It’s a funny old world: Arthur Smith

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Contents -

In 2002, fol­low­ing a se­ri­ous ill­ness, I set off on a long, con­va­les­cent solo ram­ble round the Cor­nish coast path, walk­ing gen­tly along the cliffs and stop­ping overnight at hum­ble B&Bs (long be­fore the word ‘Air’ got in front of them). Con­cerned that I might top­ple off a rock into the waves and no one would no­tice me, my wife

Beth bought me my first-ever

mo­bile phone.

I didn’t fall into the sea but un­for­tu­nately the phone did. I con­fessed to Beth that evening from a phone box and went an­other year un­mo­bilised un­til it be­came ap­par­ent that, with­out one, I’d prob­a­bly never work again. ‘What do you mean you can’t con­tact him? Hasn’t he got a mo­bile?’ My next, clunky, grey phone served me well, happy to just nes­tle in my pocket bleep­ing spo­rad­i­cally and feel­ing no need to come on hol­i­day with us. Af­ter it chose to stay on a train I’d got off, I bought one that wanted to be a Black­Berry. Now, again en­cour­aged

by Beth, I have fi­nally joined the 700 mil­lion peo­ple who own an iPhone.

No doubt, I’ve the set­tings wrong but the thin, shiny ob­long seems to de­mand con­stant at­ten­tion and never ceases to sug­gest ways it can help me – ‘Cooee! Come on, Arthur, look at me! Why don’t I pay all your bills, an­swer any ques­tion you can think of, put you in touch with ev­ery­one in the world, tell you where you’re go­ing, take over your bank ac­count, be your train ticket? And, emoji, do you want to hang out with me and some of my pals? There’s loads of us – Twit­ter, Wiki, What­sApp, Uber, Viber, De­liv­eroo, Siri – they’re a right laugh! Look they’re here wait­ing for you. Oh hang on, I need charg­ing. Charge me, Arthur, there are no charg­ers where you’re go­ing and come on, you can’t go with­out me!’

You might con­clude from all this that I’m a grumpy old man who will never get a book­ing in Sil­i­con Val­ley and whose al­go­rithms date from so far back he still puts let­ters in post boxes. It’s true I am sus­pi­cious of my iPhone’s abil­ity to tell the world where I am at any given mo­ment, and of its de­sire to learn ev­ery­thing about me. I’m also try­ing to re­sist be­com­ing one of those peo­ple who sits op­po­site you in the res­tau­rant, gaz­ing at their wrist. And yet… I want to send Beth a funny pic­ture of where I am, I want to post a gag to my ram­bling What­sApp pals, see if any­one’s replied to my tweet, work out if it’s left or right at the top of the road… Oh dear, it’s hap­pened. I shall con­tinue to refuse to learn

all its tricks and re­sist its in­fi­nite of­fer­ings but I now re­alise that I’d feel lost with­out the damn thing!

This week’s colum­nist: Au­thor and TV writer

Arthur Smith

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