Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Joy Of 802.11x

When I bought my house in France in 2001, I never considered that I might ever actually have to live here. I was relatively well off at the time (no longer, sadly), my mum needed a place to live after she and my dad split up, and there was this huge ramshackle house going in this tiny stone-built hamlet nestling among the vines, for which the owner only wanted 290,000 old French francs (the equivalent of about 27,000 pounds).

'You paid two hundred and ninety thousand?', said my new French neighbour, aghast. 'Bloody hell - they saw you coming!'

I very rarely think about the future, so I never foresaw that my mum would be diagnosed with cancer, or that she would become so ill that she wouldn't even be able to make herself a cup of tea. So I went about my career in London in the usual way, eventually becoming the business partner of ex-blogger and international jetset businesswoman Tabby Rabbit, with a swanky office in Chiswick, a lovely team of writers and designers, and a tip-top portfolio of tech-industry clients stretching all the way from San Francisco to Dubai.

Which is all very well in London, but I'm now back in France caring full-time for my mum, while still trying to manage a team of lovely people in London, work across 34 timezones* and cultivate a tip-top portfolio of tech industry clients stretching all the way from San Francisco to Dubai.

And as if this wasn't sufficiently temporally and geographically 'challenging', just as I was on the point of leaving the country I also quite unexpectedly acquired a boyfriend** in deepest Cornwall.

All this would be OK, if it wasn't for the fact that when I bought the French house, I unwittingly chose one in a location that is infuriatingly just out of reach of the broadband signals radiating out from the two nearby villages.

They saw me coming, alright.

Trying to care for an invalid, manage an international business and have a long-distance relationship with the aid of one telephone line and a maximum internet connection speed of 45 kilobits a second is difficult. When one of the frequent Languedocien thunderstorms knocks out the telephone line for four or five days at a time, the situation becomes...well, I'm an optimist, so let's say 'laughable'.

Last night, though, I was listening to some music on my laptop in bed, when a message flashed up out of nowhere saying 'One or more wireless connections are in range. Click here to connect'. Barely pausing to wonder whether the first of those two sentences was grammatically correct, I followed the instructions, mesmerised by the possibility that someone out here in the vineyards of rural France might have a wireless broadband network.

Miraculously, it connected, I downloaded one (spam) email and scurried to MSN Messenger to see if there was anyone online I could talk to. Another message flashed up: 'No wireless networks are in range', and I was back alone in bed with my laptop.

I haven't seen the signal again since.

It's funny the technological luxuries you get used to. I bet Robinson Crusoe never had this trouble.


* I counted. Although some of them are the same, just with different names. Either that or there aren't 24 hours in a day after all - which may come as unwelcome news to Jack Bauer.

** Not that I'm complaining about this. At all. Quite the opposite.

22 comments:

james henry said...

Ironically of course, Cornish Boyfriend is now cosily esconced in Patroclus's flat in London, although I should point out I have now defrosted the freezer, so I'm sort of paying my way.

patroclus said...

Oh yes, I think I read something in Heat mag about you defrosting my fridge. Thank you! Could you please also read the electricity meter?

BiB said...

Um, oh dear, about the sad and bad bits. But hurrah about the good and happy bits. Might sleeping on the roof improve your chances of picking up the signal?

patroclus said...

Thanks BiB - saddo that I am, I have actually tried the roof (well, the attic). In vain, sadly. Shortly I'm going to put the laptop in the car and drive it along the old railway line, waving an antenna made from an empty Pringles carton out of the window, like in the old days.

Annie said...

Poor Patroclus, and Patroclus' mum. It is worrying, that you are stuck without communication - what happens when the phone lines are down? Do you have a car at least?

Wyndham said...

Ooh, it's just like Contact with Jodie Foster. But without the extraterrestrials and the lesbian. But just like that. But set in France. With a mum and a laptop instead of a giant interstellar satellite array. But other than that, just like Contact.

patroclus said...

Ahh, thanks Annie. Yes, I do have a car, and a mobile - I'm just whining about nothing, really.

Wyndham: Oddly enough last night I dreamed I was a lesbian, and I was going out with the black one from Battlestar Galactica - you know, the comms operator. It all ties in.

Valerie said...

I think I heard something on NPR/Marketplace last week about them taking away folks' cable modem connections in Iran. It's actually pretty horrifying how much of my life is locked up on the Web and how naked and unwashed I feel without my access. So... I can sympathize.

