The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

Ilike to see things with my own eyes. I could never be ac­cused of be­ing widely trav­elled, but when I have been lucky enough to en­counter some of the world’s won­ders, I have al­ways made a point of see­ing them with­out any sort of fil­ter. caught my first glimpse of the Hol­ly­wood sign from the win­dow of a car; I im­me­di­ately whipped off my sun­glasses and rolled down the win­dow. In Syd­ney last month, I in­structed The Sis­ter to steer me into a favourable view­ing po­si­tion while my eyes were still closed, be­fore I opened them with the Opera House right in front of me (the Opera House and a parked van, as it hap­pened; The Sis­ter and I re­ally need to dis­cuss the mean­ing of ‘favourable view­ing po­si­tions’).

But it seems I am a dy­ing breed. On Christ­mas Eve, in the air­port lounge with the huge win­dows, I saw the plane car­ry­ing The Brother home from Saudi land on a dis­tant run­way, then – to our mount­ing ex­cite­ment – watched it come to a full stop right in front of our win­dow and stairs pull up to its door. My sis­ter-in­law, mean­while – even more ex­cited at the prospect of see­ing her hus­band for the first time in months – sat be­side me and watched the en­tire small drama de­velop on an app on her phone. Se­ri­ously. It was Right There. And yet she kept me fully up­dated on the progress of a mov­ing dot on a small screen.

It’s not her, it’s me. Ev­ery time I go to a gig, I am as­ton­ished at the num­ber of peo­ple – the vast ma­jor­ity, in fact – who watch pro­ceed­ings on their phones or tablets. I have seen par­ents wit­ness their chil­dren’s mile­stone mo­ments through Per­spex. When we wit­ness traf­fic ac­ci­dents, our first in­stinct now is not to phone an am­bu­lance, but to record the af­ter­math. At Elec­tric Pic­nic, where every­body pre­tends to be a hip­pie and free, the sin­gle big­gest queue was al­ways at the phone charg­ing tent, while I was happy – re­lieved, even – to let mine die an undis­turbed, dig­ni­fied death. In Australia, I just couldn’t quite be­lieve how many peo­ple viewed the iconic sights only through screens. Don’t get me started on selfie sticks – suf­fice to say that aside from a fleet­ing glimpse of a bounc­ing kan­ga­roo (well, there are some sights that just have to be recorded), the only video I took Down Un­der was of a bunch of peo­ple in­dus­tri­ously pho­tograph­ing them­selves with the aid of those pre­pos­ter­ous de­vices, while the breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful Blue Moun­tains waited in the back­ground.

I get that we all live by our phones now. I un­der­stand that there is no other in­ven­tion which has to be in­serted into ev­ery story of yes­ter­year – you rarely hear a par­ent re­mind a child that some­thing hap­pened ‘be­fore fax ma­chines’, but most sto­ries sim­ply don’t make sense un­less you point out that they hap­pened in a world be­fore mo­bile phones. And since my own life has been made so much eas­ier by the tech­no­log­i­cal wiz­ardy of my iPhone, I don’t lament their pres­ence. I just can’t help feel­ing that all the peo­ple star­ing end­lessly at them are miss­ing out on some­thing re­ally spe­cial.

When the real ver­sion is so much more tan­ta­lis­ing, I sim­ply don’t see the point in living life through a lens. There are peo­ple right now who have been to Ed Sheeran con­certs and never ac­tu­ally seen him in the flesh. Think about that. There are par­ents whose first view of their child rid­ing a bi­cy­cle came framed by a tablet. How does that burn into your mem­ory?

On the Christ­mas morn­ing af­ter the first time Santa Claus ever came to our home, we all queued up breath­lessly out­side the living room door – as we have con­tin­ued to do ev­ery year since – and a small, trem­bling hand went to the door han­dle. In that in­stant, I spot­ted that The Hus­band had our old video cam­era pointed at the ac­tion. With­out a word, I took it away from him. There are some mo­ments, I told him af­ter­wards, that you de­serve to see with your own eyes. So there is no footage of our chil­dren on Christ­mas morn­ing – no Face­book pho­tos, no cut­sey YouTube clips of tod­dlers tum­bling through end­less pack­ag­ing – yet those pre­cious hours ac­count for some of my most vivid mem­o­ries. I can sum­mon them with greater ease than pull a pic­ture from my phone – be­cause I was there. Be­cause I en­gaged my own cornea and retina. Be­cause I ac­tu­ally, prop­erly saw them.

I just can’t help feel­ing that all the

peo­ple star­ing end­lessly at phone screens are miss­ing out on some­thing

re­ally spe­cial

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