Rural life has many advantages, particularly if like me you are old enough to remember night clubbing and a social life in black and white and didn’t really like it much even then. One noticeable positive aspect is the almost complete lack of traffic. We live in a lane that has about two private cars a day passing by. One of those is a neighbour off to work at 7am, with the bedroom window open you hear the diesel engine stutter to life and the vehicle crunching away across their gravelly driveway, as reliable as an alarm clock except you don’t even have to reach outside the bed to turn this one off and can turn over to get another hour or so of sleep. The other one is usually someone driving by during the daytime who is normally someone who is lost.
There is more regularly a procession of trucks and larger vans though. As well as the normal rural fuel oil and drainage emptying tankers, people around here seem to find it easier to get a supermarket delivery bought to them rather than drive the 10 miles to either Launceston or Bude, get their own car dirty and do some shopping. It must however be part of the supermarket’s Personnel department questions for any aspiring modern barrow boy equivalent hopefuls to ask at the interview:
‘Do you have the gift of a psychic ability so you know when nothing is coming in the opposite direction and can therefore barrel through any one track country lane at 50mph all day long, even ones narrow enough that your wing mirrors on both sides are collecting vegetation as you go?
Are you emotionally detached enough to stop only to clean your windscreen off when the blood smears of run-down pedestrians and cyclists get hard to see through?’
Affirmative answering people are given a job rather than letting them back into normal society.
Possibly I am being a bit harsh on the actual drivers here and maybe be it’s the supermarket itself that ought to be looking at itself and its insane ‘If you want to feed your family and earn a decent wage then you must drive fast enough to make a delivery every three minutes even if the drops are ten miles apart,‘ policies.
A Post Office van, driven by one of two or three regular faces, seems to pass by with much more respect for the fact that other people actually live and work out here, the courtesy of slowing down and having a chat with a dog walker in the lane instead of chuckling as they make them dive for cover in fear of their lives distinguishes the Postal driver.
One of the downsides of rural life in the modern world though is why I am writing this rubbish instead of what I originally had planned to write today. You see, it’s nearing the anniversary of the blog site ‘A Relocated Bear’ and I had thought of maybe doing a trawl through my previous stuff, seeing what was most popular by the numbers and perhaps writing a humorous post about what I had learned about both both my blog and our new home in North Cornwall in the last year. However, I am stuck because one aspect of modern life that hasn’t managed to infiltrate and become commonplace in the rural idyll is precisely the one that normally helps to keep us in communication with you out there in numerous-humans-living-on-top-of-each-other land. The internet. I can’t actually access my blog to get at all of the information I wanted.
Now, we’re not backward enough to not have any internet at all, normally. We are in fact blessed with the hair raising maximum speed of 3.5 things per second here. Which, by comparison to a friend in a village not far from here who has something called a fibre connection (which I take to be something a bit more sophisticated than a strand of wool connected to a yogurt pot) who has a 76 things per second connection, is not a lot of speed at all. Where they can do ‘Netflix and chill’ (the literal, not what it’s slang for – although that might be what he meant), we can only do ‘Netflix and significantly decompose before an episode finishes buffering.’
Normally, it is slow then, but this week, when I wanted to be online and writing about the stats of my blog, comparing and contrasting figures, re reading and perhaps even doing some basic research – not very much as usual though – summarising how the year has gone, I have had no connection at all.
It started last Thursday when I logged on, my router reported by a system of flashing lights and a helpful browser page it generated, that the Internet connection was currently lost. It says something for the reliability of the level of service that we normally get that I didn’t think much about it until the next morning when it still said the same thing. Helpfully, on going through the help pages generated by the router, it gave a phone number that was free through a landline so I picked up the phone, after finding it and dusting it off, and quickly found that there was no dial tone on that either.
On phoning them using my mobile they agreed that there was a fault on the line and it would be looked at by engineers sometime in the next two days. Six days later we are no further forward, so I assume all the engineers are local and will therefore effect the needed repairs ‘dreckly’.
In the absence of the home internet then, I have been using the mobile data with my phone contract but feverishly checking the data consumption after each furtive glance at Facebook and Twitter or the Guardian and BBC news sites, fearful that I might enter the unfeasibly expensive area of being charged £2-3 per character of text downloaded on the out-of-contract data rates. Two minute checking and no interacting, no commenting or posting things and definitely no picture uploading or synchronising. I dare not do my usual evening catch-up Radio 6 Music listening on mobile data unless I want to sell off a body part and although my Podcast app can download notifications that there’s new episodes online I won’t be downloading the actual files at 40 odd oodleflops per time.
What has changed then is how I have spent my time while without connection. My cycle training is progressing nicely and on disciplined schedule now. I have read two local history books and started on a novel, all of which I’ve had here unopened for over half a year. I have no squeaky door hinges in the house now and the plans for the garden have seen real progress. I have very little knowledge of what is happening beyond our garden gates except for my almost daily visit to Crackington for exercising my pup Gwynnik on the beach. That’s where I’ve just been and can now upload this to my blog site, because the cafe here has Wifi. I can also get a superb homemade Chocolate brownie with my caffeine hit, but that of course is coincidental.
For me then, a disconnected life then has actually been a bit of a reminder of how much of what we think we need is actually just a distraction from actually just doing other things, the procrastination of ‘I must just read this article/see this update/watch this video’ is actually just putting off dealing with ‘now’ and filling it with something worthwhile, although your definition of worthwhile might not chime with mine – I just thought sorting my sea glass collection into colour groupings and then subsorting in order of size was worthwhile for me, OK? However, there are things that we backward rural types do need it for, annoying you lot by writing about the lack of it for one thing.
Perhaps when the technical men restore me to being connected by Internet to the outside world again, I may decline its time-sapping thoughtless attractions and use it a lot less or perhaps just use it for really useful things. I could certainly have used my online dictionary and thesaurus today for example. It won’t be me ordering a pack of Quinoa, half a dozen free range quail eggs and two bottles of Prosecco from Waitrose and sending some poor unfortunate local diving into a ditch to avoid the delivery van bringing it to me though.
Coincidentally, almost a year ago, we moved in to our new home in North Cornwall and then had to wait nearly two weeks before we were ‘activated’ and could be connected to the web. Perhaps it’s the same engineers out there and in honor of the last time they were working up this particular phone line pole they are having some sort of strange Cornish anniversary ceremony and will mend my internet dreckly.