Phone love

I recently spent ten days in hospital. One of the non-medical consequences is that I’m now lavishly appreciative of my phone (by the way, the medical consequences were also positive). It’s a smartphone that I acquired via an upgrade a couple of months ago.

It entertained me beyond my wildest dreams. It even introduced me to some new cultural experiences. In a mercifully truncated, hospital-based version of our famous 6 Clicks feature, here’s what diverted me:

1. Whilst listening to Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe’s Radio 2 evening show (on the phone) I came across a tune by a band I’d never heard of, School of Seven Bells. It was a captivating mix of electronica, thrashy guitars and folk. I liked it so much I downloaded – using the phone’s complimentary Spotify Premium software – their album Disconnect from Desire, which was one of the freshest things I’ve listened to in recent years. You can listen one of its tracks, Babeloniahere.

2. I downloaded onto the phone’s Kindle application Hugo Young’s Papers. This was perfect phone fodder as it’s a series of short accounts of meetings with politicians and other movers and shakers. As such, it’s journalism’s first draft; much of it is also, perhaps more appealingly, a form of high-level gossip. This sort of episodic book is perfect for reading on a small screen and when periodically distracted. It would also be great for Tube commutes, for instance. The phone was also a lot easier to hold than a book (at least for me – I’d had stomach surgery) and its low-level back-lighting meant one didn’t need to turn any lights on whilst traversing the dark watches of the night.

3. By chance, I’d come across references to Algernon Charles Swinburne in three of the books I’d recently read and, not knowing his poetry, I decided to put some on the phone. It turned out that one of his best-regarded works, Atalanta in Calydon was available for free download from the Kindle store. I spent a couple of evenings reading it to the accompaniment of School of Seven Bells’ Disconnect from Desire, a memorable and affecting multimedia experience.

The passage that begins:

When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces,
The mother of months in meadow or plain
Fills the shadows and windy places
With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain…

and ends:

The ivy falls with the Bacchanal’s hair
Over her eyebrows, hiding her eyes;
The wild vine slipping down leaves bare
Her bright breast shortening into sighs;
The wild vine slips with the weight of its leaves,
But the berried ivy catches and cleaves
To the limbs that glitter, the feet that scare
The wolf that follows, the fawn that flies.

is now a firm favourite (it was practically intoxicating in the sterile environment of the hospital).

4. I enjoyed Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, shown on BBC2 last year, and thought I’d like to get to know him better. There’s plenty of his stuff on YouTube (which can be played on the phone) and, although it won’t be to everyone’s taste, I found him hilarious, painfully so at times (I suppose I also mean this literally – convulsive laughter is not so much fun with stitches). I’m now planning to go to see his live show next month.

Here’s a brilliant taster which will be enjoyed by connoisseurs of the relationship between the English and the Scottish (or the Scotch as our Stew calls them…):

5. Finally, there’s all the daily entertainment you find on your computer – papers, blogs, social media, etc. – which you can also enjoy on the phone. (It’s a good quality digital camera too, but I didn’t feel the need to record anything to remind me of my stay).

So. All this – veritably a cultural cornucopia – on something that’s not much bigger than a packet of fags and costs the same monthly fee as my old phone. Take a step back – isn’t it awe-inspiring?

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17 thoughts on “Phone love

    ian russell
    November 24, 2010 at 08:21

    It sounds like hell.

  2. Gaw
    November 24, 2010 at 08:27

    It’s called making the best of a bad job!

    ian russell
    November 24, 2010 at 08:33

    I know, I know… That could be the strap line and the Seven Bells could do the soundtrack. Screenplay by Jimmy McGovan, BBC2, sorted… Pamela! Get me Rob Brydon’s agent on the phone….

  4. Gaw
    November 24, 2010 at 08:44

    There wouldn’t be much dialogue, what with the headphones. Just lots of shots of patients looking into the middle distance, nodding rhythmically and wishing they were elsewhere… Perhaps it’s more potential Turner Prize entry than BBC2 sitcom?

    November 24, 2010 at 09:12

    I inherited a new iphone4 two weeks ago, and due to intermittent internet weirdness at my house, I currently have to use it for my evening internet explorations. I find doing anything on the teeny screen annoying, and having to type anything with the touchscreen is frustratingly laborious. On the plus side, it means I can now read The Dabbler in bed, and I have downloaded a whole slew of ‘in our time’ podcasts to listen to in the car. Apart from that, I can’t shake the feeling that my phone is mostly just an expensive toy

  6. Brit
    November 24, 2010 at 09:29

    When I was on Yard duty I wrote a post about the miracle of downloading to my phone a Kasparov chess game for a quid. That was Oct 2008, and already seems laughably dated.

    (Btw, that post was notable for two things: (1) one of the most awkward opening sentences I’ve ever contrived; and (2) a string of amusing and brilliant comments about chess and technology from Malty et al, all of which were tragically lost when Bryan switched from Blogger to WordPress).

