We’re currently living next to a building site. A local developer is chucking up a few more bungalows, like the world really needs a few more bungalows – affordable housing for the cash-strapped, yes, more well-appointed dwellings with double garages for the well-heeled, no. It’s a lost cause and we’re resigned to it.
While a big, butch workman swinging an even butcher mechanical digger was busy excavating a trench for a new drain, he ripped out an underground communications cable, cutting phone and broadband lines to every house in the street.
This is during a pandemic with people trying to earn an honest crust working from home, doing their bit to keep themselves and the economy afloat. Head-scratching all round by shuffling workers in hard hats and a ‘wasn’t me, gov’ vacant look on their red faces.
Engineers from Openreach* armed with tools and sensors rode to the rescue, plugging us back in the very next day. I call that a result. It’s a temporary fix, though. The cable can’t be re-buried until the new drain is finished. So the builders have protected it from further damage with a tatty old upturned wheelbarrow. Very hi-tech. What are the chances?
And for my next trick – no water and no electricity?
* For the uninitiated, Openreach is the company that manages much of the UK’s fixed-line telecoms infrastructure.
After a two year love-hate relationship (more hate than love), I’ve dumped my smarty pants Samsung phone. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Well, it was more knackered than me and needed feeding twice a day just to keep the lights on. Not so smart, after all. In any case, my stumpy little fingers struggled to get to grips with the tiny touch screen – I was forever firing up fancy apps that I neither wanted nor understood. Tales of my idiocy even reached the Capital, as evidenced by the birthday card I received from my sister-in-law last year (above).
Sorry, Samsung, I just don’t love you anymore. Time to move on.
When I popped into town to browse for alternatives, the arsy child with the bugger-off face at the Virgin Media shop was less than helpful so I decided to dump them too. I can do that. I’m the customer. Step forward a well-known supermarket chain with a doddle-to-use website, cheaper tariffs and no hidden extras. Its core business may be going down the pan along with its shareholder’s dividends, but its phone offer is crystal-clear. Now I have a brand new Nokia Lumia and, so far, it’s more love than hate. I’d never understood why the nation’s yoof was so glued to their smart-arse phones that they would walk into lamp posts and trip over the homeless. Until now, that is. I was so impressed that I got Liam one too. Now we sit for hours, side-by-side ignoring each other. I guess that’s what you call progress.
I’ve invested in smart phone from Virgin. Well I say invested, it came free with a 24 month contract. My trusty old Nokia just doesn’t cut the Colman’s mustard anymore. Nor is it the right image for an infamous author and fading community radio star. Besides, my pay-as-you-go tariff was crippling me and this one comes with free this, free that. You see, it’s a smart-arse Samsung smarty pants touch screen Star Trek contraption and it’s so much smarter than me. My stumpy little fingers can’t quite manage the micro-keyboard and the bloody thing insists on wolf-whistling at me. I have no idea why. It’s been twenty years since that last happened. I tell you, it’s enough to turn an ex-pretty boy’s head. And if I don’t feed it daily, it just conks out. My old low IQ phone may be dim-witted but at least it goes on for weeks without draining the national grid. Beam me up Scotty and show me how it works. Where’s my 10 year old nephew when I need him?
The talented folk at Future Radio must have thought my debut gig on Pride Live wasn’t too embarrassing as they asked me back for a repeat performance. This time, I wasn’t plugging the book. As the Pride season draws to a close and rainbow flags across the realm are folded away for yet another year, I was invited to bang my drum about paying to be proud at Brighton Pride. Towards the end of the piece, my train of thought was fatally derailed by my new-fangled smart phone throbbing in my pants. It turned me into a rambling wreck. Despite my momentary bout of bumbling amnesia, I hope I came across as the voice of moderation. You can be the judge by clicking on the big poofy pink radio.
The day after we moved into our ancient gaff, a nice man called Richard from Virgin Media (not the Richard, obviously) installed our all singing, all dancing multimedia techno-wizardry – 30 megabyte fibre-optic broadband, telephone line and high definition TV. The whole compendium was half price for six months and came with free installation, free equipment and free weekend calls. We now have more channels of crap than you can shake a stick at. Currently, I’m being forced to watch wall-to-wall Olympics (Liam’s current obsession). We’ve never had HD TV before. I can see every wrinkle, every blemish, every spot and every blackhead on the faces of the famous – except for Gary Lineker (who surely must have had a nick and lift). No wonder an old bundle of ageing TV presenters decided to hang up their auto-cues and throw in the flannel: there are some things even the thickest slap can’t hide. Now we have free weekend calls, they’ll be no more Sunday Skype calls to mother. Just as well. I could never get the bloody thing to work properly from Turkey anyway and the compulsory weekly check-in was always a painful exercise, invariably ending in complete frustration.