Play­ing sat-nav roulette

Rather than risk a bawl­ing-out from the back seat James gam­bles on the sat-nav to keep things mov­ing

EDP Norfolk - - Landscape Painter Of The Year - James Matthews

LAST Satur­day I found my­self sit­ting in my car at the end of a coun­try lane some­where in ru­ral Nor­folk. I say ‘lane’, It looked more like a farm track, with mud spilling onto to it from the bor­der­ing fields and tufts of wild grass grow­ing in a nar­row strip down the cen­tre.

“Well, the sat-nav def­i­nitely says down here.” My wife leaned over from the pas­sen­ger seat and pointed at the left turn on the screen. “Let’s just go for it.”

It’s a sit­u­a­tion we’ve of­ten found our­selves in over the last few months. Hav­ing a baby on the back seat who de­cided very early in life that he’s not a fan of be­ing sta­tion­ary for more than about four sec­onds means that long car jour­neys have to be metic­u­lously planned.

Traf­fic web­sites are rapidly re­freshed and ra­dio bul­letins closely mon­i­tored for any re­ports of po­ten­tial ac­ci­dents or de­lays on our county’s road net­work. The prospect of sit­ting mo­tion­less on the tar­mac for any length of time sim­ply can’t be en­ter­tained.

And whilst the ‘re-route’ but­ton is a won­der­ful fea­ture on mod­ern sat-navs, it’s also a dan­ger­ous one in Nor­folk. Street­lights and houses can quickly van­ish, roads nar­row and be­fore you know it you’re turn­ing down a sin­gle-track road un­sure of what’s around the next blind bend or when you’re go­ing to emerge into civil­i­sa­tion again.

With the tricks that sat-navs love to play on us, I’ve found my­self hav­ing to per­form many a three-point turn (and oc­ca­sion­ally the odd seven-point) when Nor­folk’s in­nocu­ous coun­try lanes turn into dead ends, pri­vate farms, or on one par­tic­u­larly foggy even­ing, the River Yare. I’m afraid that, un­like the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion who stud­ied their trusty road at­las be­fore set­ting off on a lengthy jour­ney and kept a watch­ful eye on the road signs they passed, I’ve be­come far too re­liant on the lit­tle yel­low ar­row on the screen in front of me.

So you can un­der­stand my trep­i­da­tion as we sat at the end of this par­tic­u­lar ru­ral lane. With re­ports of long tail-backs on the A11, and af­ter a thor­ough minute-by-minute as­sess­ment of the sit­u­a­tion, we’d de­cided to once again tra­verse the back roads of Nor­folk.

We were still me­an­der­ing ten­ta­tively along the wind­ing sin­gle-track road 20 min­utes later, fear­ful of meet­ing an on­com­ing ve­hi­cle and hav­ing to re­verse half a mile at any mo­ment. But even­tu­ally we made our way back onto the dual car­riage­way and af­ter three hours we’d made it to our des­ti­na­tion in the Mid­lands.

The sat-nav said we were only ten min­utes be­hind our orig­i­nal ar­rival time. This time we’d won the ‘sat-nav game’ – avoid­ing sit­ting in long queues of traf­fic while a six-month old screamed at us in dis­ap­proval.

I’m sure there’ll be just as many oc­ca­sions when we lose. It’s good fun though.

The prospect of sit­ting mo­tion­less on the tar­mac for any length of time sim­ply can’t be en­ter­tained

Road to nowhere: sat -navs can lead you through some of the less well-trav­elled parts of Nor­folk

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