Map Reading For
by Simon Hodgson
Fitzsimmons has incredible geographical instincts.
We could be walking around the minotaurs
labyrinth with snargling noises yards behind us
and shed still say, I think its
round this corner then on the left. And
wed escape through the door just as the
beast came whiffling and hurring around the bend.
Put the girl
in a car though, and she couldnt find her
way out of a parking space. We drove up to
Mendocino last month. Out of the city, across the
Golden Gate, up highway 101. Id planned to
stop off in Rohnert Park.
before we get there, I ask Fitzsimmons.
should I know, she says, the road atlas
draped carelessly across her lap.
you could look at the map and see what the next
she says, its ten minutes.
just made that up.
havent, she says, closing both the
atlas and the conversation.
believes that the passengers job is to look
pretty, look out of the window and occasionally
change CD. I try imagining the two of us on the
Paris-Dakar Rally, with her waving at Bedouin
warriors as they aim rocket-launchers at us.
as navigator to Magellan. As the eminent
Portuguese captain approaches the straits which
will make him famous, a critical moment in a
voyage which has already taken several weeks and
claimed three lives. He turns to his trusted
navigator, who is stretched in a hammock
observing a low-flying albatross. Where are
we, Doņa Fitzsimmons? asks Magellan.
How should I know? says the navigator
as she reaches languidly for her second rum punch.
nearer Rohnert Park, I tried again and explained
that it might be useful to know the distance, so
we could work out whether the petrol would last.
says Fitzsimmons, opening the roadmap with a
little look across to me. Uh, where are we
And what was the last junction?
established that were travelling north and
that were married, Fitzsimmons finds the
youve got about this much to go, she
says, holding her thumb and finger an inch apart.
I take my eyes
off Highway 101 for long enough to both raise and
lower my eyebrows at her.
scale, find out what the map scale is.
isnt one, she says shortly.
bottom left corner.
I dont do it like that.
dont do it like that, I say in my
head. Only, Im so appalled by the remark
that it comes out aloud. Fitzsimmons gives me a
look as if to say What? Then follows it by saying,
doesnt matter. Well get there in the
Mendocino or mental breakdown, its all the
same to the mini Magellan beside me, whos
now looking out of the window again.