IT had seemed a simple plan: to drive from Basingstoke to Ringwood, leaving the function I was attending around 10pm.

On paper, and from experience, the trip along the M3, M27 and finally the A31 should have taken no more than 50 minutes. I had not, however, factored into the journey the mess that is now our motorway structure of a summer’s evening.

The journey was to take two hours, resulting in one near collision, a close encounter with a traffic officer and a fair amount of blue air – all set against a dramatic backdrop of, somewhat appropriate, lightning flashes and roars of thunder.

The first challenge was to find our way out of Basingstoke and on to the M3.

Never the easiest of routes thanks to never-ending road works taking place at the main traffic island off junction 8. Having negotiated the various lane changes at the island we discovered the slip road to the M3 at junction 8 was closed. A small yellow diversion sign – hidden and in the dark – indicated a route we might like to take to some unspecified destination.

Feeling brave, and with little alternative, we took it.

At junction 9 we discovered here too the slip road was closed. Another – very small and well hidden – diversion sign was finally found and we headed off along the A33 towards Winchester.

Junction 10 loomed into view. Alas this too was closed.

It was here the fun really began. There seemed to be few or no alternative routes being advertised. My wife spotted the regular small yellow diversion sign tucked away, unlit, directing us south towards Southampton. I indicated and swung in only to find the no-doubt equally bemused and befuddled driver ahead of us had also just spotted the changed lanes at the last moment. It was a near miss.

At junction 11 we were finally able to join the M3.

The signs en-route now informed us the M27 was closed at junction 2. Oh joy.

Junction 3, a later sign informed us, was completely closed. What’s more, new signs reported the A31 was now closed completely. And all this, remember, for road works.

There were lane closures on the M3 as it approached the junction with the M27, and again on the M27 itself as we neared the now-closed junction 3. We began to play a game of count the workmen.

At junction 2 we were swung off towards Totton and then the junction with the A35 where we could turn left towards Southampton or right towards Lyndhurst.

Luckily I knew which route to take. There was no sign to help those who did not know the roads.

As we approached Lyndhurst the speed limit drops from 40mph to 30mph and I duly stepped on the brakes. Just as well. In the gloom, we spotted a police officer holding a speed gun.

He was picking off drivers who had been diverted off the motorway. It was 11.15pm.

There was a thunderstorm.

Passing through Lyndhurst, a yellow notice gave warning to motorists of two lane closures in the town in the coming days. We laughed.

Only two? How pitiful.