Posts Tagged ‘broadband’

Hartsop old wayThursday evening, came home from work early. Long weekend in the offing, glad to have nailed it after a pig of a week. Walked in, looking forward to savouring every moment, only to find my Broadband router showing a stack of red lights instead of the usual blue. Everyone is glum. No internet. Looks like a call to BT, except I need to go on-line to get the number.

Ah,… right.

So I burn a few precious minutes of 3G data on my phone. Number in hand I call the help-line. I’m connected to India in a matter of seconds. I’m half an hour on the line, and across five thousand miles they’re testing my line, testing the router. What a marvellous thing it is we have invented, this global computer. Or is it?

What devices do I hook up to, sir? Couple of laptops, several tablet devices, iPods, phones, a couple of  Playstations,… I realise the list is endless, and this surprises me. My entire life has moved on-line.

Test results inconclusive! They need to send an engineer to poke about with a screwdriver, to tug at the wires, to test the physicality  of my connection. How about next Tuesday? What? That’s nearly a week! How am I supposed to manage a week without internet? I don’t say this to the guy in India of course – he’s doing his best. My heart quaking, I just say okay.

There’s a pall of silence when I end the call. Tuesday? We’ll have to manage until Tuesday! We are a family of four, and I am not alone in my total dependence on the world wide web for passing the time, for entertainment, for education, for news, for pseudo-nourishment, for information,…

When did this happen? At what point did so much of my life begin pointing in at this window? When did so much of my life become aimed at shaping an imaginary world online, of adding to to the info-glut of words and pictures and video, writing a blog, writing fiction, playing MYST? Dammit, I’d been looking forward to chilling out for a couple of days doing nothing but playing MYST!

So,… nothing for it then. No Internet. For days and days and days.

What now?

Well, what did I used to do? Sits down to think? Write! There was always the writing, sure and most of that ending up double spaced on A4, either in the post or in my bottom drawer when I’d given up on it. I used to draw too, and paint,… I used to read – and I mean PAPER books.

So I pick up a PAPER book I’ve had since it came out in 2012 – Macfarlane’s “The Old Ways”. I’d begun the book enthusiastically, but left off a few chapters in, not because I found the book dull, but because my head is always being lured back inside the online world. And the lure is strong. But in the space of a few minutes I reconnected with the book as Macfarlane took me a walk along the Broomway, off the coast of Essex. Then he took me up to the Western Isles, to Harris, then a sail into the Atlantic in an ancient open sailboat, to a tiny speck of the British Isles that doesn’t always make it onto the maps – North Rona. This is a voyage with a salty crew who know their way around the old sea roads. I spend a night on an uninhabited island in the Minch, belly warmed by good company and fiery malt, and I meet characters who still speak the stories of place, of physical places, places I touched once, a quarter century ago when I passed this way myself and which lit up my life in ways unexpected.

A few summers and a lifetime of memory.

And I remembered my old novel, the pre internet “Singing Loch”, which was about how I felt the land die whenever the old stories were lost, ripped up, forgotten, concreted over, and how the world descended then into a kind of grey. I remember how I’d once burned with the lust of the old ways, and believed with all my heart it was important we kept a spiritual tryst with the land. Then I remembered the books of Patrick Harpur, and again the tales from the mysterious north, the lore of the Norse and the Celt, of the spirits of place and of the mysterious Shee, whom only the Irish, full blood or part descended have the eye to see. And all of this is important because, although the stories are in our minds, we meet them in the land, because the land is where we are supposed to be, and when we honour it on bended knee, the spirit of it comes to guide our way.

And then I’m looking at my father’s old maps – crumbly and curly now – Ordnance Surveys of the West Pennine Moors, six inches to the mile, mapped in the 1840’s. There are marks on the map, old ways we once walked together, and the broad arrow benchmarks we came upon upon chiselled in stone by the sapper men upon the peaty moor – days of mist when the whole world was a figment of imagination, and summer days when the larks were aloft and time stood still.

