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Time was when going away on vacation meant that one was cut off from one’s nearest and dearest for the duration, whether it was a week or two, or even longer.

Gone are the postcards we used to send to relatives, friends and neighbours, to remind them of our existence. Heaven forfend that they should forget about us in our absence or think that we had forgotten about them! In the England of my childhood I remember the thrill of finding in the post a coloured postcard of some distant bucolic scene from afar, or even a ‘saucy’ postcard depicting in colourful caricature a large, bosomy wife and small, henpecked hubby in a situation designed to arouse laughter, or at least a smile. I’ve forgotten the name of the artist who perpetrated many of those pictures but he would probably be thoroughly castigated in the PC atmosphere of today. Those postcards tended to be sent from one of the seaside resorts in England. After all, who wants to see a photo of Brighton pier in the rain?

Now, however, the world has changed, and we cannot bear to be cut off from the world of ‘real life’ for more than a day or two. Practically each and every one of us has a mobile phone, or better still a smart phone, which acts as a kind of umbilical cord, keeping us connected to our world at all times. There is no escape. If the alarm in your house is activated, the security company will contact you to inform you of this even if you happen to be on a boat in the Aegean, as happened to us some years ago. Then your task is to find someone (by phone, of course) to go round to the house and turn it off.

Phones aren’t the only means of communication, of course. The internet is our constant virtual companion wherever we happen to be. This means that information about our friends and relatives, current events and political developments, train crashes and financial crises reaches us wherever we are. This, of course, is not exactly conducive to relaxing on a sunny beach, but our thirst for information apparently supersedes all other wishes. Moreover, losing one’s internet connection is tantamount to a major disaster, even though all one needs it for is staying in contact with the ‘real’ world out there.

And now there is Skype as well, so that you can sit in a hotel room in Honolulu and chat with your offspring, whom you can see on your computer monitor. Just fifty years ago this would have sounded like some esoteric sci-fi fantasy, but today it’s something we simply take for granted. And of course Facebook keeps us in contact with all our ‘friends,’ wherever they might be.

Who knows? Perhaps one day ‘Scotty, beam me up,’ that timeless phrase from Startrek, will become as common as ‘Hello, how are you?’ is today.

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