Screen addict Ruth Wood wonders whether to have wifi
Puzzles of a Brit with a holiday home in rural Brittany
My phone has started dropping hints that we should spend less time together. The other day a message popped up with an analysis of my weekly screen time.
“Huh,” I said, showing it to my husband Jon. “My phone says I spent two hours 32 minutes looking at it last week. That’s not so bad, is it? Could be worse.” “That’s per day,” clarified Jon. Sorry, what? I looked again. He was right. Two hours 32 minutes of screen time was my daily average. Insert an expletive of your choice here. It was bad news. I already spend my entire working day sitting at a computer screen. Then I drive home and prop up our ipad on the kitchen windowsill so that I can make dinner while bingeing on Bake Off with all its Extra Slices. The other day, while brushing my teeth, I looked up JFK’S Ich bin ein Berliner speech on Youtube. Once I might have fooled myself that this was multitasking.
Jon is just as bad. If our smartphones were smart people, we’d be in marriage guidance counselling by now. And when it comes to limiting the screen time of our daughter Mabel, our moral high ground is more like a pothole.
All this changes for us in France. When we’re at home in our little cottage in rural Brittany I am suddenly happy to cook food without a drama boxset on in the background. Instead, I look out of the window and watch the goats grazing in the neighbour’s field until the sky turns purple.
We talk more in the French house. We read books. If the ipad comes out it’s only so that Mabel can search for a photo of an alpaca to paint onto a piece of slate salvaged from the garden. We massacre songs on the ukulele. We play table football, Bananagram (more fun than Scrabble) and Ticket to Ride, a board game that requires an actual attention span.
Yes, of course it’s natural that life moves at a more relaxed pace when you’re on holiday. But the main difference is that our French house has no internet connection. So when Jon recently suggested putting in wifi, my hackles went up. Wifi. The very word sounds like an expression of outrage. Why? Fie! The way the French pronounce it is even better, as if they are describing a lump of Camembert that has been left out a bit too long.
I hear it’s easy to set up wifi in France and you shouldn’t even think about trying to rent out your property without it (see p70). But for now, at least, our little home in Brittany is my last sanctuary from smartypants technology and antisocial media. And now I must go. While writing this I have been watching Have I got news for you while cooking fish pie and now there’s a whiffy smell coming from the kitchen.
Jon and Mabel in the Breton house