Sunday, 13 September 2015

Giving someone directions is a bit like

writing instructions. People don't always do it clearly. If they do then the person being given the instructions may not be listening carefully or capable of comprehending. Directions are particularly complicated because there is also the issue of "left" and "right" to consider. A lot of people seem to have a problem with left and right. People also forget that, if they are facing you, the situation is reversed and... well, you know.
There are also those unique sets of instructions given by people who know the landscape well and assume you will recognise what they are talking about. The question then might be whether they are observant enough to notice the landmarks you are talking about.
I have been thinking about this since someone I am acquainted with had difficulty with a parcel being delivered to a rather rural part of the United Kingdom. (Yes, there is rural left in the United Kingdom, even in England which is where she hails from.)
She bemoaned her problems on Facebook so I left a message: 

you mean that you don't give them directions like, "um it's about a mile down there and you'll see a sort of track but you go past that and then there's a dead gum tree - the one on your right not on your left - and you go up that track (and it's a bit rough mind) and when you get to the bit where it goes two ways you take the left bit and then it's about a quarter of a mile before you can see the house. You can't miss it."

I am sure she understood all too well. 
We had directions like that given to us when we lived in rural Downunder. Those sort of directions are quite common, even now. They are the sort of directions given to everyone, including the emergency services.  Even the Flying Doctor service can be given landmarks like that to look for from the air if  they are not landing on a proper airstrip. I can remember listening to someone using our phone at the school house. There had been a head on collision not too far from the school. Help was needed. The instructions went something like,
"Yeah, up the other road from the school towards the Chase. It's on the rise but you probably won't see it so we'll put a few more vehicles out and start the lights at the school."
This would not have meant anything to someone coming from the city but out there it did. The "other road" meant the minor road not the major road. "The Chase" was Flinders Chase at the far end of the island we lived on. "The rise" was the largest of the small hills in the area. There were absolutely no street lights or any other sort of lighting in the bush. The road was marked on a map but it would have been hard to see even in daylight. The school had a power plant for electricity and by lighting up the entire school there would be a beacon of sorts for anyone flying in. The other vehicles would be there to use their headlights so that the emergency services could find the accident.
It's bush talk I suppose. I was reminded strongly of this by not just J the other day but by a talk with a friend. We were talking about language and the landscape. The Pitjantjatjara people, like other early Australians, have many words for direction. They don't see the world as being North, South, East or West. The husband of my late friend R once tried to explain this to me. Unfortunately he was not a particularly loquacious man and the explanation was too brief for me to really understand it. 
I keep wondering though, how would he have described the journey to J's house? 

3 comments:

Judy Edmonds said...

Once in Ireland we were given directions to someone's house - it was literally - go along the road for a while until you pass the XYZ pub, it's the big white one, but don;t go past it, you turn left BEFORE the pub and go down to the next road, the real road not the little road... and so on and so on. We did actually get there!

catdownunder said...

I can just hear a nice Irish accent telling you that!

jeanfromcornwall said...

I still chuckle at the old joke of the Irishman who was asked for directions to "Someplace" and who answered, "If I were you, I wouldn't start from here."