Adam Edwards: The digital downside
PUBLISHED: 15:35 17 February 2016 | UPDATED: 15:36 17 February 2016
We might be privileged to live in such a wonderful place, but does that really have to mean that we can't join the 21st century?
Last month I sent a bottle of eau de toilette to my sister. Before the package was weighed and stamped the local postmistress asked me what was in the parcel “For security reasons, you understand…” If I had been a Cotswold Jihadist would I, I wondered, have spilled the beans. “You’ve got me bang to rights, miss,” I might have said as I stroked my shaven Aryan chin. “My season’s greeting contain not smellies but a stick of dynamite.” The situation was, I thought, very Monty Python’s People’s Front of Judea.
The following day I went to a local pub and, as I had to be quick, I asked for a swift pint and a Scotch egg. My beer came promptly but 25 minutes later there was no sign of the usual bread-crumbed cricket ball. “How difficult is it to fetch a Scotch egg from the fridge and cut it in half?” I asked the barman. “It’s much more complicated than that,” he replied.
I mention the above jolly examples to illustrate that the Cotswolds still has some way to go in this fast-paced modern world. It remains a delightfully dozy place. And this is particularly true when it comes to technology.
Unlike the rest of England it is, for instance, rare to see anybody in our hills staring into their mobiles. The reason for this anomaly is because the signal is feebler than a festive cracker. In much the same way that the Cotswolds was slow when it to came to building railways, linking us to the National Grid (electricity arrived in my valley in the mid-fifties), and the introduction of the Australian theme pub, the latter of which as far as I know has never reached us, so it is with digital.
In my village, for example, we don’t have a signal because 15 years ago a local resident scotched the planned mast, which was to be sited on a hill half-a-mile away, because she claimed it would upset bats and fry children’s brains. Today you can still witness the amusing sight of extremely well-heeled locals driving state-of-the-art Range Rovers to the top of the hill to make a call. Meanwhile my Swedish chum who lives inside the Arctic Circle many miles from the nearest settlement has the full five bars and full throttle broadband.
My daughter, who at 23 is supposed to be a hi-tech whizz, suggested that the reason for the hopeless reception was that I had the wrong phone and that when she stood at the top of the house and held her spanking new handset aloft she got two bars. And so I got a new phone complete with a 24-month contract. It didn’t work. And not only did it not work at home but it also struggled to connect anywhere else in the valley.
That night I mentioned this to a local barmaid – also aged about 23 – who looked at me as if I was a lunatic and said that everybody knew that my new provider offered the worst service in the Cotswolds And so I rang EE (for that is who they were) and after discussing the subject with much of the Indian sub-continent I was put through to a charming Devonian who said I needed a ‘Signal Box’ to boost the reception from my home broadband thereby giving me a signal via the internet. Unfortunately she said that she could only give the box to customers who had just moved house.
“I’ve lived here for 15 years,’ I said. “I see,” she said. “So you’ve just moved. I’ll send you a box right away.”
Despite her kindness the new box made not a jot of difference and I once again spent many hours wrangling with the sub-continent. After talking to a score of managers it turns out that my local BT exchange would struggle to power a Poundland torch and therefore my broadband signal was too weak to work my Signal Box. I have further discovered, after much chit-chat with locals suffering similar problems, that despite the brilliance of modern technology it has yet to resolve the trick of sending a digital signal through a thick Cotswold limestone wall.
And so I continue to live the life of a 21st century Luddite. It is, I know, a small price to pay for living in one of the most beautiful corners of earth, but might I suggest we do at least master the niceties of the Scotch egg.
Follow Adam on Twitter: @cotswoldhack