JANE: So, Alan, a few weeks ago, when you and Robin set forth for your new home, you mentioned that you’d discovered a few things – in which you included services – that were very hard to get along without.
ALAN: Ah yes – now thereby hangs a tale…
The plan was that we’d travel up to our new house and we’d have a couple of days before our stuff arrived so that we could decide where everything ought to go. That’s fine in theory of course. But in practice it meant we actually had a few days without any stuff at all. In retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t the wisest decision we’ve ever made.
JANE: Before your stuff arrived?? Where did you sleep? Did you stay in a motel? Use sleeping bags?
ALAN: Ah, we had that covered. Just before we set off we bought an air bed and a pump and we packed some sheets and pillows to bring with us as well. Also, Robin decided that since we were moving to a new house, we obviously needed a new bed which meant that our current bed could be a spare for visitors. So one of the big plans was to go out and buy a bed before our stuff arrived.
JANE: Ooh… I have very mixed feelings about those air beds. They’re great in theory, but not so much in practice. For one, if it’s at all cold (which given that it’s summer there, wouldn’t have been a problem for you), they can get very cold, because the air doesn’t retain body heat the way a regular mattress does.
They also have a tendency to develop slow leaks. Jim and I both remember a trip we took where our host put us on an air bed that, by morning, had us sleeping on the carpet. It was not a very thick carpet either…
How has your experience been?
ALAN: Our experience has been just like yours – and we are still having all these problems today. You see, we bought and paid for a magnificently comfortable and enormously large bed. Then we learned that the mattresses are all made to order, so we’d have to wait for some time before we could actually sleep on it. We’re still waiting. We’ve been here more than a month now and we’re still sleeping on the air bed on the floor. And that’s likely to continue for a few weeks yet. So I can truly say that one of the things it’s very hard to get along without is a bed. These old bones ache in the morning after a night on a rather squishy air bed.
JANE: But you said above that you kept your old bed to be used by visitors. Surely it didn’t take a month to arrive. Couldn’t you have used that?
ALAN: I suppose we could – but we didn’t want the cats to think that the spare bedroom was actually our bedroom. We wanted them to realise just where we (and they) were supposed to spend the night right from the start. Also, we had guests just after Christmas, so we’d have had to use the air bed for ourselves while they were here. You can’t expect guests to sleep in discomfort – and anyway, one of our guests has just had an operation on her foot and she isn’t physically capable of getting on and off something as low down as an air bed. So we really didn’t have any choice.
JANE: Well, that makes sense. Very kind of you, too. In anticipation of our recent kitchen remodel (cabinets and counters), Jim and I carefully packed away cooking tools in order of our likelihood of needing them. The final step was putting a small selection of dishes and pots in a box so we could get to them as needed. We weren’t having any appliances replaced, so we could more or less eat normally.
Or that was the plan. On Day One, they pulled out the appliances to get at things behind them, so we ended up going out for dinner. How did you handle eating?
ALAN: Eating was easy. We just went out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s not the cheapest way to live, but on the plus side, we did find some lovely restaurants that we intend to go back to if we ever get rich again. Also I made sure to hide the coffee pot and some coffee before the moving men arrived to pack up the old house. Robin and I are both coffee addicts and the thought of several days without coffee was more than we could bear. Unfortunately I forgot to pack any mugs and spoons.
JANE: Oh, dear… I’m also a coffee addict and I can’t imagine what I would do without my beloved Joe. What did you do?
ALAN: All was not lost. At the last minute, the moving men asked me if I wanted them to pack the dirty crockery in the sink. That’s when I realised what I’d done (or, more accurately, what I’d not done) and I rescued two mugs and a teaspoon from them. So when we arrived at the new house, the first thing I did was the washing up!
Then I made coffee.
JANE: That’s great! And very appropriate.
How did you feel about going without an internet connection for several days? I know I felt severe withdrawal symptoms during those days I knew I couldn’t “talk” with you. However, I could assuage my loss by communicating with other people. You were cut off entirely. Going “unplugged” for a day or so each week is becoming trendy here in the U.S. How did you feel about it?
ALAN: Going cold turkey on my internet connectivity was actually the hardest thing of all to do without. As Joni Mitchell sang:
“…you don’t know what you’ve lost ’till it’s gone.”
I hadn’t realised just how much I depended on being connected to the world. In moments of desperation, when the withdrawal symptoms got to be too much to bear, I could use the data connection on my phone to check web pages and send short emails, but I really don’t like doing that. The screen on the phone is too tiny and the keyboard is impossible to use when you’re a ten-fingered touch typist. And anyway, my data allowance is small, and the charges become very expensive after I’ve used the basic allowance up.
I’m starting to think that internet connectivity should be a basic human right along with power and clean water.
JANE: Is it really that pervasive in your life?
ALAN: Yes it is; I use the internet for pretty much everything – all the way from trivial things like checking the daily news through to more important things like paying my bills. I haven’t received a paper bill in the mail, or paid a bill with a cheque, for several years now. Every single financial transaction that I make is electronic these days.
JANE: I wish I felt that confident about internet security! However, we have the same options here and I know many people who do all their business on the net. I do just about all my business this way but, in the end, I find I like human contact, too.
And until cats and guinea pigs can type, some of my best buddies are going to be off-line.
Speaking of which, I’d love to hear how Harpo and Bess took the move. Maybe next time!