And then, as I slept the shee were whispering in my ear what I knew already, that the Broadband Router is fried, and that’s all a week’s wait for the BT guy will tell me. Inscrutable race, the Shee – wise, curious, sometimes mischievous, sometimes helpful even in their misdirection. So then I’m off to Tesco at dawn break for a new router. £50 and I’m plugging it in. Blue light is on, and we’re back online,…

But I’m not sure this is a good thing any more. Maps, books,… memories of walks, of the old ways, set aside, forgotten again. For a moment last night, the spirit of the old days, the old ways crept back in at the door, and Shee had begun to look over my shoulder, guide my hand, my heart, my mind,…

But there are no spirits of place in here, no old ways to be explored. It is a place where the Shee do not venture for old things are like as not simply deleted. There is no archaeology on the Internet, no myth, no folklore. It is a dead place! What do they mean opening this portal again and pushing me back in? I write this piece after playing MYST till my eyes bleed. I tag, I click, I post,…

What is the internet for?

And is it friend of foe?


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Even though I’m registered with the telephone preference service, which should prevent me from being pestered by telephone sales people when I’m: (a) just sitting down to my tea (b) sitting on the toilet or (c) having a bath, I’ve been getting a lot of calls about BT Vision lately and why don’t I sign up for it? Now, much as I like keeping up with the latest in computer/info-tech I’m really not interested in Internet T.V.  because I don’t watch that much T.V. anyway. Of the many channels now coming at us on Freeview I can never find anything that makes me want to switch the T.V. on – all right I’ll watch the news occasionally, and now and then I’ll watch a decent drama, but it’s becoming an increasingly rare occurrence. Indeed the last time I tried to actually turn the TV/Freeview box on, number two son had to do it for me because I couldn’t remember how.

But anyway, the first time I got the call from the tele-sales person, I listened with interest to them telling me of all these digi-video marvels that could be squished down my 2 Megabits of bandwidth, and I realised the fatal flaw in their argument – I mean some nights I’m lucky if I can get on the internet at all – okay number one son may already be online, gaming with his PS3, I may be listening to Frisky Radio over WiFi on my iPod, so when I’m also trying to upload my latest bit of nonsense onto Feedbooks or WordPress, it can be like wading through treacle –  so the idea we could actually get any more out of that bandwidth seemed a bit flaky to me, and I said so.

Undeterred, future sales persons seem to have been primed, ready with answers to this one, saying I actually only need 2 Megabits to get BT Vision working, that I have 2.5 megabits you know, because they’ve checked, and as such I’m getting twice the UK average!!!! This last one stumped me. To be honest, I would dispute the 2.5 megabits. I’ve just tested it and it’s definitely 2.1, but who’s arguing? What astonished me was the implication that I was lucky to have what I’m getting. If you’ve paid for “up to” 20 megabits per second and you’re the average UK internet broadband user and you’re only getting 1 and a bit-ish megabits per second (half of what I’m getting) , then you must be really brassed off, and I’ll shut up moaning about my 2.1 megabits because after this evening, far from feeling hard-done-by I’m starting to feel guilty about my megabit affluence.

Anyway. I still don’t want B.T. Vision, because like I said, I don’t watch T.V. that much, and besides, I’ve just checked up and discovered that if someone in your house is watching T.V. over the internet, your crafty little router will prioritise your Vision box and choke off anything else that others  may want to do on the internet, like erm, browse it, or blog on it, or play games on it, or horror of horrors listen to the radio.

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On behalf of all those not living in mega-cities.

I’m putting this here because I’m really exasperated. The Internet has become very important to me – far more important than the TV, which I’d gladly get rid of tomorrow if my better half were not so hopelessly addicted to soap opera. The Internet is the most important thing that’s  happened to the human race since the Gutenberg printing press. I know I should be happy – but really, the service I’m currently getting from my Broadband provider is rubbish – little better than my old dial up connection and all because I choose to live in a rural community. There have been nights these past few weeks when I simply switch off in frustration. I’ve had a broadband connection since 2006, but far from improving, my impression is a steady degradation of service.

It just gets slower and slower and slower.

Now – when I say I live in a rural location, I don’t mean a few thatched cottages gathered around a village pump, a hundred miles from the nearest shop. According to the 2001 census there are nearly 3000 of us living here and we’re only six miles from a town that can boast 100,000 residents. I’m paying £21.00 a month for “up to 20 Mega bits per second” but I’m lucky if I’m getting 2.

This really isn’t on you know?

Come on you chaps – fair play and all that?

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