It started quite innocently. A birthday gift to my wife of a massage session at our local Hydro. Ten minutes away so I went to start the car. The car key, however, was not in its accustomed place and a quick search failed to yield results. No problem. Use the spare and find it later.
Our car, though old, is reliable. You push a button on the key and the doors open. This time they did not. The battery in the rarely used spare key had died. Quick think and I remembered how to open the door manually. Unfortunately the car has a memory (what clown thought that was a good wheeze) and remembered it had been closed electronically. So when I confidently opened the door the simple way, it believed it was being violated and burst into full burglar alarm mode.
As I sat desperately pushing and prodding, the neighbours were brought out en masse
by a noise that would have flattened Phil Spector's 'wall of sound'. As helpful advice was offered on all sides, I searched the handbook for enlightenment. Meanwhile, my wife, never short on speedy action, was wafted away in a neighbour's vehicle to her massage and helpfully returned home. Page 130 of the book, eventually, gave me the trick to stop the uproar and order was restored.
We then drove on tiptoes to our nearest hardware store to fit a fresh battery into our spare key and return to normal service. More searches at home and in the garden did not reveal the missing key. A phone call to our main dealer (car not cocaine) produced the astonishing news that a replacement would cost £600 (might as well have been cocaine). Since the car is not worth much more than a grand, this was not quite the figure we had in mind. 'You could always claim it on insurance', the dealer suggested. And opened up a minefield.
We put in a tentative claim (not easy on a smartphone key pad but the iPad would not connect) and were advised that our car was no longer safe, needed to be either garaged or fitted with a steering column lock, and that both front door locks would have to be replaced. With the price of a key at £600, we estimated that the cost of replacing two locks and buying new keys to fit was likely to be in excess of £2,000. The insurers offered £500 as their share.
It was at this stage, as sanity to say nothing of financial probity, was under threat, that an unlikely angel hove into view. A painter was decorating our spare bedroom which had demanded the removal of all furniture. And there, Callooh Callay, we found our key. Nestling silently behind an out of place bookcase. We have advised the insurance company and plan to give up motoring as soon as decently possible. At our age, we have enough personal memories without our car and keys butting in.
We do live in changing times so nothing should come as a surprise, but last week on holiday in the small Italian town I have been visiting for years, I had the urge after breakfast to go and acquire a newspaper to read. So off I went to the newsagent come tobacconist to get one from the stand of yesterday's English newspapers which I expected to find by the door as in past years. But there were none. Then, of course, it dawned.
Who needs a newspaper any more? Had I not just spent breakfast reading The Guardian
on my phone? I do it every day in return for paying a small contribution. As for my daily crossword, I like the one in the Telegraph
, a newspaper I do not read, because I can do it and for a small fee I can down load the paper's puzzles although I actually only do the cryptic one. What it all boils down to is this: a major change has crept up on us almost unnoticed – the death of newsprint.
We are living in a world of screens of different sizes at which we peer, sometimes to read, sometimes to play a game, sometimes to take a photograph, to present the ticket we need in order to travel to work or to enter some place of entertainment. It has happened quite rapidly and without one really noticing. But the pleasure of reading yesterday's English language newspaper over a cup of coffee in some foreign land has gone for ever – like eating chips wrapped in newspaper and the various other uses that old newspapers could be put to. The means by which small boys earned some pocket money has also disappeared without anyone noticing. As for change, in the sense of coins, that too has virtually disappeared as card payments have become the rule. Plus ça change
and so on no longer applies.
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