It’s hard to stare dreamily at the sky when you’re stuck behind a bunch of BMW-driving twits thrusting at each other in stop-start traffic on the A1. Hard to stare out of the window and muse on the nature of journeys as some pillock whacks his hazards on and you’re neck-cricked back into the mundanity of the UK’s infrastructure and the tiresomeness of humans in general. It’s almost impossible to reflect on life and beauty and all that when you’re mostly fantasising about killing the tractor-driver up ahead who’s causing all this chaos; this hokey-cokey for cars.
It is sometimes in cars that you come to see how compatible you are with your partner. Some people find out slowly in their own homes, or hotels, or fancy restaurants, or family functions (if your partner belches his way through The Lord Is My Shepherd at your great nan’s funeral, for example – you might be encouraged to question the future of your union). Sometimes you can get the measure of a man in a car. Something about the confined space creates an almost laboratorial effect around a couple; the car tests you both.
Now, I always, as a rule, prefer it if a man doesn’t threaten suicide alongside the central reservation halfway to Manchester, or kick a satnav off the windscreen when he’s feeling a bit narked. That might just be me. I’m a bit sensitive that way. So it was with relief that Matt and I made it to Newcastle last week without me nervously chewing myself an internal dimple.
I navigated. This is a posh way of saying I read out the bulletpoints we printed off Google. Matt doesn’t like sat-navs. I respect him for this. In my experience sat-navs are mischievous, megalomaniacal, or just plain rude.
Test one was the CDs. I picked them. He let me. Impressive.
Test two was how soon after our leaving breakfast would we cave and confess to each other that we wanted to break open the packed lunch. I’m glad to report that we both lasted under an hour and so were our foundations strengthened; it is against human nature to ignore beef and mustard sandwiches, even if you have just had a full English. If one of us had been a low-carb carrot-wielding chub-watcher who wanted to wait til evensong to eat a slice of marrow we’d have probably broken up before we hit Peterborough.
Test three was a little more hardcore. I stupidly decided to stick my nose in Matt’s neck during a dicy bit of the roundabout leading onto the M25. Most men would be forgiven for shouting at me or for careering into an obstructive Honda then blaming me forever. Matt stayed calm and even managed to take the right exit without making me remove my nose from his earlobe. It was like he would rather we died than offend me, which is sweet.
We got to Newcastle, tackled inner-city ringroads, an NCP, and a Travelodge, and I realised at the end of it all, as we locked the car and stretched our legs, that I felt calm. That Matt, although a bit frazzled from driving, mostly just wanted to make sure I was okay. That I just wanted to make sure he was okay, better than okay – happy. And I thought that was a pretty good sign. If a six hour journey on the A1 with a load of cretins remains mostly unremarkable but for realising you are at long last content and peaceful with someone, then that’s pretty good going.