I was half-way up a hill in the wooded, wilds of North Devon on Sunday when my phone leapt into life, bombarding my pocket with a string of family Whatsapp messages from my three adult offspring. It was all kicking off in London, says Elaine Kingett.
‘Anyone heard from Mum?’
‘Did she get there? Did anyone pick her up from the station?’
‘She’s not been on Instagram. Or Facebook. Not like her not to be in touch or online.’
‘Was the party last night?’
‘Think it’s whole weekend thing.’
Slapped head and glass of red emoji…
‘Don’t joke, Will.’
‘Not like her’.
‘Anyone got a contact for [insert cousin’s name].’
‘You tried calling?’
‘Went to answerphone.’
I’d left London on Friday on the 14.20 train and decided, without mobile reception in the almost-stately home where I was staying and Wi-Fi only in a chilly passage way, to go off-grid until Monday morning. Do what I was meant to do, what my kids always suggested. Put my phone down, stay off social media and enjoy the world around me. Talk to people, play games, socialise – live in the now. The first 24-hours had been weird. No Googling the name of the book I’d forgotten, no checking the weather in Seville or the latest political shenanigans in Washington. No late-night Facebook stalking of the ex. Cocooned indoors at Howard’s End with a large group of friends and family, also without phones in their hands or on the table in front of them, it was a much more intimate experience. The television didn’t work, there was no radio – and no Spotify to call up on my phone. No sirens screamed outside, no buses or trains rattled past at regular intervals.
I was free to slow down, relax, rely on my memory and engage with people face-to-face. I was amazed how long my phone battery lasted and how quickly I managed to emotionally extricate myself from it’s needy screen. I spent time awake doing absolutely nothing. Yes, I should have checked in with my kids when I arrived but as a friend remarked, ‘Well, your body’s never going to lay rotting undiscovered in your apartment for months, is it?’ With the obvious proviso of reassuring your nearest and dearest, I thoroughly recommend a few days out of touch to feel needed!
Elaine Kingett runs creative writing holidays in Spain and workshops in London; for more information check out Write It Down.
Garb to go off-grid in (or what we’re wearing in London right now):