The frustrations of trying to upgrade one's technology in the countryside
A long time ago, over 2000 years in fact, in the sleepy Shropshire hamlet of Fuffux Ache, Joseph was having a frustrating time, desperately trying to gain access to the internet. A simple enough operation you would have thought considering ‘marvels technological’ of the period. All he wanted to do was maintain contact with the world beyond his humble shed for the short periods when the donkey was in for a service. In particular he wished to witness, live, the arrival of the much heralded Messiah without having to rely on scribes who he believed only wrote things from which they themselves would benefit.
The procedure was proving most taxing and despite the re-assuring mutterings of the Fuffux Ache Parish Council, Joseph was getting a bit irate.
British Telecommunications (a title Joseph considered rather extravagant for a company that appeared to be without employees when he tried to contact them by phone) kept him warm during the long winter months with their ‘keep fit (rural) option’ - prolonged and repeated prodding of the telephone key-pad staved off the chill but necessitated hospital treatment for prodders elbow. Fortunately there was a wing of the local ‘dis'-trust hospital devoted to this injury, it being a common ailment of the period.
After prodding for three days and nights Joseph finally managed to speak to a human being but the news was not good. You see, following an interesting conversation with the ‘man on the ground in a loin cloth’ in Mumbai, it was explained that the person peddling the machinery in the local telephone exchange was ‘getting on a bit’ (as was his equipment) and the poor soul was finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with both out-going lines. The search was on for a replacement but it was proving difficult - not least because the cost of housing was beyond the salary of a ‘mobile telephonics inoperative (shed based)’, (the position was advertised thus in the current edition of the bi-monthly Fuffux Ache Telegraph) and the only prospective interviewee missed the monthly stage-coach and returned to Scunthorpe.
As an aside, I might add that the reputation of the journal suffered when the previous edition was sent out with the banner Fuffux Ache Tephlager across the top of the front page. ‘Indeed, a cock-up,’ stated an editorial in the current issue, which went on to explain; ‘the smell-checker was away having a hip-replacement at the time and anyhow we’re paid bugger-all so if you want a publication worthy of the name you’ll have to get more people to buy the bloody thing. And no, there was no crossword last time because we ran out of white ink. If there’s anyone to blame it’s the people who don’t buy it - yes, that’s right, you, you bloody…….’ - well I think you get the drift. Anyhow, we digress.
By the time Joseph had returned from having his elbow set, his wife had sold the family house, bought a narrowboat and placed the balance in a bond (subsequently renamed a ‘lack of interest’ bond, quippily qualified by the phrase; ‘Guaranteed to eradicate all your money troubles’, and less quippily re-qualified the following month by dropping the word ‘troubles’). During this ‘narrow boat’ period, the ability to communicate was severely restricted as, due to their living in a steel box, the ingress or egress of waves of any sort was nigh impossible - except that is for a televisual aid procured at some expense from a trader named Murdock. Even this though was a frustrating and short-lived exercise as the following brief exchange explains:
‘What’s all that white stuff on the telly?’
‘Hail, Mary’, said Joseph.
‘Goodness, real-time weather - and delivered without the warblings of some talentless slapper with too much make-up’, she added rather uncharitably. This conversation occurred moments before the dish thing was blown off the roof down an embankment into an adjacent Site of Special Scientific Interest. Thereafter they were once again left at one with nature.
Skip forward to the moment when, due to intense and protracted frustration, Joseph and Mary had emigrated. Their donkey had been re-cycled (as is the fashion) and was now stored in convenient 500 gram cans lovingly, if somewhat ghoulishly, prepared for consumption by their dog, Noah. So named because when presented with a morsel of Angus (donkey) he said, ‘No, ah, I don’t think so’.
