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Back to the Future (Part I) 

(First published in the XK Gazette in 2008)

                                                                                             By Paul Abadjian

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I know that this shall come as a blow to those loyal readers unfortunate enough to know me personally, but I have never considered myself to be at the forefront of fashion or trends. An example of this was my attitude to backgammon. When it became de rigueur amongst the London smart-set in the early/ mid 70s, I wouldn’t be seen dead playing the game, as it seemed such a cliché. Needless to say, I chose to learn it in the late 70’s, just when it had become deeply unfashionable, and remember well those long lonely evenings playing with myself, as it were. At least it kept me fit, commuting back and forth from one side of the board to the other. My attitude to cutting-edge technology is much the same. When personal organisers became all the rage 10 years or so ago, I clung steadfastly to my house brick-sized Filofax, and still do.  I opined to anyone who would listen (not many) that had we had electronic personal organisers for the past 50 years, and they had just introduced Filofaxes, many would hail this as a huge step forward. We would now able to access instantly any data required, never risking losing it all into the ether. As a bonus, there was almost no risk of losing the Filofax itself, due to its gargantuan size compared to the P.O., and you couldn’t break it when you accidentally sat on it.

 

A further plus point was that it could be wielded effectively to defend one self against muggers, intruders and general miscreants- try doing that with your pocket-sized personal organisers. I have a similar ambivalent view of Satellite Navigation. Having always felt quietly confident around maps, I have never felt the burning need to join the Tom Tom Club. However, I do not know whether my male readers have a similar view, but I have always found that persons of a Female Persuasion, despite, I hasten to add, having numerous EXCELLENT skills and abilities, often exceeding those of their male counterparts, I am reliably assured, frequently seem a little ‘challenged’ when it comes to the gentle art of interpreting a map. This has led, over the years, to Mr & Mrs Abadjian ( both Mk I & Mk II) arriving, eventually, at our chosen destination, via a somewhat circuitous route, with the atmosphere in the car feeling distinctly frosty. This may or may not have been a trend unique to us as couples, (though I suspect not), and may or may not have contributed in some measure to the fact that both said ladies are ‘ex’. I had no wish to perpetuate this worrying and expensive trend with my Fabulous Fiancé  Fiona, whom, despite being an expert specialist Guru in all things travel, seems equally challenged when it comes to map reading. We therefore recently decided to take the plunge with Sat Nav.

 

Our initial brief foray into the brave new world of electronic guidance was not a conspicuous success however. On the Spanish XK Club tour, Jaguar Spain had graciously lent us an X –Type (excellent car, buy one immediately) and this was fitted with a sat. nav. The only drawback was that the lady trapped therein seemed only to be capable of relaying her instructions in Spanish. Not a big issue as we had the superb route book honed to perfection over a period of many months by Ricardo and Encarnita Galvani. However, Fiona was obliged to leave 3 days before the end of the tour (someone around here has to work for a living) and so we drove reluctantly from where the tour was over nighting in the Pyrenees to Barcelona airport. As a parting loving gesture, I asked Fiona to set the Sat. Nav. to get me back to base, about 1.5 hours away. As I had driven throughout the tour, I had had no dealings with the Sat. nav., and thus had no idea how to work it. Navigating her way diligently through all the Spanish instructions, Fiona duly keyed in the name of my destination, as we made our tearful farewells.

 

Flying solo for the first time, I was mildly surprised to hear my gentle Iberian guide urging me in a south-westerly direction, as I knew full well that my route home lay north east.  However, I managed to rationalise it in my own mind with the explanation that Lolita (for I am sure that must be her name) was taking me towards the ring road, sensibly avoiding the chaos and confusion of central Barcelona. Lulled into a cosy, but false, sense of security I failed to notice said ring road come and go, as Lolita and I speared resolutely in the wrong direction. Arriving in due course at the ticket booth at the start of the toll road heading south I realised that something was seriously amiss on the navigation front. It was not possible to turn around, so I was obliged to hit the Autovia-taking me still further away from where I needed to be, and at greatly enhanced velocity. I would just have to take the first exit, which did not arrive for several miles. It turned out that although this was indeed an exit off the motorway, there was no corresponding entrance back on to it on the other side, thus obliging one to join the tiny coast road, which wound circuitously along the cliff edge back towards Barcelona. It was Sunday evening, and traffic coming back into town was horrendous, and it took me nearly an hour and a half to get back to my starting point near the airport, which left me with a further 1.5 hours to get back to the hotel . The atmosphere in the car was frosty, with Lolita beseeching me constantly, in ever more hysterical Spanish, to turn around. Instead I turned her off, in disgust.

 

It was when I eventually got back to the hotel, courtesy of good old-fashioned maps, that I realised that there were two towns with the same name, in completely opposite directions, and the one that Fiona had inadvertently entered into the Sat. Nav. was, as Sod’s Law invariably dictates, the wrong one. …….ah, the joys of technology…….

 

 

Back to the Future (Part II)

 

………continued  from last month’s article, in which we established:-

 

  1. Paul is a Neanderthal  when it comes to technology
  2. He got horribly lost in Spain as a result, and
  3. Girls are crap at map-reading
  4. this is more than compensated for by their many other excellent qualities.

