Maps I can read. Courtesy of the delightful (late) Miss Lancaster of Withington Girls' School and the equally delightful and long-suffering Mrs McQueen of ditto, I learned to read a map and navigate hills and moors when I was in my teens. I know what the funny close-set multitudes of lines mean, what the crosses on the creases of the maps are and what a public footpath looks like both in reality and on paper.
Trouble is, all that is so out of date as to be out of use now, particularly when circumnavigating Warrington on a busy Saturday afternoon from a motorway to a dual carriageway and back to a motorway.
Bugger Warrington. I finally got out and headed for Liverpool (I'd never been there either before last weekend and to be honest, no offence, I never wish to return) and was feeling a bit (terrified) uneasy when I suddenly remembered I was supposed to be using a borrowed SatNav to get me to the Heart and Chest Hospital.
Hah! I stopped at a service station on the M62 and looked at The Instructions. I finally found the power source (the car's cigarette lighter) plugged this thing called TomTom into it, looked at first postcode I'd been given and tapped it in.
Five circuits of the car park later I realised TomTom was either having an April First Moment or a problem with brick walls (I can't drive through them). The voice of "Jane" kept telling me to turn right. "Fifty yards, turn right." (I tried both Charles (British Male) and John (American Dork) and reverted to the just-tolerable voice of "Jane" (British Female). I sat and screamed after the fifth circuit. I knew perfectly well I needed to be heading West, so I sang loudly ('Hit the Road, Jack') to drown "Jane" out until I'd got back onto the motorway heading west.
"Jane" instructed me to "turn round and go back".
After a panicky few minutes during which time I nearly side-swiped a hundred tons of articulated lorry and scared the tish out of the occupants of a 1978 Ford Capri by swerving across three lanes of mid-afternoon motorway traffic, I realised I'd put in the postcode of the Warrington address I'd left half an hour earlier. I started singing again because I couldn't work out how to shut "Jane" up and her smug instructions were beginning to piss me off. This time my choice of song was the wishful-thinking 'Take me home, country roads'.
Using commonsense and not SatNav I got in close to Liverpool, off the motorway and pulled over again. This time I put in the correct postcode and tried again. I was at the hospital in about 10 minutes - easy.
Denying any terror or problems, by the time I had finished my business at the hospital I reset the postcode navigation to an address near Tarporley in Cheshire, about a million miles away and managed to get to my destination with no-longer-white-knuckles and a steady heartbeat. The song had now changed to the old Harry Lauder number "Keep right on to the end of the Road".
On arrival, my knowing brother handed me the largest G and T I've ever seen and removed the SatNav from my custody. I've lived in the Back of Beyond too long, it seems. Give me the sun, a map, a compass (and another large G and T) and I can orienteer with the best of them, on foot or on hoof, across bog, moor and river. But offer me the latest global positioning navigation technology, the use of an American satellite and a cigarette lighter with attitude and I'll have a nervous breakdown before sunset.
I know where Liverpool is, thank you. I know where Exmoor is.
Guess which direction I'm headed?