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’
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.
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