New Internationalist

Only connect

I’m afraid I can’t resist a small whoop of triumph as I post this entry direct from the barge.

I’ve just emerged from a form of purgatory, which the inner workings of cyberspace represent to me. Entering it became necessary since I work from the barge on two days a week, and it’s no longer really possible to claim that I’m working if I’m not connected to the internet. Plus, I have to confess, the general sense of disconnection was rather greater than I had expected - an indication of just how far the internet has entered into my brain.

Trouble is, there are no phone lines or cables here. So connecting was never going to be a simple matter. Joint discussions around the mooring led to the usual indefinite conclusions.

I had to set out for purgatory on my own.

In theory, it is now possible to get connected through the mobile/cell phone network. But my own computer can’t cope with this. Kindly souls in my office suggested experimenting with a laptop, which can also run without using the generator.

A neighbour on the mooring already has a mobile/cell connection, but the company that provides it denied to me that this was possible. More visits, and they came up with a card that fitted the laptop – in exchange for my signature in blood on a contract that comes with a hefty monthly price tag.

The software didn’t work. This is the point where I generally begin to lose it, calling up experts and failing to sound convincing, fearful of being unable to understand what they say, my voice cracking, my vision blurred, my fingers refusing to do what I tell them, as if sensing that I don’t know what I want. Quite how anyone manages to do this sort of thing all the time I can’t imagine, though I had to rely on one compassionate colleague in the office to help me through.

It worked - in the office. But would it work when I returned to the barge last night? Even if it works for my neighbour, a distance of 100 metres or less sometimes makes the difference between connecting or not.

Anyway, as you see, it does work. I’m reconnected and ‘working’, if this counts as work (I’m not entirely sure that for some of my colleagues think it does). I’m no longer confined to reading books or writing longhand on the barge – though that came as a relief from gazing at a screen, which is now what ‘work’ for the likes of me seems to mean. And I can lay false claim to all the knowledge on the internet.

A tremendous thunderstorm, and the drumming of heavy rain, woke me at dawn. Almost instinctively I got dressed, in case of some emergency or flash flood. Was the storm trying to disconnect me, or celebrate my connection? Sometimes I find it hard not to imagine that nature is trying to tell me something.

For a while I couldn’t tell what, since the generator wouldn’t start. Bob wasn’t around. So I clambered into the generator engine room and wiggled the only knob I know - a battery isolator switch, I believe.

It, too, worked. So here I am, at one with cyberspace, electrical engineering and the world. Joy is unconfined.

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About the author

David Ransom a New Internationalist contributor

David Ransom joined New Internationalist in 1989 and wrote on a range of issues, from green justice to the current financial crisis, before retiring in 2009. He was a close friend of Blair Peach, once worked as a banker in Uruguay and continued to contribute to New Internationalist as a freelancer until shortly before his death in February 2016. He lived on a barge on the waterways of England’s West Country.

His publications include License to Kill on the death of Blair Peach in 1979 and The No Nonsense Guide to Fair Trade. He also co-edited, with Vanessa Baird, People First Economics.

Read more by David Ransom

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