It’s A Funny Old World: Jane Wenham-Jones
‘Anyone hoping for a crafty day off work by pretending to be at death’s door is advised to go out in a wig’
Fifteen years ago, I wrote a humorous novel about married women having affairs. Perfect Alibis centred around an agency that would provide tape recordings of middle-aged women chatting, with which to convince suspicious husbands that their wives really were at the school reunion with Margaret and Gladys, and not tucked up in a hotel room with a secret admirer.
The book was cutting edge at the time. But gone are the days when you could hope to get away with that – especially pretending to be where you’re not. Even if you’re not actually being monitored via location settings on your phone (I know of one young woman who has installed a tracking app on her parents’ handsets so she gets ample warning of their return home), there’s always somebody wanting to Skype you or expecting live coverage of your weekend away.
‘Research trip,’ I used to say vaguely, when I wanted a gossipy, giggly night or two with the girls. Now there’d have to be pictures uploaded to Twitter of all I’d gleaned. And video calls from home, necessitating the clearing away of friends, empty bottles and chocolate wrappers, and the adoption of a studious pose behind a keyboard.
I recently rose early for a ‘phone interview’ with a journalist in Canada, to find she expected us to be linked by camera at 7am, when I was still in my dressing gown with my hair standing on end.
‘I thought we’d feel a better connection,’ she said airily, while I shrank into my sofa.
Nothing is sacred. Offspring, of course, think it’s hilarious to Snapchat one twitching, snoring or home-exercising while singing, then share it all over social media.
And nowhere is safe. Anyone hoping for a crafty day off work by pretending to be at death’s door is advised to go out in a wig or balaclava and turn themselves away from anyone taking selfies.
You only need to be caught with a big grin and a glass in your hand when you’ve spun the boss a heart-rending tale of agonising dental treatment, and you’ll be in the same boat as my son’s friend, who was filmed on an open-top bus holding hands with the wrong girl. By the time the upload had got 1,062 ‘likes’, his fiancée had seen it and he was betrothed no more.
I plan to go on a ‘writing retreat’ soon to start the next book, leaving husband and son to preside over the washing machine, bin-emptying and new kitten (who’s devoted to me). I’ve painted a picture of dawn starts and early nights after long hours spent slaving over a hot laptop in a remote cottage, and glossed over the three other authors who are coming, the case of wine we’ll be taking and the pub just down the road.
‘There’s scant internet coverage and the phone signal is poor,’ I’ve told them, ‘so contact will be infrequent.’
My son is having none of it. ‘You can find a hot spot somewhere,’ he says with narrowed eyes, and when I protest about the disruption to my creativity, he looks stern.
‘It’s not for me and Dad,’ he says, explaining that if I insist on going off for a whole week, I must at least FaceTime the cat!
This week’s columnist:
Author and journalist