Wal (no, not short for Walter: stands for “wonderful and lovely” which is how he likes things to be) has an intern,
the son of friends, who needs to start somewhere. Wal is a designer who holds with some force that there is only one way to do things, and that’s the right way. And to this end, he teaches, what to write in pencil (so it can altered without mess), the keeping of all sorts of records, and the writing of thanks. “That’s nice” said George (17). Wal explained that you never know when you need goodwill and that not everybody has a mobile. “Really ?” said George. “Some people don’t want them” said Wal, thinking of me.
I had a mobile for just short of three uncomfortable months.
It was an unnecessary bill. I have voicemail on the landline, an email address and if you want me, you’ll get me. Moreover, I am cackhanded, actually almost afraid of technology, can’t use Varifocals so wear two pairs of specs, and loathe the idea of being constantly interrupted – and the sound quality ! Being on demand as Wal is, is like living with a flatulent tree creature, a constant stream of burps, farts, clicks and rings. (To his credit, he further explained to George that if he didn’t have a business to run, he wouldn’t have one either.)
There was a newspaper story about an old man who couldn’t get a drink in a newly opened pub because he didn’t have the app.
Another columnist wrote about not being able to give money away. But when I went to the new hairdresser (salon the size of a shoebox, room for two clients and two technicians – he’s Brazilian, she is South Korean, best haircut in years, £25 cheaper than the last one) l was asked if I could pay in cash, which I had come prepared to do and when I did, we all laughed in recognition. Perhaps it is a new definition of poverty.
We keep on about the damage done to the environment by aircraft – unless of course they’re bringing somebody in to a football match or somebody important has to get somewhere in a hurry, But I worked on two liners, four or five years apart, in which time the quality of the cruise declined and so did the quality of the passengers.
And no matter how many polite notices, we had 16 toilet occlusions in 5 days just because people would put down the pan anything they wanted rid of and the system wouldn’t take it. Standing on my little balcony at night, I looked at the stars above – and at the furrow of filth being pumped out into the sea below.
It’s like the joy of the dishwasher – which I had when I was married and working and loved the convenience of – till I saw the underside if you haven’t cleaned it rigorously. All my fault – but it put me right off. And yesterday I met a neighbour hauling a food processor home on the bus, who told me she takes the car fewer and fewer places because of expense and inconvenience. I would have built a taxi into the budget but then I lack the wish to suffer. And I have never driven.
I have never had groceries delivered, not since I was a child at home and the Pybus man came once a week. I stay away from Amazon and everything else on line as much as I can. I am not saying you should, only that it is possible to live this way, particularly if you live alone and your time is your own. I go out, I walk, I meet people and I carry shopping.
The other day, coming home from seeing David Hockney at the RA with Howard and the most expensive three glasses of wine in the world (two for him, one for me) courtesy Fortnum and Mortgage, I saw a woman waiting for a bus. She beamed at me. I said “I wish I could remember where I know you from… “ She said “You don’t.”. I said “But you smiled at me … “ “ Well,” she said, “you smiled at me.” “I wish I knew you” I said and we embraced in the street.