(Please allow for the temporal licence here! A leap of years that we can put down to a technical glitch). Technology had moved on apace but sadly Joseph had missed the birth of the Messiah by some 2000 years. However, just in case there was another one due, he decided to utilise lightening-fast modern communications channels and get up to date. They now lived on another boat - this one was not only much older but also much wider, which gave plenty of room for a computer (a device which had replaced the abacus and blessed with the ability to come to a grinding halt then close down within the twinkling of an eye, thereby erasing Josephs collection of priceless archaic scrolls).
Although far from fully conversant with anything to do with their new boat, what he did know was that his knowledge of boats surpassed his technological knowledge - by some margin. So, on advice, he bought a dongle which was attached to the roof of his steering hut. For what it cost, Joseph could really have expected a device with greater resilience - he was justifiably irate because, when it became detached from the roof and plopped into a jar of white spirit (that contained a brush recently used to paint their communications nerve centre further forrud) it stopped working. No amount of bickering with a chap in a foreign language could secure a complementary replacement, ‘you just can’t insure against stupidity,’ the polite but firm native reasoned. When the system was finally operative however, Joseph had hours of endless fun watching, live, the destruction of the Patagonian rain forest.
Then he decided to finalise the collection of products he could never hope to understand by ordering a televisual device and a DVD player (‘round recording thing’ according to the latest Fuffux Ache Graphelet). So, armed with credit card and intermittent internet connection he discovered (via a somewhat circuitous route) the desired equipment buried in the basement of some obscure virtual shop. Frustration upon irritation upon aggravation followed as Joseph tried to explain to a collection of inanimate on-screen white boxes that he wished to order the goods in a virtual shop in a language he could understand but then be delivered to his current address in another country. This, he discovered after about an hour, was not allowed. He also tried to order the products on the Dutch branch of the shop's web site but, due to their being too many consonants in words that were over-long to begin with, he gave up. He also tried to explain that his credit card was registered in the Old Country so THAT address differed from the delivery address and that no, Joseph was not a common Dutch name. Due to the inability to procure anything whatsoever via his spirited dongle, Joseph renamed thier current country of reside The Neverlands.
He went to see a friendly neighbour who spent two hours on his own internet connection before the ‘finalise’ button was pressed. Unfortunately, three days later, Joseph received an email in a foreign language (that looked like the sales fliers commonly pasted on lamp posts) asking him to verify his address. Sadly, not recognising the importance of the mail, he chucked it in the trash and he only found out a further week later that the whole order had been cancelled. Another two hours on his friend’s computer later, the order was complete (his friend had to pay for the televisual device mind you). This was a very generous gesture by their friends so Mary immediately dashed down to the hole in the wailing wall and reimbursed their friends in cash. As things stand therefore, their friends have their money and will take delivery of two pieces of equipment which Joseph and Mary hope will be passed on if they ever arrive.
To complete the technological revolution and in order to receive well over one hundred channels offering ‘high quality 24-hour entertainment’ (and the ability to record same on DVD whatnot, thereby creating an ever growing back-catalogue of drivel) another dish thing and a box with lights has been requisitioned from the trader Murdock, via a friendly man who claimed to reside in the county of Yorkshire, England. Unfortunately these supplementary items are now 10 days overdue so presumably the thoughtful distributors have not only saved Joseph the tedious business of installation and alignment but also pre-empted the vicious winter winds hereabout and thrown the consignment straight into a canal.
So as they wait, the 2016th anniversary of the birth of the Messiah has slipped into history and as Joseph points out to Mary, ‘if we’ve have missed the second coming due to this new-fangled information bypass, I will write a letter in the most biblical language to the Fuffux Ache Elpgerath expressing our intense displeasure.’
That’ll teach ‘em.
(Supplementary: Joseph and Mary have since moved into a new shed in Lancashire, England. They have ordered various pieces of technological equipment which will allow them to complain bitterly about their late delivery at lightening speed. Alarmingly the monthly cost of these contraptions exceeds by some margin the purchase price of their original shed and donkey.)
© Jo May 2016