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THIS MUCH I KNOW Lynne Barrett-Lee; OPINION.

IWAS reading this feature the other day. It was about the rise of celebs developing their own "lifestyle" websites (and diktats), the better to make our own lives a little bit less "meh". You'll know about Gwynnie's, of course (if it's green you should eat it/if you uncouple, do it consciously) but they're all at it now, apparently.

And, oh how I could drone on about the subject. But I shall spare you my various words of wisdom (for this week, at any rate) because there was one observation that particularly caught my eye, and it was, via the equally enervated Hannah Betts, that "no good ever came of answering a landline".

Joy aside - and, come on, isn't that such a splendid observation? - that struck me as rather apposite during my current travails.

I say "my", but in fact it is Joe of whom I speak - second son, as of this moment installed in his first junior doctoring post and, as a consequence, also installed in what's optimistically (possibly Trade-Descriptions-Act-actionably) called hospital "accommodation".

For they have not been terrifically accommodating in their provision, his new home being an almost exact replica of his first university hall of residence five years back (convict's bed against the wall, study desk, a chair, some old drawers) except minus the "luxuries".

And by luxuries I mean the bathroom, the phone socket, the television aerial socket, the internet connection and the wifi connection (by, ahem, extension). And all for the knock-down price of just PS300 per month. I know! I said the same! What a bargain!

I jest (can you hear the gnashing of my teeth as I type?) because the only sensible response here is "really?" Because we now live in a world where, with a few obvious exceptions (hermits, off-grid types, militant yoghurt-knitters and so on), an internet connection is no longer a luxury. It is an essential tool for surviving in the 21st century.

Even my father, who has never knowingly owned a computer, is feeling the dementors of disconnectedness closing in. He spent some time earlier this year in a state of high anxiety while trying to change his car insurer, for example, because if you don't have access to the internet, you don't have access to the information necessary in order to make an informed choice about where best to go - almost all of that now existing online, of course.

There's no longer much more than a miniscule provision for those who don't exist on the web and what there is now comes at a premium, because if you buy online you almost always get a discount. Ditto being "paperless" (and yes, obviously that's good for the planet). But for folk who don't have a secure internet connection readily available, being paperless is difficult to achieve.

Ditto many simple day-to-day transactions. Without internet banking or a smartphone or indeed any mobile phone or a clue, my dad's reduced to getting his refund from same ex-insurer via cheque. Which they don't really do, because cheques are almost extinct now. (He's expecting his some time next May.) As, to return to my pre-ranting thread, are "home phones". So much so that they've been repopulated by new kinds of wildlife, in much the same way as the Mayan city of Chichen Itza was overrun by bugs the size of teaplates, lush tropical vines, kick-ass snakes and unfortunatelydressed American tourists. I give you 'Independentsurveyae', a two horned insect, cleverlycamouflaged, 'Yousupportedourcharityonce', a perennial vine, with an outstanding ability to cling, 'Peepeeii-Peepeeii', a deadly ground-dwelling arthropod, and 'Loftus Cavitatus', a tenacious and rapacious climber, sometimes confused with 'A call from a geezer named Ed, who's not trying to sell you nothing, honest'. Oh, and my dad, who can't call my mobile, because if he does so (specially before 6pm on a weekday) they will charge him PS758 plus VAT.

Which I do answer, obviously (well, once I've properly vetted his credentials), but let's be honest, the old landline is archaic now, an anachronism, a 20th-century invention that was, like, so totes amazeballs, but is on course to be obsolete in less than a decade.

Except for one thing. Because though nothing good ever came from answering a landline (well, almost - Dad might read this), it's a conduit, the conduit through which the 21st century comes.

Or doesn't. Still, that PS300 a month is a bargain.

All mod cons plus a lorryload of irony.

@LYNNEBARRETTLEE www.lynnebarrett-lee.com
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 2, 2014
Words:742
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