Dateline: 15th December 2011

Man Lost for 2 Days on M25

That the motorway network is often a confusing experience to navigate is no news at all to anyone who's had to deal with certain parts of it (I'm looking at you, M62/M60) However, most of us manage to find our way around in the end by dint of the fact that in the end a motorway is just one big road with clearly marked exits.

And yet for 82 year old Dennis Leighton, the M25 turned into a world of its own as he drove around it endlessly for almost 2 solid days. Making the 55 mile journey from his own home in Windsor to his daughter's house at Swanley in Kent was something he had done many times in the past. But somehow he contrived to lose himself.

His worried family called the police within a few hours of his failure to arrive as expected, and searches began. A numberplate recognition camera near Dartford finally picked up the errant pensioner driving past and it soon became clear that he was driving in circles around the motorway. Eventually, local police forces were engaged to find him and - some 30 hours after he was first reported as missing - he was found safe in South London.

He was admitted to hospital to be treated for mild hypothermia, having slept in his car during the recent cold snap.

Most newspaper headlines have sniggeringly referred to Mr Leighton's age and the implication that he's probably just losing his marbles. However, we respectfully draw your attention to the phenomena of jamais vu - the little known second cousin and opposite of deja vu. People suffering from this momentary psychological aberration suddenly find places, words and things that they know they are familiar with to be strange and alien.

Your humble correspondent can attest that this is no affliction limited to the aged - for I have experienced it myself on the roads around Leeds. Of course, jamais vu is most commonly encountered as a fleeting, if disconcerting experience and a 48 hour attack would appear to be largely unprecedented example (unless the experience of Mohammed Bellazrak is any precursor).

But as TV mind-buggerer Derren Brown has shown, a distraction at the right moment can also easily induce short term memory loss and without the right signal, a memory can be lost as easily as it can be made. The mind is a mysterious place to navigate in itself, without throwing in the madness of the M25 at rush hour.

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