On SatNags and Maps

I wrote this ages ago, but somehow never got round to posting it…


Last summer, DB and I went on a road trip along the south coast of England in a weird and wonderful VW van. The van is truly wonderful in all sorts of ways, but its weirder habits are a little bit annoying. One of its favourites involves playing with CDs (as opposed to just playing them like normal cars). The game starts the same way playing CDs does, you poke them into a slot in the dashboard one at a time. Then the fun starts. They spin round ever so fast, making strange noises and come out etched with sparkly spirograph patterns. The game can be played repeatedly, but after a while the patterns aren’t as pretty and look more of a mess. The van especially likes playing this game with expensive CDs. It’s very most favouritest are the ones with maps on them. The special VW ones which cost a small fortune every couple of years.

After playing the CD game with the van a couple of times we bought a map. It was a Good Map, the sort where the page order makes sense and doesn’t have Southhampton next to York on a double page spread (Our German one has the equivalent. Don’t ask). Also, the sides of the pages have arrows with a page number in each directions so you can find the next part of the map.

When we got back to Berlin, DB’s Dad bought a SatNag. It was cheaper than getting a new CD for the van.

Technology is a wonderous thing.

People are too.

Some people have incredibly good ideas and other people are incredibly good at making them work. Later, other people take the ideas a step further and make them even better.

For example, maps are a Good Thing. Someone started drawing directions, the next person coloured them in and the next bundled them into books. Someone decided to use satalites to make them more accurate and the next person took the printing stage out of the equation and let us use the satelites almost directly.*

Satalite Navagation is another Good Thing.

Having someone tell you where you have to turn left or where you can find the next petrol station is really useful if you’re on your own. Fitting a stack of road maps into a device the size of a phone is a genius idea, even more so when you consider how easy searching for miniture villages or specific motorway junctions becomes.


Sometimes it isn’t the idea that counts.

Also, sometimes, good ideas don’t need improving.

We discovered this when we borrowed DB’s Dad’s new SatNag for the Christmas journey from Berlin to my parents house in picturesque (and very rural) south England. He bought a new one after the old one mysteriously went missing in about March. He said we’d lost it, we denied all knowledge and said he must have lost it*. He said he hadn’t seen it since we used it when I moved house. We agreed that we’d used it for that journey, but said we’d given it back when we arrived. He refused to listen to us and said…

Except it doesn’t matter what he said, the argument didn’t get us any closer to actually finding it so he replaced it. Simple as that.

Since then, he’d turned it on a couple of times, mostly to see whether the nice lady approved of how he drove to work, but none of us had driven anywhere ‘foreign’, or even more than 200km away.

As sensible organised people (count me out of this one, I can’t take any responsibility here), we decided to test the thing before setting out. We wanted to know where we would be driving and how long it was going to take. I was satisfied with the version Google Maps had thrown at me, but apparently it’s better to look at things the way it’s going to be in real life.

After about an hour faffing about with the new-fangled interface and typing in all kinds of things, DB was incredibly miffed (and a little bit outraged) to find that the car would fall off the edge of the known world just outside Dunkirk.

It appears some genius decided to bring out SatNags with “Europe” on them, but not bother to including Britain. Croatia’s on there, Greece is on there, even most of Russia is on there, but no England. The marketing department must have thought they could make a fortune out of selling the 4 (or 5) updates separately**. The old SatNag had England on it, and set the whole “you lost it” – “no, YOU lost it” debate off again.

It took 4 of with 2 computers and a laptop the best part of 6 hours to decide there really, REALLY was no England on the stupid thing, and that there was no chance of getting an update for less than the price of a new SatNag.


We set off regardless and hoped for the best.

About 350km from The Edge Of The World, we found the road map. Complete with handwritten recommendations for good campsites ;).


It rained half the way across Germany, all the way across Belgium and through the tiny part of France which leads to The Edge of the world. It was still raining when we fell off the edge, and also most of the way to Dover. When we got there, it cleared up just long enough for the sun to come out, and for me to say, “SEE! It DOESN’T rain ALL the time!”, before it started to get dark. Apparently the rain not only appears to have a deal with The Continent, it also has a deal with the dark and the wind. Whatever. It kept us company all the way home.

The map was just as good as it was last year.

I distinctly remember more fish and chip shops on the coast front though. It took us the best part of an hour of driving round in circles in the rain before we finally found someone willing to sell us something to eat. Admittedly it was far too early for dinner, but we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and were hungry.

The rest of the journey was incredibly straight forward. I looked at the map, looked at the signposts, pointed out which lane we should be in, informed DB well in advance where we should turn off, what road number to look out for. All that kind of thing. And I was the water monitor ;). (Opening bottles while driving has got to be at least as dangerous as pressing the loudspeaker button on a mobile…)

We got home (to my folks) a little bit later than planned, but we didn’t get lost, or miss a junction. (Except the one we avoided on purpose because of traffic jams).

That’s a lot more than I can say about the journey back.


We found the original SatNag in the pop up table in the back of the van. (The table wasn’t in there as I moved house – the van was full of my stuff.. Whatever.)

Obviously we were chuffed to bits to have found it and duly plugged it in to charge. It took a bit of getting used to after the new one, but we eventually got the SatNag set up to take us to the tunnel on the way back to Berlin.

Right from the beginning she had odd ideas of where to go. I got the map out 20 minutes down the road because I couldn’t remember EVER going the way she was directing us. Despite me trying to look at the map as well, we got lost, took wrong junctions, changed lanes at the last minute and generally had a lot small heart attack moments. The nice lady didn’t recognise some of the roads, said helpful things like “exit the motorway NOW” while we were in the fast lane. She didn’t say anything when we headed into instead of round London and I ignored her when she told us to use the minor roads which ran parallel to the motorway.

I vote we stick to map reading in future.

* Or something like that. (twice ;))

** Or they were banking on Britain leaving Europe…………….

0 thoughts on “On SatNags and Maps

  1. Sounds like a lot of fun, maybe in the wrong direction though! Sorry but your posts have been ending up in my Spam, so maybe my computer needs a SatNag. {Well a nag anyway!}

  2. A very enjoyable read. I have my own SatNag post but not sure it is quite as enjoyable as yours!

    Thank you for visiting my blog. It is very nice to meet you.

    1. Mine too. At least for the longest time – things seem to have improved recently. You have no idea how often I had to beg the school IT technicians to mend my school computer(s) and / or salvage my work from the depths of their back-ups because the stupid things had blown up or crashed or decided to eat my words… 🙂
      If I didn’t love how lazy I could be if it all worked perfectly, I might well’ve. abandoned it all years ago! 🙂

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