Written by Jenny Eclair

In The News

My book, my torch, my secret lover

It’s 30 years this month since the first mobile phone call was made in the UK. We asked Jenny Éclair if she could now imagine life without her mobile.

My mobile phone has become part of me, a vital functioning organ; more reliable than my brain, less alcohol-sodden than my liver. Without my phone, I would forever be in a fug of not remembering who wrote Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates – thank you Wikipedia) or how to make that really good red cabbage recipe? ‘Lard’, my BBC Food friends say, is the answer to that.

My phone is like a lover, sometimes at night, I creep into the bathroom just to see its face light up: ‘I’m here, you’re here’. The weight of it is reassuring in my hand.

My phone is like a cherished toddler, I make sure it is well wrapped up in its little leather jacket, complete with gold embossed initials (oh yes) and I worry every day about it falling from a great height and smashing its beautiful face in. At bedtime, I tuck its charger into its little bumhole, so it may draw strength and awake renewed, ready to tell me all the world’s gossip.

I am 54, I remember a time before the mobile phone. I was a teenager in the ’70s. Mine was the generation of queuing outside phone boxes, of metallic pay phones screwed to bedsit hallways, of greedy slots endlessly swallowing two-pence pieces before the dreaded pips cut you off.

At home, we had a landline, a rotary dial cream-coloured plastic lump that squatted on the telephone table in the hall next to a potted plant in a copper bowl. My Aunty Ailleen had a shared ‘party line’. I have seen the phone revolution first hand and there’s no going back.

Basically life with a smart phone is better than life with a dumb old phone that you couldn’t even take for a walk around the house, never mind on holiday. I do not crave a simpler time when a lost party address meant you never found the party, when a dip into the Encyclopedia Britannica meant searching an entire wall of leather bound books, when I had no idea how big a Kardashian bum could be.

These were not innocent times, they were ignorant Candy Crush-deprived times, when in-car entertainment meant I Spy or throwing up down the back of your mum’s neck.

My phone is a source of information and a personal treasure trove of silly photos and ancient text messages. How brilliant that something so tiny can do so much. It is both a book and a torch, it can sing me to sleep, deliver good news (“Hi Mum, I’m nearly home”) and bad (“someone else got the job”), diagnose that funny itch deep in my ear (eczema), nab theatre tickets and alert me when the ‘women only’ lane swimming is open.

My phone is my diary, my cultural events guide, my ear to the ground. It connects me to my friends, family and Twitter cyber mates.

The only thing the bleeding thing doesn’t actually do any more is work as an actual phone. Honest to God, the thing is fucking useless when it comes to making actual calls. The EE coverage is so disastrous in my local area that, despite having a booster box in the house, I usually have to walk further than I ever did to my local ‘70s phone box to get a decent reception. Even then it sounds like I’ve dialled up a leaking Second World War submarine.

So, I’ve reverted to the landline and I’m doing it properly, I’ve bought one of those rather charming retro cream numbers and I’ve placed it on a table in the hall next to a potted plant. Because after all these years and all the inventions, gizmos and gadgets, it’s still good to talk… if only I could remember anyone’s number!

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Written by Jenny Eclair

Veteran comic, writer, diver, knitter (amateur) and South Londoner, v short sighted ( -5 left eye), HRT fan.