It’s A Funny Old World: Mike Read

‘Sat­nav’s main pas­sion is to see how many U-turns it can make me do on one stretch of high­way’

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Contents - Mike Read

One sat­nav is much the same as an­other mate,’ the shop as­sis­tant in­formed me. ‘OK, I’ll have, er… that one.’ ‘Good choice, sir.’ I’d been el­e­vated from ‘mate’ now the deal was done.

But my sat­nav was soon to prove that it wasn’t ‘much the same as an­other’.

Driv­ing in the City of Lon­don, stuffed full of ridicu­lously tall build­ings with silly names and un­fath­omable ar­chi­tec­tural an­gles, the sat­nav goes AWOL at will and has the ap­pear­ance of hav­ing been on a ‘scream if you want to go faster’ fair­ground ride.

When it does cough up a name or two, on this, its first out­ing, the sat­nav (I’m not one for giv­ing it a per­sonal name as some do) comes on like a tourist get­ting to grips with un­usual Bri­tish street names. There’s Chankerry Lane, which sounds so un­like Chancery I only just de­tect it, and a Far­ring­don Street with the em­pha­sis on the mid­dle syl­la­ble. Head­ing into Soho, I find my­self in Shaff-turs-bree Av­enue. I dis­cover that this de­fect is built in as stan­dard, guid­ing me through such ex­otic towns as Reed­ing, Bazz­ingstoke and Winech­ester. I didn’t dare drive through Wales.

We have lit­tle in com­mon and the sat­nav bor­ders on the dra­co­nian when I ap­pear to dis­obey. Its main pas­sion is to see how many U-turns it can make me do on one stretch of high­way. There’s a sec­tion of road in Lu­ton that I can now ca­reer up and down like a boy racer, U-turn­ing at will and re­main­ing ahead of the metal­lic or­ders by a nanosec­ond.

I take sand­wiches and a can of some­thing for sus­te­nance, as it’s tricky to es­cape from what is a de­mand­ing and some­what repet­i­tive cy­cle. There is some­thing of the spirit of Puck in my sat­nav, for one sum­mer’s evening it guided me gen­tly through a field of wheat some­where near A-bing­don and on an­other oc­ca­sion led me blindly into an­other arable crop which nei­ther the sat­nav nor I recog­nised. The 19-point turn on that oc­ca­sion would al­most cer­tainly have given the farmer the im­pres­sion that they had been carved out as a crop cir­cle by an ine­bri­ated alien.

De­spite these short­com­ings, sat­navs surely out­strip the Ne­olithic method of the map be­ing spread out on the pas­sen­ger seat or in the hands of the pas­sen­gers them­selves. While Lud­dites may be cheer­ing this glimpse of by­gone nav­i­ga­tional skill, the sat­nav – with all its foibles – is here to stay.

It may cut through au­dio­books at in­op­por­tune times, bi­sect in­ti­mate con­ver­sa­tions or cre­ate un­in­ten­tional mo­ments of mirth, but it can be a wor­thy op­po­nent when the mood takes. In reck­less cav­a­lier mo­ments

I’ve even been known to take it on. ‘Come on then, you tell me where to go and I’m go­ing to do the op­po­site just for the hell of it. Urge me to “take the mo­tor­way” and I’ll per­versely go the scenic route,’ I’ll say. It may take longer, but the thrill out­strips the time fac­tor and I live in hope that a metal­lic, cracked, bro­ken voice will one day say, ‘OK, you win’.

How­ever, that sat­nav was re­cently stolen, pre­sum­ably by a per­son who had lost their way. If I hear some­one pro­nounc­ing Isle­worth as Izla­worth, I’ll know I’ve found the cul­prit.

Ja­maican jaunt: Mike’s been on the trail of Er­rol Flynn

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