Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Middle of Nowhere. (Mr Smith Goes To)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Middle of Nowhere. (Mr Smith Goes To)

Article excerpt

"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 lam. (You can see the telephone box, can't you? Tell me the photograph got through, at least. …

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