London Calling

For many, Easter is a time to gorge oneself on the biggest confectionery rip-off known to man. For myself it is a religious experience: it heralds an exodus from London of biblical proportions. This year’s departure however was especially significant. Not since the construction of the Berlin Wall have so many families and friends been separated and left in bewildered isolation. Yes, this particular weekend away saw the brutal maiming of the telephone codes.

I therefore battled my way to Paddington station through April’s monsoon season in order to catch the inter city to Cardiff, my last ditch attempt at salvaging friendships that were utterly at the mercy of Oftel. Dragging my waterlogged carcass onto the train, I managed to find a seat spared from the reservations of the pathologically organised. Armed with nothing but London’s own fascist rag, The Evening Standard, I was prepared for a thoroughly uneventful journey. Small black objects strategically placed like altars in front of most of my fellow passengers however alerted me to the fact that the next two hours were not to be peaceful. Within half an hour nearly every mobile phone aboard had screeched out like a rape alarm. The only assault taking place however was that of schizophrenia inducing ringing tones on the senses.

Never mind killer kitten-healed mules, today’s ultimate must-have is the mobile phone. But as the Pointer Sisters proved with twisted headbands back in the early 80s, it is possible to over accessorise. Everybody from council estate kids to my mother has one. The mobile phone is the clutch bag vibrator of the Naughties. With a slick and shiny exterior, its handy proportions are conducive to rapid relief. Granted it is useful for those tricky car-over-a-cliff situations, but it has rendered the Western world a tribe of insecure people-tracking junkies. Big Brother has descended on us in the form of a communications overload: with the trusty mobile you need never be alone again.

The thought of being constantly contactable is beyond comprehension. Turning off the phone provides temporary relief but still incurs the wrath of those attempting to monitor your whereabouts. The streets of London are rife with mobile phone sluts. In the cafés of Soho nobody speaks to each other any more; sitting outside Bar Latino recently I witnessed an American with a cheese-grating accent jabbering hysterically into her mobile while her friend appeared to have a Doris Stokes moment, staring blankly into space. Does it never occur to anyone that marathon mobile chit-chats whilst in the company of others is rude? Nothing can numb the mind more than those fateful words: “I’m just getting on the train”.

Kath accompanied my return journey from Wales. Having replaced one phallic object with another, it was not long before the obsessive itch to fiddle with her phone had left her fingers trembling with anticipation. Brandishing a text-messaging model she proceeded to meticulously type out the usual mobile platitudes for the benefit of her boyfriend. Within minutes he had phoned her back. Bemused, I asked if it would not have been easier just to call him in the first place: “It’s cheaper to text-message!” Pardon me. Mobile communication is an extravagance; my response to anyone that wants a cheaper option is to use a landline.

Our host for the holy weekend, Jason, is a self-confessed global village idiot. He and modern technology are as compatible as Caroline Aherne and non-alcoholic beverages. His sole purpose for computers has always been to short-circuit them with a Mellow Birds spillage. Unfortunately getting him to upgrade his coffee to the sweepings off the floor would be like me swapping my PC for a mobile. Nevertheless it is refreshing to know someone as alien to mobile phone rituals as myself. Besides they are hardly convenient for lighting up your last Marlboro Light. Eating and smoking at the same time is the only greater talent I can think of.

It’s a shame that radiation from mobiles no longer poses a health threat; maybe then I would have approved of them. However, I can hardly imagine them ever looking as classical as a Sobrani cocktail cigarette. In an attempt at being all things to all people they have turned into the latest fashion gimmick, with snobbish one-upmanship driving them into the realms of the ridiculous. What next: combined hair tongs and phones? With endless deals and variations on a theme they risk making you feel more insane than the hands free phone model could ever make you look. They are the bastard relatives of computer mice: the rats that escaped the laboratory.