When I despair that I've just survived a month without broadband, people react as if I'd hiked Mongolia barefoot while stabbing small animals with a stick for food. Certainly, being hurtled to the technological past of 15 years ago highlighted how reliant Western life has become on the internet; were I a terrorist, my ruling ambition would be to bring down not the Empire State Building but the Web.
As a result of this protracted experiment in barbarism, I can testify that the goofily christened "dongle" — a satellite PC hook-up — does not work; it takes ten minutes to load a web page, and will not even load or send emails. I reserve a special gratitude for the John Harvard Library in Southwark; its helpful staff and banks of swift computers provided a thin lifeline to civilisation for one hour a day, and fortified my resolve to leave all my assets to libraries when I die. But this imposed techno-fast has also left me holding far fiercer convictions about the evils of outsourcing.
For what occasioned my digital exile? Moving house. Which given the incompetence and impotence with which my telecom provider handled the transition you would think no one had ever accomplished before in the history of the universe. Vengefully, I cite the company by name: TalkTalk. I hate TalkTalk. TalkTalk ruined my life. I even hate the name "TalkTalk", which sounds stupid, and which in the course of my dismal February I was obliged to shout with humiliating frequency down the line, in that rare instance that I actually had a live telephone. Oh, and cancel my last column, in which I foreswore mobiles, a spare one of which a hired builder gave me because he felt sorry for me, and without which I'd have simply plunged from Tower Bridge into the Thames.
Now, so vile, so worthless is this company that the same snafus might have occurred with sullen British workers manning its helpline. But my alternatively desperate and enraged appeals being answered by staff in South Africa unquestionably did not improve matters.
First informed that my broadband would be cut off for a full six weeks, I had an altercation with one of my new little friends in South Africa, and later that day my landline and broadband signal quit cold; apparently a "bar" had been put on my account by the home-moving department, a punitive fiscal instrument reserved for deadbeats. My account was paid up. My suspicion that the young lady with whom I was less than polite purposefully cut off my services out of spite may seem paranoid, but I fancy the story better than mere computer glitch. It took days to lift the "bar".