We spend about a month in Australia every year or so (my main squeeze being an Aussie), and typically stay out in the wine country outside Perth, at Rob's mum's house. We use dialin services there, plugging our Airport into the phone jack and using wireless so we can both be online at the same time. I use the word online loosely. And about once a week someone accidentally runs their tractor into a phone pole and we're out of service again...

Of course, we also usually break the septic system while we're there, but that's an entirely other, and entirely more disgusting, topic. Rural Australia just isn't ready for us. And I guess Rural France isn't ready for you, either...

Anyway, being without broadband at such an intense time sucketh majorly. You need to find a friendly geek to install a wireless signal amplifier midway between you and the nearest village/wireless access point. If you find one, bribe him heavily and we'll hope for the best!

patroclus said...

Sage advice, Valerie, thank you. I will try to get someone to do something, but it won't be France Télécom, with whom I had a two-hour session of phone-to-phone combat on Friday, during which they told me I could never have broadband, but they could install a second phone line if I wanted...in eighteen days' time.

And I've just remembered I never got back to you about what promised to be a very interesting discussion about Sherry 'Johnny-come-Lately' Turkle etc. that you started up at the end of my lengthy Second Life post. Next time I'm in wireless contact, I shall get that discussion going again.

In the meantime I'm off to saw some wood for the fire. Ooh, I feel like Felicity Kendal in The Good Life.

patroclus said...

PS You have more than one squeeze? You crazy Californians!

Anonymous said...

Sounds hellish, hope a lesbian with an interstellar array arrives soon. Not sure how long my blog would continue if I had to drive to an abandoned railway line every time I wanted to post, no I am sure, not long.
Are you sure James is quite safe in London btw, there appears to be hordes of deranged females after his hair.

Valerie said...

Feel free to e-mail me if you like (valerie[at]valeriepolichar[dot]com).. if you want to take the conversation to a slightly lower-bandwidth medium :-)

Admittedly, I have only one squeeze, making him both the only and the main. (There was a rowdy time in my rather colorful past when I had eight, but that was a long time back.)

BTW I had the same worry as realdoc about James and The Giant Groupies. The interesting thing about these women is that they all seem to be named "Anonymous," though, which isn't very sexy, so I think you're well safe. Plus, he's fleeing London to avoid them...

kalista said...

I think you need one of these *hugs*

Del said...

Defrosting the fridge? Now, there's true love. As is you caring for your mum. As hard as it might be, you are doing a wonderful thing. And that's certainly cheered up my Sunday evening. Good luck with getting speedier access to the crazy real world. I almost envy you out in the countryside.

Mangonel said...

Patroclus - I'm so sorry you're in such a fix. Keep the faith.

Aimee said...

According to wikipedia, the full title of Robinson Crusoe is The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner: who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an uninhabited Island on the coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pirates. Written by Himself.

Admittedly wikipedia isn't the most reliable of sources, but if the full title is even remotely like that then I think that it is quite a remarkable title. I just had no idea.

Hope the less good bits that are happening get a bit better soon.
Or at the very least that the good bits get even better.

patroclus said...

Ahh, thanks all, it's very heartening to read your comments. And realdoc, 'I hope a lesbian with an interstellar array arrives soon' is the best expression of sympathy I have ever heard, and I plan to use it as many times as possible. In fact I may even submit a short proposal to Hallmark Cards to have it included as standard text inside all cards of the 'expressing sympathy' genre.

ScroobiousScrivener said...

Oh dear oh dear. I dont* think I could cope without broadband at all. Or with a sick mother. As they say in my homeland, Sterkte (strength).

* Every now and then my keyboard gets all stroppy and thinks that the apostrophe is actually CTRL+F. This is one of those times. Simultaneously, it refuses to pay any attention to the arrow keys. I do wish I could figure out why the silly poppet behaves like this.

Spinsterella said...

I'm afraid I can't compete with Realdoc in the imaginative sympathy stakes, but hey, at least you don't have your dissertation to worry about any more.

What's the weather like out there then?

patroclus said...

Thanks Scroobious!

Spin, the weather is warm and sunny, with fabulous sunrises and sunsets, so it's not all bad. Also, welcome back!

POE said...

It sounds like an episode of Lost.

Anonymous said...

[Sighs] Inexcusably late with the comments, as usual...

Very sorry to hear about your Mum. If I only I could come up with some expression of sympathy and good wishes involving interstellar lesbians... Still, the same sentiment's there. Hope you're coping ok, and your Mum's doing well.


Thanks for the comment over on my new blog, by the way. A reply is awaiting you.