 

In January this year, my Fabulous Fiancé Fiona and one Mrs. Julie Porter decided to go to New York for a long weekend. This venture was allegedly mostly for business purposes, although it had not escaped their attention that the sales happened to be on, and that the Dollar was on its knees, making it seem as if they were being paid to take all that quality gear away- in their view at least! Their weekend adventure was scheduled to start from Stansted airport, which, for those not familiar with it, is one of the lesser London airports and is conveniently situated between north east  London and Copenhagen. Julie and Fiona decided to stay the night before in Kensington to give them a reasonable chance of getting to Stansted in time, but, even then, it meant a 6am start. The first impediment to the day started when their Sat. Nav. could not find a signal.  Undaunted, they got out the trusty map, only to find that it did not cover central London in any detail and would help them little in their endeavours to locate Stansted.  Their final and favoured option was to call me-at the time fast asleep in our cottage in Dorset.

 

In my 50 odd years of living in London, I had acquired an encyclopaedic knowledge of its geography, second only to that of a black cab driver, and so it fell to me to get the girls to Stansted in time. I was duly pressed into service, on the end of a cordless phone which loses its signal instantly if you move more than an inch, owing to the three feet thick 400 year old walls. Flat on my back, and rooted to the spot I proceeded to act as a human sat. nav. whilst hoping and praying that the electronic one in their car  would eventually find its mis-placed satellite. I lay there, trying to envisage the somewhat complex route in my head, where the girls were likely to be on said route, and how best to guide them on a course that would be the easiest to explain and to follow. At the same time I was endeavouring not to move a muscle lest I send them off into oblivion with a failed phone signal, and I began to inwardly curse sub-standard technology. Who says its only women who can multi-task? After 40 minutes, and a fair degree of ‘wrong-slotting’ and doubling back caused by breakdowns in both communication and interpretation, they finally reached the junction of the A1 and the M25, London’s ring road, at which point they were confident on navigating the remainder of the route without my ‘human sat. nav.’ assistance.  Fiona later texted me to say that they had been so chuffed at making it to the airport on time that they sat down to have large coffees and a long self-congratulatory natter, seemingly oblivious to the fact that reaching Stansted was merely the start of the journey rather than the end of it. As a result of  all this mutual resting on laurels they had to be paged by name over the tannoy twice and only just made the waiting plane by the skin of their teeth.

 

Despite the aforementioned examples of technology in general, and sat. navs. in particular,  letting us down, we were persuaded by numerous members of the XK Club that we ought to splash out on one, and to drag ourselves kicking and screaming into the 21st century. We duly succumbed and bought a Tom Tom last August. Since then we have used it perhaps 5 times, and found that it worked reasonably well. Last week, I bought an XKR convertible on behalf of Retro Classics (Meteorite Silver, Ivory interior, 20” BBS alloys, ex-Jaguar road test car, private reg. and superb value at only £15,950 etc etc!) and had to take the train from London up to Halifax to collect it. Needless to say, I had the trusty Tom Tom with me hoping for it to guide me unfailingly back on the long and complex drive from the middle of nowhere in west Yorkshire to south Dorset. Switching it on as I bid a cheery goodbye to the vendor, my mate Tom Tom (just Tom to his friends) navigated me faultlessly through the winding country lanes towards the M62, and skilfully avoiding  the huge Manchester sprawl, onto the M6 heading south. This was going well. 

 

Back to the Future (Part II) 

 

Somewhere north of Birmingham,  I felt the need to commune with nature, and pulled into a service area. Not wishing to leave my new mate Tom exposed to any prying eyes, I shovelled him into the glove box between the seats, and slammed the lid shut. On my return to the car, I retrieved Tom and switched him on.

 

I was greeted by a screen with a curious black shape obscuring about 25% of the screen, and the remainder of what was visible had only 50% of its normal contrast level. Something had clearly happened to Tom whilst in the glove box. I opened the lid and peered in to its murky recesses. I discovered that this car was fully optioned indeed, and the factory spec. evidently included a Star Tac phone. Though impressively tiny for its era, the phone still took up a fair amount of the available space in the glove box when plugged into its docking device. My careless slamming of the lid on poor old Tom had caused the Star Tac phone to impact forcibly into his screen, causing  Tom what I guess is irreparable damage. Bugger. I continued on my way suitably chastened. At least the audio side of Tom was still working, so all was not lost. However, as I sped south along the Birmingham toll road and Tom repeatedly instructed me to leave this road by any means available, most notably by a road leading exclusively to a service station, I realised he was somewhat out of sorts as a result of his injury, and was set on revenge.

 

This he finally exacted by leading me on a tour of all the industrial estates south of Frome (there are a lot) and then just retreating into a stony and petulant silence when I had no idea where I was, or even, by now, what direction I was driving in. As it was the first time I had driven this XKR, I had no map with me, it was 9.00 at night, and I had not passed any open human habitation for a long time, be it pub, petrol station or even house. The technology break-down (admittedly, self-inflicted) added an unwelcome hour plus of aimless and frustrating driving at the end of a long and tiring day. I’ll take a map any day-wish I had done so that time!

 

 

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