To the casual observer, things might have seemed normal in the Jolly Flowerpots a couple of Tuesdays ago. Neighbour Robert and I were in, half a dozen other regulars, the fire was lit, the beer was good – in theory, nothing to write home about at all.
It was Emily the Barperson who was behaving a tad strangely. She was bouncing round the pub shouting three words, apparently at random.
Bearing in mind that she’s often in the habit of shouting three words, but the second one is usually “off”, and the third is either “Robert” or “Charlie”, and it’s usually the end of the evening when we’re trying to get a “Poor Farmers Terrible Harvest 10% Discount”, something odd was definitely going on.
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We’d just discovered the joys of What3words, the clever phone-based thingy (young people call it an “app”) that divides the world’s surface into 3x3m squares, and every square can be identified using just three words. So the bar was “strutting.prawn.thrillers” while just out in the garden was “pints.snowmen.planet”. Yes, really.
Once we’d all grown up a bit and stopped suggesting that Emily head on out into the car park (“keyboards.raven.clipboard”) and over to the cricket pitch (“hack.wimp.bluffing”), talk turned to how useful this app would be on the farm.
I’ve had lorry drivers ring to say they’re on the way, spot Alresford in our address, and end up 150 miles away at the other Alresford – in Essex.
We’ve had attempted deliveries that weren’t ours at all, because modern address systems often ignore the second line of an address, and the countryside is chock full of Manor Farms. (I still regret not unloading that bulk delivery of Portaloos – you can never have too many.)
And then there’s the farm injury scenario. What better way to guide in the fantastic Air Ambulance than “bunk.nurses.apartment”? It would be far quicker than “Well, you see that field just north of a couple of cottages at the junction where there’s a dirty old pond…?”
But what if it’s a road ambulance? Do you give three words for the entrance (“burn.octagon.blocking”)? It’s all very well rushing to a field, but you still have to know how to get into it.
Should the tractor have a laminated card with every field “three-worded”, bearing in mind how terrible the internet signal is out in the countryside, not to mention going through the faff of searching the app while injured.
Accuracy is key
Mind you, it would be dead handy during police anti-poacher operations. Our Countrywatch police now know the farm well enough to speed through it in the dead of night and arrive at the entrance to White Hill, but they’re not always on duty.
I feel sorry for strangers to the parish, trying to find a dark field on a dark night down a dark lane, using second-hand instructions from a control room.
If I could just say “firebird.dunk.transfers” to the control room, even the PC who doesn’t know left from right (yes, I’ve met her) could arrive at the right place.
All in all, it’s a fantastic idea. I’d have to learn how to use my new phone properly, of course, and we’re a bit short of teenagers at the moment to teach me.
And precision is definitely the order of the day: put “prawns” instead of “prawn” in the Pots’ 3words, and you’re in a field just north of Elisa, Argentina.
Very nice, I’m sure – but unlikely to find a pint of Perridge Ale and a packet of peanuts. And I don’t know the Spanish for “terrible harvest”.