Pros and Cons of modern communications:New Forest Mark and Hugh

Miracle or monster?

Mark and Hugh consider the pros and cons of modern communications

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Some predictably familiar themes, depressing in some ways but so entertainingly told you won't be down for long.

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Modern communications, miracle or monster?

The late great Robin Williams told of a time when found himself in a coffee house and noticed a group of girls gathered around a table. All were engrossed in their phones ‘a cyber witches coven’ as he called it. As he watched there was no sound until suddenly one of them looked up and exclaimed “I know!”. This story, when told by the genius Williams is extremely funny, however there are those of us who mourn the loss of verbal communication. I sometimes wonder if in sixty years our elderly will all be mute, have stooped necks and arthritic thumbs.


I was chatting to a female friend the other day and she asked an extraordinary question. She asked me how people used to learn before the internet. After hearing the question, I waited for the wry smile but it didn’t come; she was deadly serious. Personally, I was struck dumb and for a moment I said nothing. Then I replied slowly and deliberately “Books.” She replied blithely “Oh, of course” then walked away. She had her answer to what she clearly saw as a perfectly reasonable question. I was rooted to the spot, flabbergasted at how society has changed as a direct result of the internet and mobile phones generally.  In the past I used to use the library every six weeks taking up to seven non-fiction books. Now, inevitably, libraries are closing and the last time I looked, the Cobbett Road library which is in Southampton was still open but staffed by volunteers. I find it genuinely puzzling that despite a year-on-year increase in population and the subsequent increase in tax revenue that the populace seems to be increasingly denied amenities on the grounds of cost. Very odd. What will it take for authorities both local and national to realise that the arts are vital to the survival of our communities?

Illumination for elders

This silly old buffer is utterly hopeless with his phone. It’s not an age thing because I have friends of a similar vintage who are absolute masters of the things. No, it’s an intelligence thing, I simply don’t possess enough to operate these devices properly. Once I found myself in a poorly lit shed searching for an elusive wood screw. I really needed a torch but there wasn’t one. Slowly the rusty cogs that reside between my ears groaned into action. Of course, I thought, there’s a torch on my phone! Yes, dear reader there is, but could I find it? No, not even after searching the menus and scrolling through the pages. I felt such a fool and simply gave up. Naturally I found the torch function the following day, when I no longer needed it.

Motherhood for morons

Your cartoonist Hugh, artist to the rich and famous and sundry royalty, was standing in his doorway as a young mother crossed the road up ahead. She was pushing her pram whilst being followed by her toddler, engrossed in her phone, thumbs maniacally busy, neck stooped and pushing the pram with the heels of her hands. Once she had reached the other side of the road, she heard a screech of tyres. Her toddler who had slipped behind so that he was completely alone on the road had almost been hit by a car. It took this to tear her gaze from the seemingly hypnotic phone. I listened to this story with a combination of sadness and anger. All good parents know that toddlers have no road sense and that they are tiny and often difficult to see from the driver’s seat. Also, they cannot be trusted because they act on impulse, if they see a friend they will run first, not think first.


In 1947 a chap called Thor Heyerdahl decided to prove that Polynesia could have been populated by people from South America. He built a raft which he called Kon-Tiki and he and his team did indeed complete the journey. Like all sailors of that era, he had very little in the way of support. If the raft had foundered the group would most likely have perished. Today however we have the incredible EPIRB (emergency personal indicating radio beacon). For two hundred quid you can buy a guaranteed rescue. All you have to do is activate the thing and salvation, whether it be by land, sea or air will manifest. The New Forest is a big place, just imagine that your child hasn’t returned from a pony ride. You call the mobile phone but sadly you hear the ring tone coming from the bedroom. Where do you start looking? Take this scenario to the open seas and you will realise that this is a whole new ball game because oceans are massive spaces. Electronic communications have saved hundreds of lives not to mention hundreds of gallons of fuel. The search is almost redundant, electronic signals point the way.

