Technology is not all it is cracked up to be

I have always thought that we have a rather low-tech vehicle, when compared to most modern ones. It is a Land Rover Defender 110: drives like a flying brick but in this part of the world indispensable. Our first Defender was third hand and somewhat spartan. This one was bought new but although an updated model, it is, nonetheless, instantly recognisable as a British classic.

It may leak, is certainly noisy and is remarkably uncomfortable if you have the misfortune to have to sit on the back seats on any journey more than 25 miles, but we love it. In the past four years we have covered over 75,000 miles in it. It has taken us birdwatching in north Norfolk, garden visiting across the South West and is our usual transport onto the Moor. As well as being the school run bus, it has ferried children and all their gear to and from universities (although I would not recommend the cross-London route we took last September taking one of the girls up to the University of East London). This morning it was a straightforward pre-Christmas shopping trip into Exeter. We dropped Ed off at school (drama rehearsal this morning and rugby this afternoon) before parking in the Southgate Hotel car park.

Returning an hour or so later, the central locking did not work. This is where we found the Land Rover somewhat higher tech than it might at first appear. When we bought it we were warned never to unlock the door manually once the alarm was set, as not only would this set off the alarm but trigger the immobiliser (requiring an expensive call out to reset it).With this in mind, we called a daughter, borrowed her car and drove home (collecting the shopping first) to fetch the spare keys. Back, much later, in the car park, I discovered the spare keys did not work either. I had no alternative but to make the ‘phone call for the expensive call out: 30 minutes later Lamb Garage (aka Land Rover Assistance) appeared.

He had no qualms about opening the door. The alarm didn’t go off, nor did the immobiliser trigger. He did not know what the matter was, but the engine started and I was able to drive home, cold, £135.00 the poorer, and none the wiser. The Land Rover will have to go back to the dealer on Monday, and once plugged in to their diagnostic equipment, we will probably learn that the whole alarm/central locking system has failed, and will have to be replaced. Life was certainly much simpler when you simply used a key to lock, unlock and start your car!

It left me wondering what we would have done had it happened last Sunday. We had driven up to Okehampton Camp and a little beyond, and then walked the military road before cutting off, up Oke Tor and back along the Belstone Ridge. Parking, we caught the first icy squall. Hailstones coming in almost horizontally at 40 miles an hour is not much fun, but in between bright sunshine, tremendous wind and good walking. We lunched sheltered behind Oke Tor (and watched another bout of dirty weather come over) and 45 minutes later had to take shelter again. We got back to the Landrover as yet another squall caught us. Had the central locking failed then, we would have been very stuck (and very cold!). But we had our mobiles with us and even if it had not been pleasant, no doubt someone would have come and helped us.

We rely so much on technology. I have been very tempted to buy a GPS for walking, especially as weather on the Moor, as we found last week, is so unpredictable. The problem is that once you start to rely on this equipment, you run the risk of losing the real skills that hill walking requires: map and compass work, the ability to estimate time, direction and distance; and, above all, common sense. It is like having satnav in the car, and ignoring the road signs: I once arrived at the back entrance (locked) of a hotel in Redruth, courtesy of satnav; a friend of ours didn’t pay attention when tapping in Moretonhampstead, and instead found herself on the road to Mortehoe: yet she knew the way perfectly well.

Machines are no substitute for sense.


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