Ben Harvey’s running for the ferry

I’m writing this in the embarrassing little gap between Christmas and New Year. Somebody once described this week-long period as being ‘the armpit of the year”, but I, personally, prefer to call it the barse, because it’s like that embarrassing little gap between your balls and your arse, simply because it holds no useful or obvious value whatsoever. There’s nothing to do. All of the good TV seems to be on before 3pm, which, given that I tend to rise 4 or 5 means that the only entertainment I’m left with is a slightly random DVD that someone gave me. And please believe me when I tell you that there’s only so many times you can watch the black & white masterpiece of Pierrepoint: Britain’s Last Hangman before the festive spirit leaves you entirely.

This time of year is usually filled with three things; ruminating over the year just gone, or plotting schemes for the year to come, or, my personal favourite, just going to lots of parties and getting a bit smashed. It’s a good time for drinking, given that people are in the mood to let their hair down, and because there’s far more booze around than normal, and also because this week of the year has a strange, confusing effect on peoples’ memories. I put this epidemic of forgetfulness down to the same sort of end-of-year effect that happens with budgets, in that often companies & governments are too busy trying to spend every last penny of their yearly allocation before the calendar ticks over, and therefore aren’t actually too picky about where it goes. The practical upshot of this, for me, is that, once a party is in sufficient swing, I can get naked whilst playing Twister and yet nobody seems to remember anything about it. Least of all me.

Or this amnesia might be due to someone just putting rohypnol in the punch. Who knows. Either way, getting drunk at parties certainly helps the one tradition that I’m sure we all dread, to various extents – which is being button-holed by someone that wants some advice about mobile phones.

Doctors always complain about this. Doctors always, always whinge about the fact that they get collared at any & every social event by people they vaguely know who want to tell them, over a drink, every little thing about their barse-pox, if only because parties have more twiglets & olives than the average common-or-garden waiting-room, and are therefore more attractive a choice of venue for such a conversation than their local GUM clinic (actually, mine does have olives, but only black ones, which I despise). But, then again, doctors get paid six figures a year (that’s a whole seven figures more than me, by the way) and as such their bleatings can be safely ignored. What you cannot ignore, alas, is the way that this disease has moved on, in the last few years, to infect anyone who has more of a clue than most about mobiles.

We’ve all been there. You’re at a do, having a drink, meeting new people, and someone you’re talking to picks up on the fact that, when it comes to mobiles, you know what you’re talking about. ‘Aaaah,” they’ll say. ‘Aaaah, that’s funny, I was just thinking about buying an iPhone / changing networks / setting a handset battery on fire and then sitting on it. Do you think that’s a good idea?”.

And they’ll look up at you, as if they’re expecting you to be glad about the fact that they’ve been magnanimous & thoughtful enough to let you bless them with your knowledge. The graceless berks! You’re at a party! You’re at a social event! You don’t want to spend the precious five minutes between you turning up & you stripping off to play Twister eroded by banal & pointless questions about which fecking website it’s best to buy handsets from. If you’re an expert about industrial carpeting, you don’t have people at a drinks-do waddle up to you and say ‘Aaaah, I’ve been thinking about getting a new carpet, but does Lux-Pile Ltd. get better coverage where I live than WeaveCo, Inc.?”. And anyway, if they did do that then you would be perfectly justified in smashing a bottle on a table-top and then flensing their wind-pipe out of their neck like a fleshy bit of calamari. In fact, there isn’t a court in the land that would convict you. So what is it that makes such boring behaviour socially valid when it comes to telephones…?

Tsk. My usual tactic in such situations is just to say, with rather forced bonhomie, ‘Well, just don’t by an LG, they might just blow up!” which gives me an opportunity to give them a short coroner’s report of that poor Korean chap that got his ribcage caved in when his phone went pop, all of which, if done with sufficient gore, will make them go away to be quietly sick in the corner, thus leaving me in peace. The grim and maddening irony of all of this is that the best bloody party of 2007 that I went to was deliberately, purely, wonderfully dedicated to nothing but people who wanted to talk about the mobile industry, and that was the SMS Text News drinks-bash in London. I was sick in the corner that night myself, but only out of overpowering envy at some of the kit that was being bandied about.

Anyway. I would give you one or two more tips about how to deflect such irritants over the holiday season (‘Ah, I’m a bit behind, they wouldn’t let us have mobile phones in prison, see” being another favourite of mine), but alas, I’m fresh out of time – my ferry back to the mainland leaves in…
Oh dear. It really does leave very soon. And I must, must catch it, because my signal here alternates – depending on factors such as barometric pressure, and the number of seagulls in the sky – between Vodafone IE and Vodafone UK and it’s doing my nut in. Civilisation beckons. And I believe there is a saying about time, tide or bastard ferry-captain waiting for no man, so I must be leaving.

Happy new year, boys and girls.

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