Fordyce Maxwell: I’d rather get lost unaided than use satnav

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FOR most things I stick to the poetic maxim “Be not the first by whom the new are tried/Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”

It’s a safe bet Alexander Pope didn’t have satellite navigation for cars in mind, but as I have done successfully with farm machinery, computers, cameras, DVD players and clothes to name a few, I adapted his maxim to satnav.

That is, I preferred to retain the habit of a lifetime and get lost unaided without benefit of technology for some years after the first satnavs appeared.

Gimmicky, expensive and unreliable, I thought, while continuing to use maps to make journeys that were usually, eventually, successful negotiations of A to B except for a wrong turn at some point.

Sometimes that can – sorry, wrong tense, “could”, I never make such mistakes now, perish the thought – occur early in a journey, such as the wrong turn out of a car park in America that added 50 miles to that day’s trip, missing the first motorway turn-off or taking north instead of south on a roundabout.

More often, my trick is to get within hailing distance of a destination then make a small, but crucial, mistake that takes us on another scenic tour of a town. This can – that is, could – apply whether I was driving and over-ruling the navigator or when Liz is driving and I’m navigating.

Undaunted, I point to the many places we have reached intact and insist that my bump of direction works perfectly. It’s the roads that are in the wrong places, and don’t get me started on one-way streets and what qualifies as an exit on a roundabout.

However, having finally accepted that satnavs work, I bought one before a recent grand tour of friends and relatives the length and breadth of England. Well, it wasn’t that grand, and more Derbyshire, Somerset, Bristol, Cotswolds, Warwickshire and Yorkshire than all-England, but it was eight days of good fun and the pleasure of picking up relationships as if we’d met only last week.

During the 900 miles or so covered, I had a few discussions with the satnav, such as “It can’t mean right here.” It did, and the penalty for disagreeing was closer acquaintance with Sheffield’s lesser known suburbs and hills than anyone should have until back on the right route.

And I still think the satnav was wrong in Bristol. But as Liz said conclusively: “We’re here, aren’t we?” As indeed we were. I was going to ask: “How long before technology makes drivers redundant?” but I’m told that’s already being done. Beam me up, Scotty. «

Twitter: @FordyceMaxwell