|Start of the journey - BBC Wiltshire reception|
It's not the first time I've used GPS on a phone for guidance while walking - in fact I've done it when finding my way across cities on foot for years - but what I've always done before is kept my phone in my hands, glancing at the map to see where I should go. This time, I plugged in a pair of earbuds, stuck the phone in my pocket and let the software do the talking. And it worked brilliantly.
|Ms Google starts me off|
So off I set with the slightly whiny, but assertive American woman telling me what to do in my ears. It was strangely intimate. When a car sat nav tells you what to do, it is clearly coming from that piece of kit on the dashboard, but when a voice in your ears tells you to turn left onto Regent Street, there really is quite a strong urge to respond and make it a conversation.
As always when I take these mid-range walks across Swindon it's a delight that's rather similar to the experience of travelling on a narrowboat on one of the UK's canals. There's that same mix of passing close by everything from industrial architecture to open fields at a pace where you can really look around and observe things, seeing the world from an angle you don't usually get to experience.
Ms Google did the job perfectly, though I did find it a little unnerving, only following voice commands. Three times I gave in and got the phone out to check the map (especially when she appeared to be directing me to cross the road and walk up a set of steps, as indeed she was), but each time what I thought she meant was correct. She even got a little cheeky.
Occasionally she would make apparently reassuring comments that were clearly intended to wind me up, as they would only be of use to a scout. I would be powering up a steep sloping bend and she would suddenly say 'Head north west.' Now, bearing in mind the phone was in my pocket, unless I had a compass in hand, or had one of those pairs of shoes (Wayfinders) with a compass in the heel I always wanted as a kid, but wasn't allowed because my mum (rightly) said the compass would be rubbish, this information was totally without value. Still, it broke the awkward silences.
All in all, a real success. I think Ms Google will be my companion on many more trips to come...