    November 24, 2010 at 09:56

    The Luddite in me resists too much technology. I have used a mobile since the Motorola ‘Brick’ about 20 years ago – but only for making/receiving calls and, lately, text. I would go as far as saying that this wonderful gadget (second only to the fridge) has disfigured our family life over the last few years. My kids embrace all the add-ons, but this usually means that if we, say, go out for a family meal, I have to take a stand at some stage and ask, through gritted teeth, that the blights be turned-off. If I didn’t, any conversational pleasure I might reasonably expect from this ‘treat’ would be ruined by triple chirping, and the added vandalism of seeing the tops of their heads instead of their faces. No, some of us have to make a stand.

    November 24, 2010 at 11:08

    Ten days captivity in the krankenhaus Gaw, no wonder you suffered from NHSitise and started listening to radio twice. I hope A…they have at last fixed the leak in your boiler. B…they didn’t remove the wrong bits and C… you haven’t come out with many freebies, C Diff, salmonella, legionnaires, dropsy, gout or a flux and the family aren’t impoverished owing to the parking charges.

    Personally whilst in dock I prefer building model Spitfires although the surgeon (I say surgeon,,,) kept nicking the glue

    November 24, 2010 at 13:59

    Heh heh, just managed to watch the Stewart Lee – quite right on Braveheart. (I went to see him in Bristol a few years ago, he was excellent but his support, Josie Long, died a thousand deaths).

    That google-conquering ‘Why the scottish hate the english’ post on Think of England continues to attract gloriously mad comments. There were three more this week.

  10. Gaw
    November 24, 2010 at 14:36

    Worm: These phones are definitely more for play than work. They help explain why recent technological innovation hasn’t increased productivity – people are playing Angry Birds or checking Facebook instead of working.

    Brit: Glad you enjoyed that Scottish piece. Delivered in Glasgow, it must have taken a fair bit of courage. I shall catch up with comments on your post, the gift that just keeps giving.

    Mahlerman: Totally agree with imposing some etiquette on these things. They can be irritating in so many ways.

    Malty: I appear to be OK so far, thank you.

    Surgeons have resort to all sorts of things nowadays, including glue (not sure it’s Airfix though). Indeed, I now incorporate (literally if you clock the Latin root) some repair mesh derived from your friend and mine, the pig. Jewish and Muslim cannibals should note that I am now unclean.

    November 24, 2010 at 15:41

    The mind-boggling development of the cellphone, texting and apps marks my personal transition from thoughtful, philosophical conservative to bitter, cranky reactionary. I am convinced it is having deleterious effects on civility and social skills we haven’t even begun to understand. It is, however, the tragedy of the curmudgeon that nothing can be done about it. No matter how persuasive his argument that they are frying our brains and making infantile zombies out of ourselves, there is no answer to the sunny progressive who says: “Imagine you are lost in the woods on a freezing night and you lose your voice…” or even “Imagine you’re holed up in a hospital for ten days bored and you’ve read everything in the hospital library…”

    November 24, 2010 at 16:38

    From Spiegel……

    Horses Swapped for Cellphones

    In Ballymun, one of Dublin’s poorest districts, owning horses is part of the local tradition. Children often ride around on them without saddles and the young riders stage impromptu races on the tarmac roads. Others hitch the horses up to two-wheeled carriages and whip them up to top speed. It’s called “flashing.'” It doesn’t seem to matter whether the horses’ joints can stand up to the punishment. The police rarely intervene.

    Market forces are worsening the plight of the horses. It is far cheaper to buy a new horse than to take a sick or injured one to the vet. At Dublin’s Smithfield Market, on every first Sunday in the month, horses are now being swapped for mobile phones. Or sold for as little as €20.

    Funny mob the Irish, phones don’t supply manure.

  13. Gaw
    November 25, 2010 at 08:19

    Peter: I’m afraid I have to confirm your prejudices: the ‘hospital library’ isn’t something present in our cutting-edge facilities.

    Susan: That’s something I’ve managed to avoid!

    Malty: First time we visited Dublin we took an open-top bus tour and spied a child on a horse down an alley just near the Guinness brewery in the city centre. Ireland sometimes manages effortlessly to live up (or down) to its image. I hope the current bother doesn’t send them too far backward.

    November 25, 2010 at 19:29

    Not sure what Ireland’s image is these days Gaw, but I was in Dublin and other parts of Erin last week-end – in the eye of the storm, so to speak. The man in the street, the pint of plain man, always had a healthy disregard for authority in any shape or form even when I lived there three decades ago. With the present turmoil unfolding it was clear that if either Cowan or Lenihan were to stroll down Molesworth Street for a pint, they might be torn limb from limb. Dear Dirty Dublin has morphed into rather a grumpy city, after the chromium-plated years

    November 26, 2010 at 10:59

    Sorry Garth, i have to take issue with the “smartphone” reference. The are not “smart” according to my wife they are “stupid” as in “turn that stupid phone off” or “put that stupid phone down for one minute” or my fave,”oi stupid give me that stupid phone” No I have not missed out any swearing, she never swears, that’s my department.

    You have obviously been swayed by the media and the corrupting influence of advertising.

    Good to see you back.

  16. Gaw
    November 26, 2010 at 11:31

    Mahlerman: My sister-in-law’s over there now and having a great time. The crac appears to continue despite everything.

    Sean: Guilty as charged.

    But thanks!

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