Ermine abroad – first the smartphone came for the workers, and now it’s come for me

I extended a mustelid paw across the sea to visit the prehistoric standing stones of Carnac in France. I figured it would be a low-key attempt to test foreign travel post/during Covid. It’s not the first time I have been there, but there are one hell of a lot of sites in a very small area. The stones were good –

Geant de Manio
Carved stone inside tumulus at Locmariaquer
roof inside tumulus at Locmariaquer
Kermario stones at night

and it was an opportunity to remember what the point of this early retirement lark is. So I had a good time, also visiting Mont Saint-Michel on the way back.

Mont Saint-Michel

France seemed to work well in my view

Firstly a shout out for the fine Starling Bank corporation, where you really can use your debit card like you would in Blighty, you get the Mastercard interbank rate and no minimum amount, fees, loading or whatever. And they will send you a notification of the transaction and cost in pounds, pretty much before you get to put the card back in your wallet. Foreign travel money done right. What’s not to like, apart from that every other bugger nickel-and-dimes you for this that and the other.

There’s a lot of argy-bargy ‘twixt buccaneering Brexit Britain and our nearest neighbours, whether it be Brexit in general, fish in particular, or submarine contracts though Albion seems to be thought of as a bit-player in that specific perfidy.

I am not used to carrying ID in public, one of the nice things about this country is that what’s not specifically prohibited is considered allowed, so unless you are carrying tools for breaking and entering or hurling a ton of metal around menacing bystanders, there’s not a general sus law of people asking ‘papers please’, though you may feel differently about that if you are young and black…

Whereas in many countries and France more specifically it is illegal to be out in public without ID. I’m of the general view that when in Rome etc, so I go along with it if they feel strongly that way. Similarly I wouldn’t go to Dubai and get pissed up, because they are uptight about things like that.

One of the things about the French is they are really big on masks indoors. I admit I find that really unpleasant, because it makes me paranoid, because it’s a big statement that all other humans are out to get you. Yes, I know it’s irrational, it’s how it feels to me. But that’s the way it is.

They don’t generally let you into restaurants (and public buildings like museums of prehistoric artefacts or the Locmariaquer sites) without a Covid vaccination pass as well. You will generally get into shops with a mask but no pass, so you won’t starve, but if you are an anti-vaxxer your life will be hard in France in a way it wouldn’t be here. In France this is done via a smartphone app called TousAntiCovid. Quite remarkably, I had found on expat forums that TousAntiCovid (TAC) will accept the NHS Covid Pass QR codes, which seems either a quaint throwback to earlier times of the Entente Cordiale or a tacit acceptance of the value of the British spending. Given the current state of Anglo-French relations which I would describe as frosty it surprised me. Note that this is not the same as the NHS letter you could request. This isn’t infallible – sometimes it helps to delete the app and generate a new NHS QR code and enter it in, and the fact that TousAntiCovid accepts your NHS codes isn’t necessarily a confirmation that it will go through the app restaurants and museums check it with. Fortunately the first place we went, the Carnac Archaeoscope, wasn’t a stickler for the check actually working, it just had to be there, but some places were less forgiving, so you need to sort it out. And this is where the rest of this post will descend into a rant.

Once upon a time you could travel with just a passport and a ticket

Nowadays, you need to maintain a serious IT operation on the road to jump through all the hoops. I can see a role for that endangered species, the travel agent or some sort of concierge service.

We had researched this, and took one PC and the infernal smartphone per head. I wouldn’t normally bother with a smartphone because a dumb phone has swappable batteries and lower battery consumption, and better RF performance and works better as a phone than a smartphone, and a PC or perhaps a tablet can do the IT requirements, if necessary off the phone data as a hotspot. However, TAC required a smartphone1. Not only that, it flays the living shit out of the battery life even if you turn data and Bluetooth off. I don’t know how to take a screenshot of a smartphone, but the TAC QR code is all you need, so a screenshot displayed as a picture in the gallery would work. Or a printout of the damn thing on a piece of paper, sadly I only got to see an old boy with a dogtag round his neck like a staff pass card with that TAC code on the ferry coming back, but there’s much to say for paper. It doesn’t run out of battery power, backups are cheap and in general this whole experience has made me a massive fan of paper rather than e-whatever. In fact the one piece of equipment I would add would be a small portable photo printer, to get rid of the smartphone liability. It’s a shame those things are so expensive.

TAC also showed me how piss-awful the battery capacity of smartphones is. TAC would easily get me below 40% battery by the evening from a 100% start in the morning, and because I loathe smartphones like the tattooed surveillance agents of darkness they are I am not used to drip-feeding the suckers off any USB teat that is to be found in the surroundings. However, I do have an old power pack consisting of three 18650 Li-ion cells and some electronics to make this into a USB out, and this was hardly depleted at all returning the phone to 100% overnight. I would say a phone battery is less than a third of the power pack’s 10400 mAh nominal capacity. Oddly enough I saw a fair few of these outboard batteries used by the French, who actually seem to use their phones much more for talking to each other rather than diddling about with text which is what I see more here. Perhaps TAC has pushed them that way. In another smartphone epiphany it was also pleasing to see that most French tourists take their photos using half-decent small mirrorless cameras or SLRs rather than chimping with their phones. Frenchies aren’t smartphone paragons by any means, I saw enough families walking through the pleasant nature and the remarkable stones with the adults diddling on their phones studiously ignoring their children and surroundings. but I would say living in the metaverse is a fair bit less than it is in the UK.

