Pardon my tardiness, I’ve been incommunicado

Pardon my tardiness, I’ve been incommunicado


MADAM Wheels is a forgiving soul, which is lucky for me because I was late filing my column this week. I could blame The Companion for his attempt to rewire the farmhouse and install a wifi network but that would be to draw attention to his ineptitude (and the ultimate cost of calling in an expert), so I won’t do that, even though that’s the reason we’ve spent a week unintentionally incommunicado. We also had no electric lighting and the oven didn’t work, but that’s another story. 

‘When emails are not accessible, when the internet is no longer at one’s fingertips, and when you have to rely on your memory instead of Google, an oddly liberating sense of self-sufficiency soon follows.’

Who am I kidding? It’s this entire story. I have to say that Madam Wheel’s (temporary) loss was very much my gain. I found the six or seven days of being cut off from the outside world so incredibly relaxing and stress-free that I am seriously going to ask The Companion to work his wifi wonder in all our homes, so I can spend more time less connected. Through disconnection comes reconnection.

When emails are not accessible, when the internet is no longer at one’s fingertips, and when you have to rely on your memory instead of Google, an oddly liberating sense of self-sufficiency soon follows. And I mean soon - within 24 hours, for me. I was soon thinking for myself, not checking the phone every few minutes, and I had to actually sit and try to remember the recipe for spaghetti carbonara (I more or less got it). Did I mention we still had gas connected, and a box of matches? It meant we still had as much hot water as we needed, but couldn’t prepare the garlic bread.

The farmhouse is in one of those geographically inexplicable areas where there’s good phone signal anywhere about 100 meters away, but the structure itself is a telecommunications black hole of the kind Stephen Hawking might have written papers on. But there’s a satellite dish on the roof that gets an unfeasibly large number of television channels (some of them even English-language) and is our connection to the outside world when we’re there. The Companion had decided to improve it with the creation of some sort of network to surround the farmhouse so our varied devices could keep connected. Somehow this would help our phones work and we would no longer need to organise a safari to the end of the driveway to call friends.

Needless to say it didn’t go as planned and within about two hours of arriving there was a flash, a muffled scream and everything went dark. There was the smell of something burning, and The Companion emerged looking slightly surprised (an expression remained on his face for several hours) and a couple of shades more tanned then when he started. He muttered something about the wrong wire, and poured himself a large whisky.

In a remarkable turn of events, he remembered he had brought with him a device that is essentially a large battery that you can connect some fold-up solar cells to. I’d like to say that he had the forethought to pack it, but of course not. It was still in the boot from his last drone-flying trip. And he had his drones with him, naturally. They seem permanently to be in the back of the SUV; I suppose one never knows when you might suddenly need to observe your position from 300m in the air.

Once I wiped the water off the solar cells, because it was raining hard and it was really, really - like, quite unbelievably - cloudy, it actually worked quite well and we could at least charge up our devices (even if there still was no network to connect them to) and run a few lights.

In a second piece of good fortune, I remembered I had packed my Andvari wand massager. I never travel without it. It’s not what you think it is (OK, it is). By far the best things about it are that it’s rechargeable and waterproof. So I drew a nice hot bath and thus, cut off from the outside world but with at least one of life’s necessities taken care of, the rest of the week passed just brilliantly.