The age of cer­tainty

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

I HAVE re­named my iPhone the iPet. Dur­ing a re­cent cruise along a river in Nor­mandy with lit­tle ac­cess to land­lines, I be­came in­creas­ingly an­noyed at how much of my at­ten­tion it was com­mand­ing. Even its ring tone sounded like a mew­ing kit­ten.

I would change hand­bags ac­cord­ing to the na­ture of out­ings, some­times as of­ten as three times a day, and so would have to nes­tle iPet into a new car­rier and check on its well­be­ing — stroke its face, talk sooth­ingly to it, lis­ten for signs of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and, on one oc­ca­sion when iPet went miss­ing, ask fel­low cruis­ers to join a searc­hand-res­cue mis­sion.

It didn’t take long to find iPet. There it was, on the ground near a cafe ta­ble; I shouldn’t have been the least sur­prised if it were leashed to the leg of a chair like one of those small white carry-dogs with flat faces of which the French are so fond.

I was trav­el­ling with a group of en­er­getic se­niors and far from be­ing not the least bit au fait with mo­bile tech­nol­ogy, they were thor­oughly hooked up, but not to iPhones. They pre­ferred to take hol­i­day snaps with their iPads, which of course have larger screens and re­quire less dex­ter­ity of the fin­ger­tips and don’t talk back and in­ter­rupt your morn­ing macarons and madeleines.

WiFi ac­cess was usu­ally fast and easy on our river cruise so my fel­low pas­sen­gers would be email­ing mer- rily and down­load­ing pic­tures and keep­ing up with the in­ter­na­tional news and up­dat­ing their bucket lists. Tick, tick, tick. It made me feel like ly­ing down in my cabin with my French phrase­book and look­ing up the trans­la­tions for tired and in­ad­e­quate.

It’s a myth that se­nior hol­i­day-mak­ers are over the hill or want seden­tary ex­pe­ri­ences. From my ob­ser­va­tions they are al­most over­whelm­ingly cu­ri­ous and full of good cheer, ea­ger to spend their re­tire­ment and golden years wisely and well.

‘‘This is hardly a re­con­nais­sance trip,’’ an­nounced the 75-ish Char­lotte from East Sus­sex. ‘‘Not much point think­ing I’ll come back here. This is it.’’

And with not a mo­ment to waste, off she went to walk the cob­ble­stoned streets of sea­side Hon­fleur to look for gal­leries and some­where she could find a good pot of tea. Later she re­ported to me that a glass of rose was cheaper than a cuppa, a dis­cov­ery that had pleased her no end, gath­er­ing by the pink flush to her hand­some cheeks. And there I was wor­ried about the con­stant de­mands of iPet and the age­ing ef­fects of al­co­hol.

Next morn­ing Char­lotte and I stepped out to­gether on a shore ex­cur­sion and she snapped a whole vil­lage, from church spires to sum­mer flow­ers, on her iPad, with cham­pers and cream cakes to fol­low.

I left iPet in my cabin, firmly se­cured by its lead.

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