we noticed its Spanish registration plates and a rather agitated chap urging us to stop. In hindsight it’s a wonder our first thoughts weren’t of impending doom, becoming victims of some clever ruse to get us out of the car so he could rob us of our little bag of change we keep in the glove compartment for car park machines. This didn’t cross my mind. Instead, Dougie wound down the window:
‘Finlay Flowers?’ asked the Spanish lorry driver as his mate proceeded to wave through other drivers so they could go on their merry way.
Neither of us had heard of Finlay Flowers.
“Yes, this is Stonegate”
“Weston!”, I chirped from the passenger seat. “You want the village of Weston?”
“Yes, Wes..ton!”, he smiled.
“This is Cowbit, not Weston”, I replied, before having a brainwave.
“Have you got your invoice….delivery note….bit of paper?” I asked him, in that slow, exaggerated way we Brits employ when speaking to foreigners, accompanied by ‘Give us a Clue’ style mimes, mostly describing a rectangle with squiggly lines.
Our flower delivery man rushed back to the cab and returned with a pink delivery note. As we suspected, Finlay Flowers was in Stonegate, Weston, a different village entirely, some 10 to 15 minutes away. Thankfully, due to many years of travelling the back roads visiting patients and his habit of ‘ringing the changes’ on normal journeys, Dougie knew exactly where Stonegate was. Although Finlay Flowers meant nothing to either of us, Dougie surmised that it was probably a new name for a flower/bulb storage building, formerly known as Lingarden.
“Can you draw a map?” our flower friend asked, his English being hugely better than our Spanish.
Dougie contemplated this for a moment then announced;
As the two Spaniards clambered back into the lorry, Dougie executed a U-turn in the road and we began the journey to the new Stonegate. With Rory in the back seat, issuing commands to his father to slow down or wait, to make sure the lorry had seen which road we were taking, particularly at each of the several roundabouts we had to negotiate, we lead our lorry through the roads of South Lincolnshire to his destination.
A final turn into Stonegate and we pulled up outside the building we hoped contained Finlay Flowers. As one of the chaps took the delivery note to the security guard operating the barrier, our friend came over to the car. Dougie jumped out of the car and much manly hand-shaking and arm-squeezing ensued, with relieved and joyous exclamations of ‘Happy Christmas’ from our new Spanish amigo.
Feeling very virtuous we carried on home, having done our good deed for the day.
I decided to mention it on Facebook over the weekend and was quite delighted at the reaction from people, who all agreed we had done a very generous thing and that it gave people a warm feeling, so perfect for Christmas. Dougie’s cousin, who is a florist in Edinburgh, was full of praise for what we had done, in ‘getting the flowers through for Christmas’ then wondered whether Dougie had access to a flashing light he could have popped on the roof of the car, imagining an emergency dash through the streets, leading the way for the precious cargo behind.
But such good deeds can always be trumped and this one most certainly was. My mum rang to tell me of a similar situation many years ago in an IKEA car-park in Gateshead, south of Newcastle. A Scandinavian couple (were they really shopping in an IKEA in England?) were lost, trying to find their way to the ferry at North Shields so they could get home. My dad, just like my husband, had said, “Follow me!” and proceeded to lead the couple back over the river and along the Tyne to the ferry. Unlike our gesture, which, truth be told, didn’t involve a big diversion from our route, my father’s rescue mission took him and my mum miles out of their way. They were rewarded with similar handshakes and thank yous and entente cordiale.
Just when I was feeling proud about these two warm-hearted men, my mum rings me today to say her sister’s husband, my Uncle Alan, had, just a few months ago, been asked for directions to the North Shields ferry by a couple who were lost in Wallsend, east of Newcastle. Alan had been on foot at the time but decided to fetch his car and then lead the hapless couple to the ferry.
I’m left wondering the following:
Is this just something the men in our family do?
Can you top this?
Is the North Shields ferry terminal not signposted?
Do people not have maps any more, let alone SatNavs?