Father, do as you’re told

If you want to know what it’s like to get a telling off from your own children, I can tell you. It’s humbling. I had decided to treat my two grown-up girls, Alice and Katy to a meal at an Italian restaurant. Being an unobservant bloke (dear lady reader, as you well know most men are unobservant), I hadn’t noticed that their phones were not on the table. After the starter I felt the tell-tale tingle as my phone vibrated in my pocket. I duly took it out and answered the text message. Katy has always been outspoken; she was patient and waited for the kill. “Is your phone more important than our company?” she said calmly. They were both staring at me and I must have gone as red as a beetroot. She didn’t say any more; she didn’t need to. Imagine, being taught manners by your own children! I wondered if there was a slim hope of rebellion within the younger ranks. Were they beginning to resent the intrusion of the phone on social meetings?

Silence is golden

A friend of mine has two young teenage daughters and they had asked their father for a sleepover party. In due course a gaggle of friends clutching duvets and pyjamas trouped up the stairs to the girl’s room. For the next hour all was mayhem with plenty of chattering and laughter. So far, so normal, approaching midnight it became eerily quiet. The father was not unduly concerned, just curious. As any parent will know the little banshees are normally still fizzing with energy well into the morning and normally it’s the broomstick on the ceiling treatment that finally shuts them up. He crept up the stairs, knocked the door then entered. They were all on their phones texting one another. How times change.

Diary, dictionary, camera, calendar

The fact is that the mobile phone combined with the internet opens the world to us. I was on a train from Nottingham to London and during that journey I booked a crossing on the Eurotunnel back to France. Most of you reading this will think ‘big deal’. But think about it, imagine having to do the same thing just thirty years ago. The whole concept is simply astonishing. Friends visiting me here in this remote location have no need for maps, just a postcode. When I have an important date to remember I don’t bother with a calendar, there’s no hook in the wall or pen that never works. It’s simply entered into my phone calendar. Then guess what, I don’t even have to browse a calendar to see what’s coming up, my phone will display the reminder. So, there’s no excuse for ‘accidentally’ missing that dentist’s appointment.

Let’s go down the pub for a social

A tale from another friend, this time in his own village pub. It was a Sunday and sat in the corner was a large family consisting of grand-parents, parents, children and grand-children. He said how sad it was that everyone except the grand-parents was either on their phones or iPads. What a desolate sight that must have been and how tragic that some people seem to have lost the ability to entertain. This party was almost completely silent with just the grandparents sharing a few words.

Entertainment of the cordless kind

When my father was young it was normal for people to have what was always called a ‘party piece’. This could be anything from a conjuring trick to a song but the reason for it was quite simply to entertain others. The last war ended just eighty years ago and at that time there was very little in the way of media entertainment. Some people might say little has changed. In my father’s time people made their own entertainment. I was at a wedding once, a family affair, and my Grandmother sat down to play the piano. She sang all night long, all we had to do was keep her topped up with Guinness (I still don’t know where she put it all). All of the songs had a simple chorus where we all joined in heartily. It was a glorious night and I seem to remember that most of us were smiling. Perhaps we’re missing out on something these days?

Here’s to 2050

If you thought that the last thirty years have been amazing then what about the next thirty. Just try for a moment to imagine where we’ll be. Isn’t that a fascinating thought? Travel into space might be accessible for all. We almost certainly won’t be burning hydrocarbons. But what about communication? I like to think that devices will become smaller and smaller and that in the future we will have them installed subcutaneously           . Some people are already fitted with a small machine, it’s called a pacemaker. There will be no need for pockets as transactions will be made by the tiny implanted device (which can’t be lost or stolen). We won’t need a passport or driving license. Forests across the globe will sigh with relief as we abandon paper.

I shall leave you with that fascinating thought.

Family Sunday lunch at the local pub


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More tales and cartoons for Lymington and the New Forest from Mark and Hugh

If you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

RNLI and Lymington Lifeboat
Happy New Year Resolutions and Revolutions
Merry Christmas 2020
What our cars say about us
The litter pickers of the New Forest

A roof over your New Forest head

Richard St Barbe Baker

Our star, our sun, our salt!
To Lymington or Cuba
The Auld Mug

Seeds of success

Moonlit meeting with cetaceans 

Trees and what they tell us
Cartography and trig pillars

Pony drifts and pannage in the New Forest
A journey from the New Forest via Lymington
The brilliance - and persistence - of Marconi

Equality in the skies
Bees pollinators par excellence 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...



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