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’

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Hello! -

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

Jane Wen­ham-Jones

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