Satnavs

You can’t beat a TomTom. Have they used that in an advert? If so, I’m sorry, I missed it. If not, that will be £1000 a word, which is about the going rate. Until ten days ago I not only had never used a satnav, I had a deep and unwarranted suspicion of them bordering on outright hatred. But there is now a household satnav, and I was selected to go forth and to road-test it. Of course, wouldn’t you know it, at exactly the same time the newspapers contained the story that the sats which enable you to nav are detriorating at such a rate that, as of about next year, you may no longer be able to nav by sat at all. You might have to use a map. There was one of Tim Dowling’s better efforts in The Guardian, in which he affected to explain to a satnav addict what a map was (‘like a book but it folds out’).

I love the satnav. For twenty years I have been trying to get to my brother’s house in Nottingham without ringing him up from some remote suburb and saying ‘Where exactly do you live?’ It was getting embarrassing. Last week, I got to his house in one go, or, as the satnav-speak has it, I arrived at my destination.

There was a teething problem, in that my house, which is out of my mobile phone’s range, is also under the radar of a satellite (I suspect that is a mixed metaphor, but you know what, I’m not very technical). So the only I could get it to do in my kitchen after tapping in my address – apparently I live at ‘Unnamed’ – was to say, in the female Irish brogue it’s been given, ‘Turn round at the first opportunity.’  But Colleen and I are now getting on famously. I even switch the CD off a mile or so before I expect her to speak. ‘KEEP RIGHT. KEEP RIGHT.’ How can anyone resist a seductive message like that?

I know that horror stories abound, and I am going to test Colleen when I take her to the Welsh border in about a month. But I have no doubt she will come through. Quite why I have resisted the technology for so long, I do not know (I do actually – the price. Presumably the price will drop to next-to-nothing next year, as it becomes clear that the Sputniks, or whatever, are turning into space debris).

I haven’t put her through her paces in a major way yet. Everyone I’ve met who has one says that they’ve gone out and disobeyed a satnav for the hell of it, at which point, it says ‘Turn round at the first opportunity,’ of course, and then sighs and recalculates. However, it’s put me through some paces. I thought I knew my Devon back roads, but it has twice taken me a very weird but ruthlessly efficient way to my destination, and saved me, on each occasion, as much as thirty-five seconds.

Not to be sniffed at.

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