Today we all got in Merry (our new mini) and drove off down the lane very excitedly for our first big adventure together. Actually it wasn’t that being in Merry was necessarily the big adventure it was more the fact that Merry doesn’t have a Sat Nav and I’ve come to over rely on it in the past few years to get me anywhere in the car. Hubbie had downloaded the ‘Tom Tom’ Sat Nav on my phone and I had printed off the directions from Google maps so we were all ready. Adventure or not: we were prepared…
As we pootled our way down the lane the Sat Nav confidently spoke its directions and the boys all started doing impressions of the voice telling us to ‘take the next right’ in that rather BBC announcer voice that made us laugh. As I turned out of the lane and drove up the hill I noticed the Sat Nav was quiet and when I glanced down I found that it had gone grey meaning it had lost its GPS signal. Now I’m no technical geek when it comes to all things new but I did have a sneaking suspicion the mobile Sat Nav wouldn’t work as when I run I use an app that measures time, distance, calories burned and all that jazz and it, more often than not, doesn’t work due to losing the GPS signal. It catches up with me after a minute or so so I don’t let it worry me but this is quite major when you need to know whether you are turning left or right and you need to know it NOW!
I got the printed off directions and tried to read them. I know this was a) totally dangerous and b) totally illegal so I quickly handed them to my eldest Ollie for him to read to me. Now Ollie has never seen a set of directions (though he has been orienteering several times) and there was his harassed mum handing him 2 pages of A4 and saying ‘Start from number 5!!’ He found number 5 and read it out to me and off we went again. The Sat Nav added its ‘two penneth’ when it found us again but this became quite infrequent…
As we made our way onto the motorway I talked to Ollie about the motorway signs, about how they were blue and that each exit was called a junction and this number could be found on the left hand square on the sign. He pretty soon became very good at reading the directions, telling me then looking out for them on the signs and when the GPS came back but thought that we were in a housing estate to the right of the motorway even managed a sarcastic ‘well I don’t think that’s right…’
As we headed out of Bucks (the internet and mobile phone twilight zone county) and into Oxfordshire the GPS steadied and we were more able to rely on it again. Ollie looked at the directions less and we started to chat about Dr Who, Harry Potter and Warhammer. I pointed out landmarks on the way saying that’s that how I learned to navigate my way around when I was younger and that we didn’t have Sat Nav or mobile phones to help us. I told him about the time that I was on my way up to have my wedding dress fitted in a town past Manchester and that I had to find my way up using no motorways (they all seemed to have heavy traffic) and that I used a map and had absolutely no problems. I knew my home county –Berkshire – like the back of my hand and could get to new places using the knowledge I had from old places I’d been and joining up the dots (roads) in between. Yes I was proud of my sense of direction, he could tell…
…but where had it gone?
Since I have had a car with a Sat Nav I have been lazy. I haven’t bothered to look around me and see where I was travelling, looking for landmarks that would help me either find it again or at the very least find my way home when I’d got to my destination. I’d simply pushed the buttons, accepted the destination and off I went.
Moving to our new home last year meant that we moved to a new county and it was also rural –the quaint English country roads that surround us are beautiful but have virtually no road signs to anchor you into actually knowing where you are. If you get lost, you stay lost for quite some time until you stumble on a village or kindly looking local who can point you back in the right direction. When we moved I thanked God for Sat Nav as there was no way I would have found my way back home once we’d left it to find the supermarket, local town and parks.
Although I say that I have a friend who moved to the same area as us at the same time and her car didn’t have sat nav. She used a map and notated everything she needed to know for future journeys on the map. She had no trouble finding us –although others with Sat Nav did and even scolded us sometimes about how ‘difficult we were’ to find. She found all the new play places, car parks, shops that she needed and never appeared to get lost. I didn’t realise how great this was until it was way too late.
Not only did my friend find her way round very quickly but she started giving directions like a local pretty soon too. She’d say ‘Ooo I wouldn’t use that road, it’s never very quick’ or could be heard to confidently give directions to other new mums to new places whilst I just stood in awe. She couldn’t understand it when she tried to tell me where something was and I didn’t know ‘where the soft play was that it was next too’ was as I’d never looked about me as I used to find my bearings. She not only knew our new area but she hadn’t lost any of her old skills as I had. Bugger, that’s a double whammy.
So now I’ve ‘de-skilled’ myself in relying too much on my Sat Nav I need to claw my sense of direction back. Ollie was great today and because he can read in the car totally saved us all. I didn’t have to pull into laybys to look on the directions to find out where the heck we were, he just told me and then found the signs. He even remembered the roundabout with the ‘McDonalds on!’ and told me because of this he knew we were on the right road.
All those years of ‘Biff, Chip and (bloody) Kipper’ were worth it as today I could have kissed each silly named one of them. My son can read which meant he could tell me where I should be going. I just need to make sure that I turn the Sat Nav off to use a map or printed directions as this is a) much more fun because we talked and b) much more useful in teaching Ollie and the boys how to find their way about.