Rebecca Tyrrel: Days Like Those

You say map, I say sat-nav; you say A-Z, I say sat-nav ... let's call the whole trip off
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The Independent Online

A satellite navigation system may not feature in any top-10 list of most romantic gifts, but it is what I want for Valentine's Day. I doubt very much if I will get one, however, because I have been asking Matthew for a while now and he always refuses.

The response to my request is invariably the same: "Satellite navigation? Why would anyone need satellite navigation in a world full of maps?" I then point out to him that he can't read maps (he has what he calls "cartological dyslexia") and he comes back with a theory so familiar to me that I find myself mouthing along to it like a backing singer.

"I can't read maps because I am Jewish," he says, "Jewish people cannot read maps. That's why we spent 40 years in the wilderness. Moses kept taking the wrong turn." Moses, it always occurs to me, should have stopped at a garage and asked for directions, but I am too busy preparing to mime along with the next bit to make the point.

"You, on the other hand, are not cartologically dyslexic," continues Matthew, "and that is because you are not Jewish. Also, it is your wifely duty to read maps on my behalf. It says so in the Talmud. As Rabbi Eliazar puts it: 'He who takes a shiksa wife shall be dishonoured among his brethren; but he who takes a shiksa wife who refuses to read a map shall be disgraced in the eyes of the Lord'."

Map rage

Feminists might like to point out that in 2006AD, the woman desperate for a sat-nav is perfectly entitled to go out and buy one for herself. Technically this is true. However, it has now become a matter of principle - Matthew is clearly wrong when he says that I should be able to read a map better than him. He is also wrong when, after finally admitting that we are lost in the car, he hands me a map and expects me to solve the problem inside 30 seconds and if I don't I am being obtuse. The only way Matthew and I can reach closure on this issue is for him to admit his wrongness and buy me a sat-nav.

I don't hold out much hope of this ever happening, although this morning I thought I had made ground when I pointed out to him over breakfast that a useful feature of many satellite navigation systems is they warn you when you are approaching a speed camera. "Do they really?" he said, looking up from his paper. Matthew regards speeding endorsements as an affront to his civil liberties from a nascent police state.

Clash of opinions

We are on our way to visit an elderly friend and look at her new flat on a new housing development in Uxbridge. Because of a recent letter informing the registered owner of my car (Matthew) that said car had been caught on camera jumping a red light in Hammersmith Broadway, Matthew spends much of the early stages of the journey being sardonic. Every time we approach traffic lights, he feigns confusion. "Hmm, it's red," he says, and then he sings: "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" by the Clash. He only stops doing this as we approach the environs of Uxbridge, when he hands me an A-Z and tells me the name of the road that our friend lives in. I am expected, within 30 seconds, to have found it and worked out precisely how to reach it. But I can't find it.

Matthew pulls into a bus lane and looks at the A-Z himself, then bangs his head on the steering wheel seven times. "Clearly this new development is too new," I say. "Or," says Matthew, "perhaps they printed just this one copy of the A-Z without the road we are looking for and sold it to us out of spite."

"I bet the new housing development is visible from space," I say. "A sat-nav would get us there. They update the information on a daily basis and you can download it on to your computer for a very small amount of money each month."

Language barrier

We have now been driving for an hour and a half, and still we have not found the road that we are looking for. I have called the local police station (no answer), the AA (they only do route-finding over the internet these days), and several mutual friends, all of whom said they have yet to visit the new housing development, and if it is so hard to find they doubt they ever will. Finally there is nothing for it but to ring our elderly friend, who must, anyway, be wondering where we have got to. The reason we hadn't done this before is that she is from Mexico and, although she has lived in this country for 40 years, she has never quite mastered the language.

So when I ask her where exactly her road is, I am not surprised when she replies: "It is in Uxbridge. Near the bus stop." I tell her I hope we will see her as soon as possible but perhaps not within the month, and Matthew, who has been banging his head on the steering wheel for so long and so hard he is now unable to speak, nods enthusiastically when I suggest we give up and go home.

A to Z of love

Matthew recovers his power of speech after two tumblers of Famous Grouse and suggests we have another crack at visiting our friend in a fortnight or so. "How?" I ask. "How will it be any easier to find our way in a fortnight than it is now?" "Ah, well," says Matthew, "call me a hot-headed, romantic old fool, but I wouldn't dream of ruining your Valentine's Day surprise." Still, I am not holding out too much hope, because what I might be getting is an up-to-date edition of the A-Z.

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