8th March

Only Disconnect

First to go was the television. That wasn’t hard. It was mostly rubbish that came out of it anyway. And the news was better on the radio. No, not better, weightier. Yes, that was part of what she craved: substance.

Next, the computer. The daily wade through emails, the fatuous chatter of so-called friends on social networks – gone. She had to cancel her online banking facility, and arrange to receive bills by post and pay them by cheque, and this would be dearer but she didn’t care, there was something civilised about slowing down. She found her old typewriter in a cupboard but the ribbon was dry and the keys stiff, so she took it to the charity shop, and rediscovered the pleasure of writing with a fountain pen. Her first correspondence was with the TV licensing authority, who assumed she was either mistaken or lying.

The mobile phone went. One last text went out to everybody – AS OF NOW I AM NO LONGER AVAILABLE ON THIS NUMBER – and, once she’d chopped the SIM card up with the herb cutter and recycled the dead phone, she wasn’t.

For six days she lived in blissful tranquillity, sleeping, gardening, making soup and reading Anthony Trollope.

On the seventh day her daughter arrived, puce with rage. ‘So you’re not dead or lying helpless on the floor,’ she said.

‘It would seem not.’

‘And how would I have known? All my messages have bounced back and your answer-machine’s not working.’

‘It was, when I took it to the charity shop.’

‘What’s going on, Mum?’

‘I want to go back,’ she said. ‘I hate this world of gadgets. I hate that word “connectivity”. I don’t want that, I want human contact. And look, here you are. You’ve come to see me for the first time in months. I’ll make some coffee.’

‘This is pure hypocrisy,’ her daughter said. ‘I bet I know how you spend your days now – with your nose stuck in a book and your mind so far removed from reality that you don’t hear the phone ringing. What kind of human contact is that?’

‘You have a point,’ she said. ‘Come in and let’s talk about it.’

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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