P.F and I are slowly but surely becoming what the French term “décroissant”. Although this word conjures up the image of a gallic breakfast reversing off the kitchen table, it actually describes someone who refuses to keep up with the Jones’.
Extreme décroissants push things as far throwing out their car, TV and fridge. We’re not that masochistic, yet slowly but surely, I am backing away from much of the intrusive technology I first saw as salutary. I kept up with progress for a while, but now it has overtaken me and is jogging down the road several miles in front of me, with my offspring chasing full pelt behind. You can have too much of a good thing, and personally, I’ve reached saturation level: funnily enough, I have discovered that I have a relatively low tolerance level for high-tech gadgets. A little like eating ice cream three times a day, seven days a week, being permanently available to the world and his brother inevitably became a drag.
That’s how I recently decided to pack in my “smart” phone and its high-tech communication deal, along with all those sophisticated, modern-day bells and whistles for a phone that …. well …… phones. No more, no less. My “smart” phone was in fact way too smart for me. I found it more smart ass than smart; it made me feel inadequate. It told me off for using up too much memory, pretended it had no network when I needed to phone, and snidely reminded me that as thirty days had gone by I should get my act together and save all my contacts (I never established what I was saving them from, but thirty days down the line it was probably too late anyway).
Within two years I had limited my efforts to learning how to send text messages, take photos, read Facebook and news updates, and make phone calls (this is one up on P.F, who still obstinately refuses to learn how to type a text message on the grounds that he still knows how to speak).
Whilst bored to tears on a long road trip, I even accidentally managed to set up my phone to receive my emails whilst trying to get rid of something else. It obligingly woke me up all night for weeks on end with spam from mail order catalogues until I implored Bigfoot to put me out of my misery and give it the kiss of death. I chose to remain happily oblivious to its remaining capacities, which remained dormant until an ecstatic Rugby boy inherited it, irritatingly taming the beast within ten minutes of its adoption.
Bigfoot has caustically dubbed P.F’s basic communication tool “a phone box”. His own phone (which he deems to be “ancient” at the grand old age of two) is apparently capable of everything bar dancing and emptying the dustbin, and seems to require more tender loving care than a newborn. The visible panic attack when he thinks that he has mislaid baby Sam (Sung) is touching, and I can only hope that he will be as attentive to his offspring one day. Our status as retrograde, back-pedalling, old-fashioned and frumpy K-shoe-wearing excuses for modern-day parents gives us the privilege to rule out the acquisition of an iPhone. Whatever the peer pressure may be, I see no reasonable grounds to justify my teenager wandering around with a toy costing the equivalent of four trolleys of family grub in his pocket. Sorry, kiddo. We need the cash for our Zimmer frames.
My phone bill has decreased dramatically, and I feel strangely liberated by the fact that social networks don’t follow me outside the house and take my attention away from the things I missed before. Ironically, so many people seem to miss out on real contact with real people because their noses are glued to their Facebook pages.
I think I made a wise move. After all, the more complicated things are, the more things can go wrong with them. A perfect example of this is Albal, our newfangled Citroën people-carrier (I call her Albal because she’s kitchen foil colour. I know, I need help, but I’m happy this way. Honest). If I invested as much money in myself as we do in that car, I’d be a whole new woman.
Albal is currently at the garage for some very expensive TLC, simply because her central locking system has thrown a paddy. I suspect her of fancying the mechanic, because she’s always finding some excuse to go there and flutter her headlamps at him. She’s a modern girl, with all sorts of electronic gadgets which would be more at home on the Starship Enterprise.
She is also the most talkative car I’ve ever come across, squeaking with happiness when I lock her, and coyly flickering her indicators at me in the supermarket car park when I return with my overflowing trolley. She also has an infuriating habit of flashing supercilious advice up on the dashboard which is either as obvious as a slap in the face with a wet kipper, or simply a case of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. You know the type, like “It’s cold out, watch out for ice” when you’re shivering in the driver’s seat, or saying “Gee, it looks like the fuel levels getting low! Too bad that you’re in the middle of nowhere and you only have ten litres left, huh?”, or (my favourite) “Your tyre’s punctured, better stop” (I was lost between two vineyards in the middle of nowhere, and could clearly hear the air hissing out of the tyre after driving over a screw big enough to have dropped off the Titanic).
Helga, our 31 year-old Volkswagen, has never done that to us: she’s the mechanical equivalent of Lego. She lets loose with a contented roar when you hit the accelerator, and the suspension squeaks like it’s full of hyped–up hamsters as you go over the bumps in the road. Park up, press the button down, squeeze the handle, slam the door, hey presto. Locked car. No gadgets, no gizmos. But just like Marks & Sparks bras, Helga never lets a girl down.
Anyway, time to get back to the real world now. I have to dig out those matching bear-skin outfits for P.F and I to wear for Christmas lunch.