We’ve been on an enforced cyber-detox.
On Monday I was driving back from The Forest, called the old git to say I was coming home, when a young woman answered. I hung up and dialled again and the same young woman answered.
I was short, demanding she told me who she was and what she was doing picking up my telephone, humphed a bit then hung up.
I got home and dialled our land-line from my mobile when bugger me if the same young woman didn’t pick up. Only it wasn’t the young woman it was her mother
‘My daughter is disabled.
‘My daughter said you were rude to her.’
‘Oh! Well yes, well, no. Sorreeee.’
‘My daughter said you were short and rude.’
Well I am short, and often rude, but my confusion over the aproppriation of my telephone line was displayed in my curt questioning. After numerous grovelling apologies the mother softened and told me to get onto our service provider. We both hung up our telephones. That poor young woman was being bombarded by my friends, agents, cold callers and Steve, the log man.
Well you know the rest; no Phone, no internet, no Bafta films, no late night catching up, no nothing/nada/nicht/niente
On Tuesday lunchtime a very chatty engineer arrived, pushed the armchair around, chucked the bean-bag across the floor, pulled out plugs, stuck things into holes and informed us that, whilst we were ok, the fault was outside the property. Straight forward you would think. Of course not. Sky had to get permission from Open Reach before they could open up the box outside (BT property) and start fiddling.
So, another night of having to talk to each other, of having to watch whoever was in the schedules. No skipping, no surfing, no autonomy…. We ended up going to bed at an ungodly time best suited to infants.
At 7.15am I woke, abluted and went downstairs. At precisely 8.10 The Sky engineer arrived, pulled out plugs, made calls, left machines on the back of the armchair, read codes and disappeared outside for 45 minutes. He was engineering and resetting.
He re-entered the house at 9.15 and phoned us on his mobile. “Brrring”, went the landline; we cheered, a full broccoli head of power lit up the wifi and, as if we had been sitting in a traffic jam for 96 hours, when everything starts moving, the misery is instantly forgotten, and so we were up and running.
Now, the thing about the last four days is that it shone a mighty light on my reliance on technology. It’s not that I haven’t, couldn’t or can’t function without it, but I have timetabled, into my life, Netflix, Bafta, Apple TV, Sky. I am deeply disturbed that a few short years ago I would have used my time totally differently; a book, a bath, a bedtime muse. Back then a satellite, or a router, a scart plug or a digi box, would have existed only in a sci-fi novella.
So at 10.00 this morning I was finally tapping, into the sat-nav, the route to Pooh Corner, buying fizzy vitamin bombs, ordering zinc and vitamin supplements – on line – having a quick flick through my Facebook and Instagram, a very brief peruse of ‘The Daily Wail’ with its bar of shame, my emails and messages. A whole pile of noisy interactions took place. The detox had lasted four days. It should have lasted longer because I realised I was beginning to remember life before the tyranny of Fuk Tok.
Pooh lives 8 miles away. This morning when I re-cycled empty boxes and juice bottles, snow was still on the dustbin lid. I had to nudge it to get the lid open, and whilst Hastings is lovely, the idea of a day in the biting wind was too much.
I put on thick sox and walking boots, my warmest trouser bottoms, a t-shirt, a sweater, a puffa jacket and a thick gilet over it all. Took enough tissues to deal with my nose and his, and we drove into the brightest of suns towards Hartfield.
We parked the car in Pooh Car park, the property of the landowner who we were told on notice boards, was a good custodian of the land. That the woods were being copiced for wild life, the waterways were being re-routed to reduce flooding, and that Marsh Marigolds were about to flourish in their new old home.
The walk to The Bridge was down a slight incline, the trees silhouetted against the sun which was now directly above us. Elegant silver birches leaned over towards big butch Beech trees. Oaks that looked half dead, leaves that had metamorphosed from crinkly russet crisps into sodden khaki mulch and lolling ferns all limp and languid the colour of an Yves St Lauren cable knit pullover. We met a couple, dressed for a perambulation on the Ramblas. He wore gloves and she carried a handbag. I pointed to a tall tree and stopped them with my opening gambit
‘Are those trees dead?’
‘No we aren’t either.’
‘They could be.’
‘That’s what we thought.’
They tried to leave the conversation, but I piped up
‘Have you seen the Facebook group Ancient Forests?’
‘Well they post photographs of trees from all over the world. An 800 year old Japanese magical monster that the natives won’t go near when its a wet, murky evening….’
But they had already left the party.
We wandered down towards the stream. The original bridge which inspired A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories sold at auction for more than £131,000 to Lord De La Warr, who owns Buckhurst Park. The existing bridge is now made from the remnants of the original, with added timber that matched the old.
‘It will take pride of place on the estate.’ said Mr. La Warr.
The Northern git, found a brambly twig, gave it to me. I was instructed to throw it into the running stream. Surrounded by leafless trees and sawn logs, water puddles and dormant Marsh marigolds, we moved to the downstream side of the bridge and there was the lone bramble drifting towards Hartfield.
I never read ‘Winnie the Pooh’, or had ‘Winnie the Pooh’ read to me. I never read Enid Blyton or ‘Wind in the Willows.’ Who knew about Thomas and his engine or Barbar and his tusks, my parents were card carrying members of the Communist Party whose hatred of the class system was so profound that only Chinese flip books with illustrations of Chairman Mao and his little red book would do. The last Night of The Proms was only allowed peeping through outstretched fingers – the music took second place to raging against those bastard toffs with their over excited Union Jacks.
After the stick had disappeared from view we walked up hill, the air sharp, cutting, and deliciously nippy. We passed a woman in a track suit who wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Battersea Park keep fit session. She asked us where the bridge was whilst checking it on an app; she chuckled that she wasn’t dressed for the job and off she trotted.
We got back into the car and drove four minutes away to ‘Pooh Corner’, the designated café with everything from big baked potatoes to big Bakewell tarts and a shop full of fluffy Winnies, Eeyores and Piglets.
We got the last two-seater table next to a family of two boys, Freddie and Archie. The family had driven up from Kent to experience Pooh in all its glory. I had a cappuccino and he an Americano, we shared a flapjack, made mild conversation with the Kent cuties then left, all fresh-faced and caffeined up.
By the time we got home it was afternoon, and the thrill of the internet called.
Downloaded the pics, uploaded the blog, downloaded the instagram, uploaded the Facebook, and here I am at nearly 5.0’clock sitting in candle light. The sun has set, the stove is lit, and as the coughs and sneezes disappear next week will surely be Hastings!
As Winnie would say
‘Rivers know this: There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.’