Mr Smith goes to . . . the middle of nowhere

Stuck in the Lake District without a phone or computer

''Send reinforcements, we're going to advance." With luck, you'll recognise a dispatch from the First World War trenches, which became a famous, if apocryphal, Chinese whisper. It eventually reached company HQ in the garbled form: "Send three-and-fourpence, we're going to a dance." I mentioned luck because I'm afraid a similar thing may have happened by the time this edition of the New Statesman tests the springiness of your welcome mat. I plan to go overland to W H Smith's and compare what's printed with the fair copy I have in my hand. I'm prepared for more typos and howlers than normal, even if the editor isn't. This is what comes of being thrown back on old technology when you have grown accustomed to the convenience and speed of the 21st century.

Without wishing to overstate the comparison, I find myself in a Somme of remoteness. And I'm among people - good people, decent people - of almost heartbreaking backwardness. That's right, I'm in the country. There is no phone where I'm staying. There is no mobile phone reception in the village, although my idea of a village is a bustling and brooding Gotham compared to the un-crosshatched spot on the map where I write this. How cut off am I? Put it this way. I have no idea what's going on inside the Big Brother house. (It's not all bad, this country life.)

Admittedly, there is a telephone box where I am. (You can see the telephone box, can't you? Tell me the photograph got through, at least.) The payphone is a local landmark. It figured prominently in the directions I was given for finding the place. I would have laughed if my eyes hadn't unexpectedly welled up with tears: tears of incomprehension and, yes, compassion.

You see, I love the countryside. Perhaps I could even live here. But I can't work here. The callbox, for example, may be a fine day out in these parts, but you can't ring anybody on it. In this respect, it's what I'm used to, though I couldn't say when I last came across a fully equipped payphone which was out of commission because it was gorged with coinage.

You see my problem: how to file my copy. This magazine prefers to communicate with its correspondents, if at all, by means of terse and thrifty cables. When these are impossible, men and women in eyeshades and sleeve-protectors will transcribe articles read out over the phone. But, as I say, this option is unavailable. It follows that e-mail is also a non-starter.

But what's this? Fumbling under the wainscoting, in the hope that removal men or decorators at one time abandoned a newspaper there, I've come across a phone socket: no phone, just the socket. Perhaps I can plug my laptop in, after all. Before I pin my article to the lapel of a swineherd on his way to market, or spell it out with stones under the flight path of the mountain rescue chopper, it's got to be worth a try.

Next Article