There is a myriad of things you have to get sorted before travelling, and also for your return. Nearly all of them are easier on a PC than a smartphone, because data entry, particularly of non-words like passwords and form codes and serial numbers is a misery on a smartphone and error-prone as hell. I was warmed up to this by someone who had been abroad on holiday in late August, and I thought he was overdramatizing the pain, but no. It is cheaper now, but you can still balls it up royally, as Kat from Wandering Bird tells us here, and she clearly travels a lot more than I do, so it seems easy to get caught out!

You can sum up the learning in one simple phrase

In paper I trust.

All else is backup/optionality and will fail you when you need it most. But seriously, guys. It’s like the blessed numbskulls who had a hissy fit when the O2 network failed a few years ago and they had their debit cards on their phones so they were stranded. Bonkers. Don’t introduce needless unreliability, use the card or at least have it as a backup.

Things that could bugger your trip up if you need a smartphone app as a prerequisite:

  1. The phone hardware fails. Impact with ground, coffee spills, or old age
  2. The phone software fails or is hacked
  3. Your network connection fails or you get locked out
  4. some back-end process the specific app needs goes titsup, a la Wandering Bird fail
  5. Your battery runs out (and cannot be changed)

Seriously, people. If it’s mission-critical and you have any alternative choice at all DO NOT RELY ON A SMARTPHONE.  Just don’t. There’s too much that can go wrong FFS!

It may be convenient. If it works. But it’s a bugger when it doesn’t, eh? So print two copies of your ticket, QR code, whatever.

Most of the time all that happens if your smartphone fails is you don’t get to see cat videos for a while, and you might have to think for yourself for a while rather that while away your time on earth being horrible on anti-social media or watching drivel on Youtube. But the stakes are raised if like the Wandering Bird you don’t get to go away, or even worse, fail to get back home!

In paper I trust

L’enfer, c’est les autres, avec leur kids

I generally don’t travel in school holidays, because, well L’enfer, c’est les autres. More specifically les autres with their damn kids. You also don’t want to go to the megalithic sites in Carnac before October anyway because you have to join a guided tour to get into some of the more popular sites, where you can wander freely in the shoulder season once the kids have gone back.

corrupt firms and incompetent testing

However, I made an exception for the return journey because our corrupt politicians and their corrupt mates have been fleecing travellers for a while now with PCR tests, and clearly their mates had a lot of PCR tests they wanted to sell, so Shappsy-boy didn’t actually declare that you could use cheaper lateral flow tests until after half term had started, and I had left a week before. So I figured I would fix that in France, rather than prebook a PCR test before going, paying an extra £80 for the privilege. This is something I want to pay as little as possible for, particularly the part that goes into the back pockets of, ahem ‘sponsoring’ ministers.

Now as it is I don’t mind paying something because travel is not an essential thing so it would be a bit off to burden the NHS with this, but I do mind the corrupt and barmy system of private firms on the make. Apparently the usual scam is to do a bait and switch, and true to form, the cheapest provider at the time at the top of the alphabetical list would do cheap tests but happened to be out of stock until November the 7th, which is as useful as a chocolate teapot for those returning from half term.

I chose Boots as the provider, and they charged £21 a head, which is not too bad, 10% above the lowest price. The instructions is the box itself made by a crew called Hughes Healthcare were serviceable. The instructions on the Boots website providing the wraparound service to track the results were written by a poorly educated intern who called a QR code on the LFT cartridge a barcode, so I tried to scan the barcode on the box, and the whole customer journey was unreliable, grief-stricken and hard to follow. The best tip I can give you is that the LFT has to be read between 15 mins start and 30 mins.


So take a photo of it on the paper in that time window, and preferably two. Only then start duelling with the website Winking smile From start to finish the process took over an hour – the test itself was the easy part.

We travelled with Brittany Ferries, who seemed to be on the ball in that they sent through what was needed before travel, sent it through in good time and with links to the government URLs of both countries

If the answer is a smartphone the question is wrong

There are a thousand beautiful ways to start the day that don’t begin with looking at a phone. And yet so few of us choose to do so.


I detest smartphones for many reasons – they do a lot of things, but few of them well. There is nothing I can think of that is improved by inserting a smartphone into the process, with the possible exception of watching some berk walk into a lamp post holding one.

They make rude shits of us all, ignoring the people with us for the lure of AI directed novelty. They have already made a misery of a lot of work with metrics and monitoring.

But this trip has introduced me to a new evil. Government by smartphone – algocracy. You had to fill in a passenger locator form, which I recall from days of yore as a landing card. Back then, the airline or shipping company would distribute these to pole during the journey and you would fill them in with a biro. For the US there was a visa waiver form, the one talking about moral turpitude. Also to be filled in by hand with a biro.

driving resilience out of travel, one electronic form at a time

Now you need a working IT system and network connection. Which is not always easy en route. Since we travelled by car, the extra weight wasn’t a problem, but good luck with flying Ryanair with hand luggage only. OTOH, if you fly Ryanair then you deserve all you get.

