Thursday, 01 December 2022
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Ask yourself - could you really live without your mobile phone? I had to!

Written by  Oct 16, 2022

You only really know how much you miss something when you don’t have it.

There are certain things that we just take for granted in our daily lives, like coffee in the morning and bills dropping through the postbox. We just don’t think of them anymore, they are just ever present. So imagine my surprise when a staple of life was ripped from my hands, my mobile phone.

In the 250 or so miles that we have covered, yes we have walked roughly a third of the path, we have seen and experienced many things. In many ways every day is an adventure. That’s what makes it fun and exciting. When we wake up every morning we never know where we will sleep that evening, where or indeed what we will eat, what we will see and do and how we’ll “survive” the day. Our daily routine has been ripped up and thrown into the Atlantic.

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Now this amount of unknown means that you have to learn to think and react quickly. Strangely your mind flicks a switch that cuts out all off the white noise of normal life and concentrates you on a few things - eat, drink and sleep. I’m not saying it is survival mode, but it certainly makes you see what is important in life and what is just flotsam and jetsam that we pick up along the way and give unwarranted importance to.

And in this survival mode one thing that we really need along the way is navigation and communication, in other words our mobile phones.

Never again will I complain about mobile connection in Croatia. I once read that 98 percent of the country and the territorial waters had a good phone signal. The same can’t be said for the UK!

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At first this was kind of romantic and quaint. In today’s modern world it just doesn’t happen very often so when it does it is unusual. However, romantic soon turns to frustrating.

Let me tell you a story about one coastal stretch on north Cornwall. There is no doubt it is pretty, well more than that, it is spectacular, a super model in the world of nature. It is also a technological black hole.

One day we walked the whole day with zero phone signal and no data connection. “There must be something wrong with your phone,” my wife said all day as I waved it around over my head. My connection to the outside world has been somewhat sporadic the whole trip. But a complete breakdown, now that is rare. “We’ve got to find a campsite before it gets dark,” I said to my wife as my headed down another hillside into another coastal village that looked like it had just been completely repainted and cleaned. They are just so cute and so clean. Some of theses settlements feel a little cut off from the rest of the world, well almost from reality. And two dishevelled walkers with a dog stand out as strangers straight away.

The one thing you learn pretty fast is that if you want anything in an English village you head to the pub. Pubs are the focal point. The social media hub. So without mobile phone connection and no way of knowing what accommodation was on offer and how to contact anyone we went to the pub. “Oh yes we have free Wi-Fi,” smiled the barman. This again was a bonus as not all places do.

“We don’t have any rooms but if you ask Mable in the Post Office she’ll point you in the right direction,” he added whilst pouring our beer.

We now had our first clue, now to find the Post Office and Mable.

“No, we don’t have any mobile connection here,” beamed Mable with a huge grin when we asked. “We’ve never had it,” she added. Was this English sarcasm? Was she joking? Mable didn’t look like a person that enjoyed a joke. At a guess I would say that she was a farmer’s wife. A practical and pragmatic person. “We are looking for somewhere to stay tonight,” we asked.

Another customer in the Post Office (which was basically the village shop but it sold stamps) turned and looked at us. “Hmmm, that’s a conundrum,” he said pulling at his chin. Were we in an episode of Midsummer Murder? All these characters around us. “Why not try the farm,” said Burt. Another man who had appeared from behind the wooden boxes of fresh fruit. What was the farm? “Oh, yes you could give them a call,” said the portly Mable.

“How can we call if we don’t have a mobile signal,” I added.

This was her answer. I am serious, this was her answer. “You have two options. Either you walk up to the top of Hunter’s Cliff to the second bench on your right, it isn’t far only about half a mile, and you should get a signal there. Or the second option is you wait for the tide to turn,” she looked at me with a completely emotionless face. “What happens when the tide turns,” I asked. “Well then the sea goes out over half a mile, you just walk out over the sand, look back towards the land and you should get a signal,” came here deadpan answer.

“Apart from climbing the hill or waiting for the sea to change directions when the tide turns what else could I do,” I was trying my hardest not to laugh at the stern looking Mable. “Well, you could use this,” she said and handed me a 50 pence coin. “Where?” I asked. “In the phone box just down that lane,” she answered.

This is how I ended up standing in a phone box (the first time I have done so for decades) speaking to a campsite on a farm. Thanks for the tip Burt. I went back to thank Mable. “By the way can I just ask, how do you guys communicate with each other in the village,” I asked Mable and a new customer who was sending a letter. “Over Facebook messenger,” she answered. “But how if you don’t have a signal,” I replied. “Only when we have Wi-Fi or go down the pub for a drink,” she beamed.

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I am still undecided. Was it romantic? Did I have a technological detox day? Or was it just frustrating and pointless? Did the people in the village seem unhappy, well no not really. In fact, when I started to think about it everyone in the pub was looking into someone’s eyes and not the device in their hands. We are all slaves to our phones, that is for sure, so to be free for a few days was liberating and limiting at the same time.


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