Driving home for Christmas signals the start of the festivities for Laura Lexx, who begins a tarmac-laden series with an appreciation for her very own 92-mile driveway.
With the obvious exception of Chris Rea, I’m not sure many people get really, truly excited about the schlepp home for Christmas.
If you do have to travel at this time of year, chances are you’re prepared for all manner of disruptions to the great transport network: traffic, floods, storms, train cancellations, replacement buses, sleigh delays due to fog and a lack of appropriately trained reindeer with high-vis noses.
Secretly, I adore that trip home. I live in Brighton and my Christmas destination is always deepest, darkest Somerset – the county of my birth and all-round excellent bunch of hills. The drive home for me means one brilliant thing: the A303.
Over 92 miles it crosses five counties from the bottom of the M3 to its meeting place with the A30 down in Devon. I adore the A303. A finer road you shall not find.
It’s not the most obvious route into the West Country. For maximum efficiency you probably want the M5 (unless it’s a bank holiday, in which case every clueless piece of road-clutter with a caravan and poorly treaded tyres is going to be breaking down in your path and sending you to a living Tarmacked hell).
But if you want to be one of the cool kids, one of the locals, one of us hippy twats who grew up in the land of King Arthur (and went to Glastonbury all year round because it was a town to us, not an annual once in a lifetime experience), then you’ll take the A303.
“Stonehenge is the worst part of the A303 and if you have any shred of self-respect you will maintain the speed limit past it and try to keep your eyes on the road.”
With its rolling hills, routes through tiny villages, advertisements for Wookey Hole and a tiny quantity of speed cameras, it represents every time I’ve jumped in my car and made for the refuge of my parents’ spare room.
Every heartbreak that needed a mother’s hug, every new love that needed a sister’s enthusiasm, every complicated thing that needed Dad to… well, Dad it. The A303 was there.
The A303 is, of course, home to Stonehenge, but please don’t think this is what I love about it. Stonehenge is the worst part of the A303 and if you have any shred of self-respect you will maintain the speed limit past it and try to keep your eyes on the road instead of fawning over an attention-seeking bunch of mystery rocks.
Your reward for making it past Stonehenge unimpressed by their igneous idiocy will be on your left. It comes in the form of the best darned pig farm you can see from a driving seat. Loads of pigs, in a gorgeous brown field with huts and furrows as far as the eye can see. If you’re really lucky there’ll be traffic leading on to the roundabout and you’ll have plenty of time to take in their oinky majesty.
The views from the A303 are simply stunning too, especially at this time of year when the temperature drops and the wide-open fields and flowing hills take on a gently frosted tone.
In 2010 I was working in London in a job I hated, waiting to become the superstar you know me as today. My brother came up to stay with me for a few days in late December and on Christmas Eve we finally got to finish up at the office and start the long drive home.
The year before I’d been in Lapland, spending Christmas working as an elf in Santa’s grotto. For real. For all the years before that I’d been in education, and truly spoiled with at least a fortnight’s break to revel in the Christmas spirit. This was the first year I had to deal with Christmas like an adult: two days off and then back to my inbox. I was miserable.
We got in the car at 2pm on that Christmas Eve and by 3.30pm we were on the A303… belting out the Christmas hits and improvising our own Christmas lyrics over any songs that deigned to be unfestive.
We soared along the road home, over the peaks and through the troughs, past the snow-covered rocks of disappointment and on via Henlade, Chicklade and some Otherlades to where Christmas was waiting with our other siblings and parents. My spirits lifted.
You know a road is good when every single inch of it feels like your driveway; when you know the twists and turns like it’s the Nürburgring; and when you don’t even mind being stuck behind a Nissan Micra on it.
Merry Christmas to the A303 and all who sail on her.1943 Views
I am a comedian, writer, baker and glorious feminist. I am nothing if not enthusiastic about everything. @lauralexx