Woody’s wor­ries

Screen ad­dict Ruth Wood won­ders whether to have wifi

French Property News - - Contents -

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

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