I do love a good handful of clichés to kick start my day, something to appall my inner editor, something to make me feel as if I've been very naughty and just got away with it, when what I really want to talk about today is technology. Yes, technology, new-fangled gadgety, microchippy stuff that you can’t make yourself. Well, not usually anyway, unless you’re one of those genius type prodigy people. We’re surrounded by it, it’s part of daily life, but there are times when it has me running for the hills and a much simpler life – one that runs on wood and coal ...
Here’s a good example of one of my personal Technology Terrorists; the intruder alarm system. Picture the scene, all is calm and tranquil in Lyndhurst land when there is a loud beep. I dismiss it as something passing in the street or a very modern birdy outside that’s imitating a car alarm. I hear it again and a prickle of something goes up my spine, it’s coming from inside ... Instinctively I ask The Exec if he's heard it and get a shake of the head and a monosyllabic “nope” – he’s watching rugby after all (on a great big cyber- connected, very-technically superior screen which runs on remote controls I have never dared touch). Another beep, I swear it’s getting louder and more sinister but know in my heart now where it’s coming from. The intruder alarm system panel in the hall confirms it with an even louder beep and an ominous flashing orange triangle with an exclamation mark in it.
Neither of us knows what the orange triangle means. We spend a fruitless hour searching for the instruction manual, while the steady Beep of Doom keeps on beeping. And we know the beep will go on FOREVER because the panel is connected to the mains electricity and we daren’t disconnect it in case The Machine thinks it’s being tampered with by a burglar and will go off all bells ringing (also FOREVER). And someone will call the police eventually even if it’s just to complain about the noise. The Exec jabs a finger randomly at the control panel keypad (and I really do mean randomly) until I completely lose it because the longer he does that, the more likely it is he’s going to set the tamper alarm off and we won’t know how to turn it off because we can’t find the wretched, rotten, pristine wherever-it-is instruction manual.
I start to sneeze from the dust we've stirred up hunting for the elusive document. The beep is relentless. The cat sits and looks at us as if we’re quite mad, he’s probably wondering what the horrid beepy thing is as well. I am SO stressed that I actually squeak when The Exec calmly sits back down in front of the telly to watch sport – how can he be so composed when I’m going into panic meltdown?! I want to scream “Just fix it!” as he picks up his iPad and languorously strokes its sleek black screen, no doubt checking a cricket score or a share price or something equally male and mysterious. He suddenly gets up and starts jabbing at the control panel again and I feel like ripping the sofa apart with my teeth.
“Three AAA batteries,” he announces on his return. “Got some?”
“In the electric tin opener,” I reply sulkily, exhausted by the Beep of Doom and his apparent lack of interest in the current crisis.
“Good.” He points to a wireless sensor above the fish tank.” Because the beep is telling us that the batteries in that unit are low. Clever isn't it? I downloaded the instruction manual from the internet.” He smiles as I visibly wilt with relief. “Easy”
And, lo, human male plus internet plus swish technical device saved the day but I still wanted him to disconnect the entire system, which would be daft (and he hasn't! ) but technical crises like that can really do me in mentally.
So it's clear that technology scares the pants off me sometimes and it's a nightmare when it misbehaves, but there’s no escaping the fact that, in the last year since Entangled publishing took a risk on me and my Greek Billionaire, technology has changed my life. All my books are distributed in digital form, which is mega technological and means they can only be read on a machine of some sort. No paper cluttering up the place, but without the chips and screens and cables I’d have no readers. Even if I stood on a street corner wearing a The End is Nigh Buy My Books While You Still Can placard round my neck it would make no difference, because without an internet connection nobody can even buy them. Here's a pretty (and completely gratuitous) picture of my latest book on a Kindle Fire to illustrate the fact:
I can’t ignore it, I can’t ‘unplug’ it and I can probably never manage without it again. If it wasn't for technology, I wouldn't be here writing on this blog via my computer and you wouldn't be reading it. (You are reading it, aren't you? Not just looking at the pictures and clicking on all the book buy links? Ah, good.). So there’s no getting away from the fact that technology pays my Visa bill and that really is useful. As is the dishwasher, washing machine and wireless router. I still loathe that alarm system though and would love to stamp on my Blackberry …
How about you? Is there a modern device that messes with your inner tranquility? What amalgamation of microchips couldn't you live without? Am I the only person who can remember sharing a bedroom with a big grey night storage heater that was the size of a coffin? Those were the days … ;0)