Inspired to make a contribution towards more ecological living, you may recall my purchase of a Hotbin composter (PC 221) in the last few days of February and how I had had to use the landline telephone. Landline? Who has one of those these days? Well, here some 75% of the adult population but that’s probably a great deal lower in our 18 – 35 year age group. Living in Amber House the landline is essential as mobile signal coverage is very variable. Despite living in a city and despite my service provider O2 claiming I should have 5 bars, the reality is that it drops out, that the only way to get a good signal is to hang out of the window, with the tips of your toes wrapped around the radiator to prevent catastrophe. Texts? ‘Didn’t send. Try again?’ ….. so you move a couple of metres and try again, lifting your arm up into the stratosphere as if that will help.
You may remember an office …… and you may have been lucky enough to have a desk …… which came with a landline telephone …… its cable coming up through a hole on the right hand side? I am sure you’ve watched a film where someone picks up the telephone with their right hand, dials a number and in the course of the conversation wants to make some notes. So they transfer the handset to their left ear, with the cable coming under their neck, half-throttling them, and use their right hand to write. Much easy to get used to using your left ear to listen, having the telephone on the left hand side of the table, with a free right hand to scribble. The reverse is true if you are left-handed (Note 1)
You might think if you have been reading these postcard scribbles for a while that I watch television quite a lot. ‘Tis true, particularly during these lockdown periods, but documentaries and dramas give me ideas about this and that.
Recently I watched some lightweight crime drama where the lead detective, and that’s lead as in most senior and not lead as in dead-boring and that probably would have been leaden…….. in the middle of a conversation with someone ……. when their mobile chirped and he said: “Sorry! Just need to take this!” without even looking at the screen to see whether it was someone on his Contacts List or someone unknown, without knowing who had called him and of course these days it could have been someone asking whether he had been involved in a no-fault car accident or someone whose first words were ‘I am not selling anything’ and one’s heart sinks because you know that’s exactly what they are going to lead into (lead again!) …… so interrupting whatever conversation he was having ….. just because your mobile rang or chirped or barked or whatever ringtone you have selected …… just because the caller has decided to call you as it’s convenient for them without knowing whether it’s convenient to you and we have become slaves to the ringtone, slaves to the ‘must answer this’ demands!
Sorry if I am a dinosaur about this but what happened to good manners when you are talking to someone aren’t you focused on them and what they are saying and how you might respond and yes sometimes you wish your mobile would ring and give you an excuse to pause the conversation because the person next to you is banging on and on and you wish they would listen and then you realise the only way to interject is to interrupt and that used to be rude but in some cases necessary. In the course of this particular drama the detective must have said ‘sorry I need to take this’ 8 times ……. not that I was counting!
I often call a chum, just for a catch-up, and I call when it’s convenient to me; possibly after lunch. “Sorry, just in the middle of lunch/afternoon tea/reading important stuff! Can I ring you back?” – so why answer in the first place when an answering machine will take a message? And don’t get me started on the modern habit of arriving in a restaurant (remember those?) and everyone puts their mobiles on the table; why go in the first place if you don’t want to engage with those you have come to be with?
Carol Midgley, writing in The Times on 17th April: “Oh! No! They’ve come back the phombies, more gormless than ever! People who walk and text simultaneously, oblivious to traffic or the old ladies they knock into. Almost knocked one over the other day texting, crossing the road, earbuds in; it’s important to be deaf as well as blind crossing.”
Of course our mobiles have become so much more than a way of speaking to someone. We communicate by voice, by text, by sending a photo or using one of the many social media apps. And more than a communication device, the mobile or iPad has become the internal spy for companies anxious to sell you stuff. For example, last year a bird dropped a seed and it landed in some compost in a terracotta pot. This I surmise as I didn’t actually see the bird but I saw the little shoots of growth.
So I encouraged it, watered it, re-potted it and watched it develop. The problem is I don’t know what type of plant it is, possibly a weed, possibly a shrub, possibly a tree. So I took a photo and sent it by WhatsApp to Sally whose a keen and knowledgeable gardener – if in doubt go to the Oracle or so I thought.
The Oracle responded in a negative way. Not so the internal spy! The morning after my Facebook offering is to invest in an App that will tell me what it is; I know there is one for plants but this is for trees.
Just thinking out loud!
Richard 30th April 2021
Note 1. Famous lefthanders include Angelina Jolie, Winston Churchill, US Presidents Barak Obama and Bill Clinton, Bart Simpson (as his creator Matt Groening is) and the future King of England Prince William.