Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Satnav Lady didn't do my laundry, but she did get me lost again

CHEAP washing machines have all but killed off the great British laundrette. That’s one of the conclusions I’ve drawn after an evening rediscovering the joys of satnav.

The impending drama of having to deal with an ever-increasing pile of dirty laundry prompted a drive pretty much the polar opposite of the ones I enjoy – instead of being given the chance to tackle the Buttertubs Pass in a hot hatch on a heady summer afternoon, I needed to navigate the mean streets of Peterborough, at rush hour. My motoring mission? Find, because I’ve yet to invest in a washing machine for Cambridgeshire home from home, a laundrette.

Normally, I navigate using my finely honed pub-based system but anyone familiar with Cambridgeshire’s contribution to the New Town initiative will know you can’t use quaint buildings called The Dog and Gun or The Golden Lion as pointers. Peterborough, not unlike Skelmersdale, is a confusing maze of roundabouts, slip roads and dual carriageways.

Out then, came the satnav app on my smartphone as my sole means of navigation to obscure postcodes which – according to a quick search on Google five minutes before I’d set off – contained the answers to my clothing cleaning conumdrum. It’s just a shame I’d forgotten why I don’t use satnav.

It’s useless.

At least twice Satnav Lady, whose slightly robotic voice leads to the presumption she’s the daughter of that equally synthesised woman who haunted Austin Maestro owners all those years ago, guided me off a dual carriageway, through a village for five minutes, before spitting me back out onto the same stretch of road. More worryingly, she would tell me exactly which turning I needed to take off the roundabout.... at pretty much exactly the point I’d start to power past it. Even an Audi Quattro, I’m almost certain, can’t corner that abruptly!

Half an hour into my ten minute journey, Satnav Lady proudly announces we’ve arrived at our destination – a grim looking suburban street where once, a long time ago, there proudly stood a laundrette. Mary Portas might curse the out-of-town shopping centre for killing off the high street, but I’m cursing Zanussi and Hotpoint for killing off the laundrette I’d spent so long looking for.

That’s why a drive around Peterborough, not at all distracted by Satnav Lady, turned into a drive around Peterborough where I wasn’t at all distracted by inspecting every shopfront for miles around to see if any of them were laundrettes. I discovered that Peterborough is home to the factory that makes Perkins diesel engines, IKEA’s distribution centre, and the strangest looking branch of Pizza Hut I’ve ever seen.

But, thanks to the combined efforts of a booming white goods industry and Satnav Lady’s hopelessness, I still haven’t found a laundrette.

David Simister is now saving up for a washing machine

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