Monday 11 January 2010

My sorry sat nav

15st 6lb, 3.4 units. I was supposed to be driving to Newcastle for a meeting today, but Mrs H’s conviction that she would never see me again and my client’s understanding agreement that we could do it over the phone instead “on grounds of cost and safety” combined to release me from the hook. Nevertheless, that still left me with a commitment to drive as far as Doncaster to see someone else. I duly got up rather earlier than usual and set off in good time, only slightly unnerved by the way nothing happened when I applied the brakes at the end of our drive and the sat nav instructed me to turn right at the end of the lane, despite the prominent “Road Closed” sign and several lorry-loads of workmen looking for a suitable space to erect their Portakabin and make a nice mug of tea. Whatever happened to braziers, come to think of it?

I ignored the sat nav, but it remained determined to send me in the opposite direction from the one that seemed logical. Then I finally twigged: it was trying to avoid the M62, which could be more or less guaranteed to be a nightmare on a cold, snowy and foggy Monday morning, and had come up with a cunning plan to send me on a southerly loop down the M6 and across country, before heading north to Doncaster up the A1(M). Fantastic. Well, apart from the fact that I had little fuel in the car and had been banking on calling at one of the several petrol stations I expected to pass in the early part of my usual northbound route. I finally limped into a garage somewhere on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent, just before I joined the southbound M6. Then, after I had filled up, the sat nav revealed that it had changed its mind and now wanted me to head back north 20-odd miles up the M6 to join the M62 after all. Oopsy.

At least it apologized, averring that ‘No better route could be found’. Which became something of a leitmotif for the day, as it repeatedly informed me that the road ahead was going to be clogged with vehicles reduced to little more than walking pace as a result of fog or simple congestion. Would I like to take an alternative route? Yes, please. No, sorry, on reflection, the alternative turns out to be closed / blocked / no faster moving: ‘No better route could be found’. Eventually it guided me onto the A62 and I progressed along slush-covered roads through a series of nameless Yorkshire towns.

It is remarkable how few clues there are to where you are these days, a problem made worse by the consolidation of local councils and the closure of so many things like high street banks that used to helpfully stick the name of the branch outside. Even the sat nav did not seem to know what the hell the places I was driving through were called. When Mrs H and I were returning from lunch yesterday I proudly informed her that we were in a village with an absolute tongue-twister of a name, because it said so on the post office. “That’s the Welsh for ‘post office’, you fool,” she calmly replied.

Anyway, I made it to my meeting, only 45 minutes late. When I left, the sat nav came up with this cunning wheeze to avoid the M62 and I duly followed it south, anxious to see how it worked out this time. About 800 yards later it had the cheek to announce that the road ahead was blocked, albeit after 25 miles, and instructed me to do a U-turn (though only when I had reached the next intersection on the motorway) and go west on the M62. The weather and traffic were not too bad this time, but I still felt very much in need of a drink when I got home, and the drink led on to the desire for a snack. So that was my diet f***ed for another day, then.

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