Wednesday, January 15, 2014

If this is Wednesday, this must be Bristol

So, I'm doing this lecture tour.

Not much of a tour, to be honest. More of a trip around pubs in the south and west of England talking to Skeptics' groups about what's going on in North Korea.

[Executive summary: I don't know, but here's a video of a Korean pop band doing the theme from Rocky]

I'm enjoying it. I like doing the talks, and I love the question-and-answer sessions in the second half, and even my canine accomplice (renamed Kim Jong Bone for the duration) seems to enjoy going to strange towns and crapping on their local landmarks. Sorry about your Roman Baths, Bath. Most of it came off.

But the thing that totally destroys me is the driving. It's only a three-night tour, but Portsmouth and back, followed by Bath and back, followed by Bristol and back – it's killing me.

What amazes me is that there are whole armies of people like me – lecturers, speakers, actors, musicians, stand-up comedians – doing much the same, diving length and breadth of the country to entertain audiences of various sizes.

After this mini-tour, I'm just about ready to bump off the next driver that overtakes me in the rain on the M4 motorway, pulling in too soon and giving me the benefit of a wall of spray. I will round up and lock into a room without any electricity all the kids running amok at Membury Services.

But most of all, if it wasn't already part of my phone, I would stamp on my SatNav, set fire to the remains and feed whatever's left over to a gibbon.

Satellite Navigation, I find, is all well and good on the open road. But stick it in a city centre on a rainy night in January and you will curse the day you ever downloaded the AllFreeShiteNav from the Apps Store.

Take Bath. I saw enough of it last week to write a reasonably good tourist guide. The SatNav took me town the same street twice, and past the Abbey three times in a failed attempt to get out of town. Having said that – and despite my "all well and good on the open road" comment, it also tried to take me 80 miles home via back roads, so I obviously have a Tool Of Satan in my car.

As I finally made it down the M4 in a wall of rain, I wondered: "Surely there must be a better way? Surely there must be some way of beaming entertainment into people's homes so they can see interesting stuff on a screen in their living rooms?"

Then I realised it'll never catch on. 

The last night of the Alistair Coleman North Korea lecture tour is at Smoke and Mirrors in Bristol, Wednesday 22 January. 7.30pm start, free admission


AmyP said...

The SatNav recommendations don't take into account what a local person might suggest in terms of scenery, road conditions, or other factors that the app programmers cannot know. Shortest route (by mileage) isn't always the most enjoyable route, easiest route, safest route, or quickest route.
One trick to driving a lot is to try to enjoy the journey itself and the stuff you see along the journey--even the bad turns-- and not just arrival at the destination. For example, I once pointed out to a friend the textures and colors of groups of plants and weeds and trees along a roadside, and how they changed with the movement of the car, like a tapestry viewed from several angles in succession. Years later he commented to me that he now saw beauty there along the previously-boring landscape. He was pleased at this change of perspective.

AmyP said...

In light of this post, I got to thinking you might appreciate the following bit... I don't know if in the British collective psyche there is a similar phrase or idea, but in the U.S. most of us grew up hearing these famous lines from a Robert Frost poem.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
"I took the one less traveled by,
"And that has made all the difference. "

Anonymous said...

I became trapped in Bath in 1990. Wife navigating with maps, grandma in the back keeping baby quiet.. nearly lost the will to live. The roads in there means for the rest of my life I will never go back!

Anonymous said...

Dearest AmyP,
Mr. Frost notwithstanding, the other sage advice concerning these sorts of geographic conundrums comes by way of that American of Americans, Yogi Berra,"When you come to a fork in the road, take it".

Anonymous said...

".....But most of all, if it wasn't already part of my phone, I would stamp on my SatNav, set fire to the remains and feed whatever's left over to a gibbon......"

Now that's not fair to the gibbon, now is it? No it is not. After all, the gibbon is an ape and as an ape it shares at a minimum, 97.5 percent of our DNA (98.9 percent if you're British and 99.99979 if you are an American). I've a mind to call the RSPCA and report you.

Audrey said...

For the really fortunate members of society, every day is Bristol day.

Robin of Locksley said...

Get a proper satnav, and stop using that crap phone app. Then when your satnav takes you the wrong way up a one-way street, or insists on guiding you right through a busy town (rather than around it), you can hurl it under the wheels of a passing truck yet still make phone calls.

AmyP said...

I don't know if you would be interested in this bit of humor, but here is a good one. Jimmy Kimmel is a late-nite talk show host. If you don't want to go to the link blindly, then just use search terms
Dennis Rodman Sings Happy Birthday to Kim Jong Un

Dr Si said...

After some 4 years of dealing with the highway black hole which is Bath city centre, I concluded the best way was to leave the car on the outskirts near Victoria Park and walk the rest of the way in. Only takes 20 minutes and there's a reasonable chance your car will still be there when you get back.