The journey of life and love and faith is supposed to progress along a clear freeway on a perfect summers day, in a German car on auto-cruise.
It is meant to move smoothly and predictably in a fairly straight line from A to B, guided by an inbuilt GPS, sipping cappuccinos and listening to David Bowie.
We realise that the sun will eventually set, but it is expected to do so at the precise point where the highway intersects the horizon, at the perfect moment when the jangly guitars of Space Odyssey begin: “This is Ground Control to Major Tom, You’ve really made the grade”. The stars will start to shine, and this whole heavenly explosion of light and colour and music will take our breath away.
Unfortunately, we discover quite quickly that the journey upon which we have embarked is actually leading us along arduous, circuitous country lanes, through variable conditions, in a French car with a dodgy radio and an unreliable GPS on muck-spreading day.
For entire weeks we suspect we are heading in the wrong direction and the only radio station we can pick up is experimental Jazz.
We plunge into valleys so deep that the sun is obscured from the sky and then, occasionally, unexpectedly crest hills round bends and suddenly see the shining road miles ahead. But only for a few fleeting moments, until we descend again into the twists and turns of the valley below.
Some people reverse furiously, even traversing off-road in search of another way. Others drive at suicidal speeds on these winding lanes, honking at those who are slow, overtaking on blind corners until they crash and burn.
But a few perverse pilgrims turn to old-fashioned paper maps. They learn to cherish unexpected views, experimental jazz and the vagueries of French engineering. Relaxing into the absurdity of the journey they relinquish the need to be right, or in charge, or in front, or efficient.
These old folks pause to picnic beside their ancient Renaults, their dented Peugeots, their rusty 2-CV’s, waving at the German cars speeding past, discussing bebop and avant-garde (as if they’d never even heard of Bowie or The Beatles or Bach’s Mass in B Minor).
Their GPS is off. The map is buried somewhere on the back seat. It’s as if they have reached their destination already while still in motion. And along the way these scribbled roads, this disappointing sunset, this blemished reality has become their greatest joy.