Saturday, 1 August 2009

Gadding about with Gladys

In a week when two Swedish tourists mistyped Capri into the GPS system and ended up in Carpi a rather forlorn Italian town 400 miles from their destination, Fat Rascal has also had Satnav on her mind as she guest blogs from France..

Let me take you back in time to Christmas 2005......

EFR is a man who loves maps, enjoys making flight plans (will not go in an aeroplane however) always wants to know his altitude and most importantly, is never happier than behind the wheel of his car.

This has led me to believe that a GPS would be the ideal present for him. Oh no! He was not thrilled, his manhood was threatened and the GPS was disappeared before the sprouts had been boiled to mush.

Fast forward to 2009 and the trip to the UK for Chelsea.....

We were going to break the journey by staying with the Rascally Scot near Paris. The RS lives in a very nice leafy suburb which is definitely on the map! EFR had been there before but never coming from the same direction twice. It's so desirable I think the residents have taken down any signposts which would show foreigners the way there!

I had driven up to stay with RS on my own, equipped with my printout from Mappy but I got hopelessly lost as soon as I hit the big city and once I realised I was heading to Orly and that was WRONG I stopped and rang RS in tears (I was hot and over tired). She said that she had often been lost in Paris but never in the exact same place I'd got lost so couldn't help. Oh, and I should have a Satnav!

Anyway, not having been able to find the right way myself I couldn't help EFR when he too got lost. To make the situation worse we didn't have a single map of any part of France in the car.

With a bit of mobile phone assistance we did find the Rascally Scot's and were soon revived by a wee dram of single malt.

On our way home from Chelsea we again got lost trying to find Tesco in Ashford (as you do). Once again, the lack of a GPS was felt and even the most detailed OS map does not show the nearest Marmite mountain or PG Tips lake.

Last week we were going to Geneva and the hotel we had stayed in before was fully booked as the drug addicts on bikes - er, Tour de France - had decided to visit the exact same part of Europe at the exact same time. So I suggested EFR get the GPS out, I would do all the fiddling needed to get it operational and we wouldn't get lost ever again, especially in Switzerland where it's probably illegal to do so.

The first hiccup came when I downloaded the CD with user instructions. I could predict a "RTFM" being launched at me by the Satnav refusenik the minute I made an error in programming so thought I'd better be able say I had RTFM. Our model can do all sorts of things, play music, show photos, speak Bulgarian etc. but the manual was very vague when it came to explaining how to use it to get from A to B. I realised that having all the instructions on my laptop at home wasn't going to be very helpful on the journey. The PDF contained 88 pages so EFR printed it with 4 pages per side, Rector-Verso. I was having doubts. I might be better off with a map after all but I'm a hopeless map reader and get carsick when I have to look at the small print on the move.

Nevertheless I worked out how to put in our home address but hit the usual problem of not having enough of an address to satisfy a website and now apparently a GPS. Still, it recognised the commune so we were off.

The morning of our departure EFR grudgingly agreed to install the windscreen holder but the journey started with huffs and puffs and sighs. I decided to baptise the device Gladys mainly to make EFR love her but when she started to speak that's what she sounded like. It took her a while to pick up satellite signals and it took me a while to realise that every time I pressed the "home" button she wanted to take us home and not back to the home screen.

Over the next couple of days Gladys showed her mettle. She was handicapped by new one way systems and a series of tunnels on the "périphérique" of Lyon but was certainly much quicker at finding out where we were and how to get out of there than EFR's habitual mapreader. She took us straight to our hotel in a town we'd never been to before and I would have liked to have credited her with choosing the lovely Indian restaurant nearby but that was me!

She took us in and out of Switzerland several times, found me a Garden Centre to visit and by the end of the trip EFR was firmly in love with her! He changed from saying "what's it saying now?" to "ask Gladys where we go next" in 24 hours! I think he even got a bit excited when she said "louder, louder" when I turned up her volume!

Last Saturday while I was repotting and taking cuttings from plants which had been blown over by a freak windstorm, EFR was sitting in the car on the drive playing with Gladys. He was going over to his brother's in the Dordogne the next day, a route he knows off by heart but he asked if he could take Glad with him - aaaah!

My story would have a happy ending but now we've decided we do like having a GPS, Gladys is already obsolete and they no longer do map updates for her. Pffft!!!!


Ms B said...

True love!

We have never felt the need for a 'Glad' or 'Gloria' or whatever they may be called. MrB would rather tell me that I am best at map reading so he can drive & then get a tad cross & frustrated when I miss a turning. I would have loved one last weekend though when trying to find somewhere in the middle of rural Norfolk on my own. The road atlas was too small a scale & the instructions seemed clear but patently weren't as I had to keep stopping, putting on reading glasses, committing route to memory, taking reading glasses off, driving on, forgetting route or finding actuality did not mirror instructions, stopping, putting on reading glasses................

Arabella Sock said...

Ha ha! I like map reading and maps. The Bedsock by contrast makes no attempt to even have a clue which direction we are likely to be going in (North, South etc.) with the consequence that if we are in a situation where he has to make a quick 'best guess' he invariably will choose the exact opposite direction to the one we should take.
He has got better since we did the Natural Navigation course though and takes more interest in these things. I was half tempted to blindfold him, drive us onto Dartmoor and tell him to get us back to Plymouth but the thought of being lost for days on Dartmoor in the rain wasn't that appealing.

The glasses thing is a bummer, I can't see the road without my glasses on and can't read the map with them on - this makes everything take twice as long.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Hurray for Gladys but a word to the wise; she won't work in Belgium for some reason. I have my own Gladys (well Dan is his name) and for some odd reason he gets lots in Belgium and only there. Went with a friend who had also her own Dan the Man and guess what? Her Dan didn't do Belgium either. ;-)

YAN said...

Ours is called 'Miss Whiplash'. She gets irritated very easily when, for example, we refuse to go down whatever miserable little cart track in France that she has deemed suitable as part of a route. And she once got me to Orly by accident when we needed the Port d'Italie. I have no real faith in her because I think she despises us. However, our new car has its own built-in Satnav and she is much nicer. She says 'Please' and is quite pleasant if we know a better way than the one she has suggested. (Miss Whiplash would have ordered us to do as she said and then, when we didn't go, say in scathing tones 'Re-calcuating. Re-calcuating').

I do like the fact that now, if we get lost, it's not my fault!

Fat Rascal said...

YAN, it's interesting what you say about the GPS finding invisible tracks in France.
We have an old public footpath going right through our garden which isn't there any more. We didn't appropriate it, it had already been incorporated into the garden before we bought the house but it shows up on Gladys. Nobody else has tried to drive down it -yet.

I expect the Belgians have had enough of every invading army in history marching through their country and don't want to make it any easier.

Gladys is like a microwave or a dishwasher, Ms B. Something you thought you'd never need or use but once you've had one you can't do without it.

jro said...

I love mine. She got me round France last year, and I have a choice of voices, too - mine is called Jane! So I really am with my OH if he borrows her.

I haven't been able to fault her, but I did do a lot of research before buying her. I had to, because OH didn't want one either and I had to convince him to pay for the expensive one I wanted as a Christmas present. Now he seems to have forgotten that it is MY present and uses her just as often as I do.

YAN said...

You may well get someone down your path one day, FR. The day we decided we couldn't trust Miss Whiplash was when she led us down a narrow road into someone's yard. Luckily they were not around, it would have been embarrassing to have to be desole because we had blindly followed the SatNav. It was quite a nice track, too, somewhere between Bergerac and Arcachon ...

Ah, well. We know better now!