Friday, 9 March 2012

Solar flares maybe?

We had an inkling that something might be slightly out of kilter when the satnav, Florence, issued  her first instruction before the car had begun to move.

“Make a U-turn,” she said.

We were going to Drury Lane to see War Horse.  (The stage version of course, not the allegedly saccharine film: I was collecting a Christmas present.  It was, by the way, ‘effing marvellous’, as the Sergeant might have put it.)  The theatre was 21 miles away, and we’d allowed ninety minutes to get there, park up and find our seats – ample time, no?  But we hadn’t allowed for Florence.

Florence is of the same genus and nationality as the satnav in my own car, but with a rather different personality.  Whereas Brünnhilde is terse, assumes a level of intelligence on the part of her pupils and doesn’t suffer fools gladly, Florence is a bit of an anxious, over-protective schoolmarm.   She would say things like “Keep right and continue on the M4” whenever we approached a junction, just in case we felt impelled to veer off left onto the slip road just for the hell of it.

All went well, though, as far as the Hammersmith flyover.  Then both Florence and Transport for London or whoever is in charge got completely confused, with the result that we ended up negotiating the multi-lane spider’s web of the Broadway.  Florence lost it.  “Turn right in 100 yards, then immediately right again.”  We ignored that.  “Follow the road for 900 yards.”  No other option short of shop windows, so we obeyed.  “Your route is being recalculated.”  I offered to get the map book out.  “Better not,” said A (who was driving).  “It’ll only upset her.”

Somehow we made it through.  I knew we were back on track when L spotted Harrods on the right.  “Familiar territory,” she announced.  At this point, Florence got a bit sniffy.  “There is traffic congestion ahead.  An alternative route cannot be recommended.”  You always know they’re rattled when they drop into the passive voice. 

We got there with five minutes to spare, not even time for a stiffener for me and L.  We were in row AA, right at the front.  You could see inside the horses, see the humans manipulating them – which somehow made it even more magical.  I found myself avoiding eye contact with Joey.


  1. My satnav assumes too much intelligence. "At the roundabout, take the fifth exit," he says. Well, if I went round the roundabout in the left hand lane counting roads, I might find the fifth exit. As it is, I tend to have to keep circumnavigating until he takes pity and says which exit I want as I approach it.

  2. I haven't invested in SatNav. Somehow, getting lost is preferable to having someone speaking when music is playing.

    Glad you enjoyed the show. I wonder if it's likely to trot along to a theatre near us? I'm not sure that I'd want to see the film.

  3. I haven't got a satnav. I like to feel I'm in control of my own destiny, even if I do get lost (which isn't very often, I have to say).

    You'll probably say I'm a Luddite.

  4. Would the opposite of solar flares be lune pants? Only asking.

  5. I loathe sat navs. I much prefer getting lost. What fun is there to be had driving from A to B and not seeing F, G and S?

    Yes, yes, I know it's useful to have if you've got to be somewhere sharpish. But I'm so used to my getting lost, I always factor in 'getting lost time'.

  6. PS. You couldn't pay me to drive around London. Negotiating the tube is bad enough.

  7. Z - you have a male satnav? I've looked, but there doesn't seem to be a 'gender' option in my menu.

    Martin, AQ, Roses - I completely concur. But it does come in handy occasionally; I've used mine probably five times in three years. If it had been me, I wouldn't have used it on Thursday. Mind you, I'd have taken us to the South Bank, under the mistaken impression that it was at the National.

    Rog - do you know, I thought there had to be a 'flares' joke in there somewhere. Thanks.

  8. I have options, boy or girl speak. The boy is called Tom. The girl also.
    They are multilingual. It's more fun when she's talking Italian.
    I asked her to take me to see Northern Lights but she suggested a bar in Detroit. I declined.

  9. I find she's company on a long journey and never raises her voice or gets irritated with me.