Going Round in Circles
Judy Peterson consulted her piece of paper. 'This is the right turning, I think.' The written instructions had been scribbled and Judy had to peer at them. Her aunt's handwriting was not the best.
'Good,' her brother Toby said shortly. 'This place is a hard one to find your way around.' He indicated right for the little town of Circleways and shook his head. They loved their aunt very much, but this was their first visit to her new home and for some reason, the satnav wasn't working here. Trust their Auntie Jean to retire to such a quirky place.
'It's a funny place,' Judy said out loud, picking up on her brother's unspoken thought. She looked at her aunt's instructions again. 'There are no crossroads here, only roundabouts.'
'So, which way now?' Toby asked as they approached the first of the roundabouts.
'At the first junctions with three exits, take the first one.' Judy laughed. 'Trust Jean to be so vague.' She peered at her aunt's spidery handwriting again. 'After that, take the second exit.'
Toby tutted. 'We'll never find her house if she can't direct us properly. He signalled and turned left. The road curved gently round to the right. Circleways was an odd little town, but very pretty. It was leafy, with no clear view in any direction. Everything looked the same here in the suburban bits. All the houses and bungalow looked vaguely similar. Judy was sure she'd seen the same postbox twice.
'This is ridiculous,' Toby asserted. 'Try calling Jean. Otherwise we'll keep on going round in circles.'
Judy pressed a button on he mobile. Their aunt's number was on speed dial. She frowned. 'What is it?' Toby asked as he drove on.
'She's not answering. Her phone must be switched off.'
Toby tutted. 'What's the point of having a mobile of you never have it on?' He pulled up at a small row of shops and switched off the engine. 'I'll get proper directions from here.' He stressed the word "proper". Unfurling his long legs, he strode into the little newsagent. From the car, Judy watched as he talked to the middle-aged woman behind the counter.
Toby looked glum when he came back to the car. 'Silly woman. She's only moved into the area herself. I mean, for God's sake, she must have kids doing the paper rounds. I'm going to ask someone else in another shop.' He walked away again.
Judy looked at her watch. They were going to be late. Ho-hum. She peered fruitlessly at her aunt's writing again. She looked up to see Toby approaching again. 'They suggest I try the church just over there.' He pointed to a spire that poked over the rooftops to their right. Judy tried phoning their aunt again. Still no answer.
Luckily the church was easy to find. This time, they both got out of the car. Inside they found a curate, or something. He seemed intent on his business, but on hearing footsteps on the tiled floor, he looked up and regarded the siblings with a bright smile.
Both Toby and Judy smiled back. Judy felt herself relax. If anyone could help, it would be this pleasant young man with slightly thinning hair and a calm personality. 'Excuse us for bothering you,' Toby said politely. 'We are trying to find our aunt's house. We're lost, you see. Can you help?'
The curate beamed. 'Of course. Where are you trying to get to?'
Judy consulted her little piece of paper. 'It's Pool Lane. Our aunt didn't give us very good directions, I'm afraid.' There was a loud crash from behind them. Judy jumped. 'Just the flower committee,' the curate murmured. 'Forgive them, they're not usually so clumsy. Now, what were you saying?' Judy repeated the address.
The curate smiled. 'Of course.' He went over to the little rack of postcards and picked one up. 'See this.' he showed Toby. Judy peered over his shoulder to get a closer look. 'This little park is just behind the church. Pool Lane is on the other side of that. It means driving through the centre of town, unfortunately.' He paused, then smiled at their blank faces. 'You'll see what I mean when you do. And I'm sorry you've found Circleways such an odd little town. I've been here six years myself and it took me ages to get used to all the roundabouts and everything.' He laughed a little. Toby and Judy thanked him. Because of his help, they put some money in the little donations box by the stand selling the postcards and other little gifts.
Judy buckled up her seat belt. 'Let's just get there as quickly as possibly,' she said grumpily. 'This place is getting beyond a joke.' Toby nodded. He switched on the engine and they drove off.
They quickly saw what the curate had been getting at. The town centre was a large circle, with shops all around. Within the circle were all the parking spaces, with four roads dissecting it. To control the traffic safely, traffic lights had been installed. It meant an awful long wait to get through. Both Toby and Judy glanced at the dashboard clock every minute, their frustration growing. Judy pondered on trying to call their aunt again, but knowing Jean's phone would still be switched off, she didn't bother.
Once through, they found Pool Lane soon enough and realised they had literally been driving round and round this little town of Circelways several times and could have cut across the northern rim and saved half-an-hour. Toby felt angry and frustrated as he stomped up the path and rapped his knuckles on their aunt's front door.
Getting no reply, they walked round to the rear of the little bungalow. Perhaps Jean was in the garden, where she would never hear someone knocking on her front door. But there was no-one there. 'Where on earth is she?' Judy asked.
'It's not like her to be forgetful,' Toby agreed. 'Perhaps we should ask a neighbour?' He cast his eyes around the property. Peering through the rear windows, he saw how neat and tidy it was. The little garden was equally neat. Jean must have worked hard, even though she'd only lived here a short time, to get the garden in such tidy state.
In the end, Toby said they ask around the neighbours as he'd already suggested. But as they rounded back to the tiny front garden and made to get in their car, another one approached and parked. To their astonishment and delight, it was their aunt. She got out of the passenger seat of the car and walked over to her niece and nephew and kissed them both.
'Jean,' Toby exclaimed. 'Where on earth have you been?'
'We've been worried sick,' Judy contributed.
Jean looked at them in delight. 'Darlings, what a surprise. You' re so much earlier than I expected. Surely I said 4 pm?' She glanced at her watch, which said ten-to-four.
'But I thought you said-' Judy's voice tailed off in confusion as a familiar face got out the driver's seat. It was the curate they'd been talking to earlier. He approached them with an apologetic smile.
'I'm so sorry,' he said, his smile slightly fixed on his face. 'If you'd only said it was it was Jean Carter you were looking for, I could have told you she was at the church. She's on our flower committee, you see and was in the vestry, dealing with all the floral displays.' Toby and Jean could only stare back at him in dumb amazement.
Jean beamed at all three of them. 'Well, now that's all sorted, aren't you all going to come in for a nice cup of tea and some of my delicious home-made cake?'
© 2017 Alice Dancer