You can avoid work requiring a smartphone by retiring early. You can avoid most of the uses of a smartphone by not being a rude berk and actually paying attention to your environment rather than the metaverse.

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone

Blaise Pascal, 1670

But you can’t avoid the government, and we seem to be sleepwalking into a dystopian algocracy like the Chinese Social Credit system, with the first step being that you have to have smartphone to interact with government services. At least in 1984 the government paid for the telescreen. I don’t know if there is a paper version of the Passenger Locator form – I didn’t want to find out the hard way that there wasn’t.

The direction of travel is creepy, nasty, and a lot of the tech complexity was emitted by Blighty rather than the French 2, who accepted the paper version of the NHS Covid passport at the border crossing. The IT was required for the Day 2 testing and the Passenger Locator form, both of which web forms seemed to be coded by interns with no idea of user interface design. They also needlessly demand you register an account, with the usual incomprehensible mix of lower and upper case characters, numbers and special characters. Which as any fule kno is so absolutely dead easy to enter of a touchscreen keyboard – not.

I don’t have an objection in principle to the Covid regs, but requiring me to run a network-connected IT operation on the move does piss me off – I would like there to have been a paper option for all this crap. Not everybody has or can use a smartphone, and this requirement makes travel plans needlessly fragile. A bunch of paper forms and pens has a resilience that is hard to beat, and if they insist on electronic capture then the fixed site (port terminal, airline) should provide the network-connected and hopefully secure form filling capability, even if it is a last-resort backup

It worked out fine this time

Nothing actually went wrong on this trip, but I had been warmed up to the added complexity by the guy that went in August and the timely reminder of the NHS app going titsup on the 13th of October

the outage highlighted the problems that can be caused by putting a single centralised system at the heart of modern life. In an era when people expect their online accounts to work instantly, a single government-run app briefly falling offline can in effect close international travel for much of the population.

Well, yes. NEVER RELY ON A SMARTPHONE for anything important. We keep on getting the reminders.

However, it took a lot of pre-planning, a lot of printouts, and a fair amount of research to get all my ducks in a row for this frightful increase in complexity. Perhaps this had been creeping up pre-Covid, though I don’t recall this level of complexity and smartphone-dependence from when I went to Malta in 2018. It doesn’t have anything to do with Brexit – don’t take food into the EU, because, well, we’ve all seen welcome to the Brexit, sir

Indeed, with Brexit you get lots of stamps in your passport, one on ingress and one on egress, it starts to look exciting like James Bond’s again, after a couple of decades of stamp-free travel to the EU. And you can bring food back into the UK for personal use, so we took some French delicacies back.

I don’t think they’d have launched nowadays because you need a couple of days to get a handle on all this crap… It’s also on a per trip basis – not so bad if you go for two weeks, but more of a grunt if you go on a weekend break, or try to attend a conference or business meeting.

  1. I believe you could run it on an Android or Apple tablet, it doesn’t require a phone number attached 
  2. with the obvious exception of the power-hungry TAC program, but you only needed that for the nice-to-haves rather than essential business of getting in or out of the country. 

31 thoughts on “Ermine abroad – first the smartphone came for the workers, and now it’s come for me”

  1. It’s interesting that international travel is bringing awareness to a new demographic that ‘interacting with government services requires a smartphone’. For any soul on universal credit, which definitely has no paper alternative, this has been reality for some time. If you don’t have spare cash for a phone contract or bus fare to the nearest public computer (and a bus service I get you there), tough.


    1. I kind of make a distinction between a computer and a smartphone, and aim the opprobrium on the smartphone end of the spectrum, due to its specific poor ability to fill in online forms.

      The HMRC online tax system, for instance, both for personal tax and for VAT, I couldn’t think of trying to do with a smartphone though it’s acceptable with a computer. Having said that personal tax is OK on paper, I used to do my mother’s tax return on paper, though arguably cheating by using taxcalc to produce the paper forms and add all the guff up right rather than actually filling by hand.


  2. The only question I have is why couldn’t you just wait until COVID stopped being a real and present danger?

    I have zero sympathy with people taking unnecessary trips to a foreign country and then complaining about all of the extra hoops/costs they have to jump through/pay for

    In a global pandemic is kind of obvious you aren’t going to be able to travel outside your own country easily

    No one has a right to go on holiday abroad. No one has a need to go holiday abroad.

    If you want to then pay the price and STFU.


  3. An interesting read to hear how you got on, had been thinking about a trip to France but all that stuff is somewhat off putting – my other half refuses to have a smartphone so that is one extra challenge! Well done for negotiating all that crap successfully. I often pull the smartphone out of the pocket and it is dead due to the wake-up button being constantly pressed in. Yes, much better to print – we keep a bag of scrap paper for printing QRs on the unused side. For some UK visits to booked places like National Trust, as a backup I have put the QR code / ticket as a PDF on my e-ink reader device (kindle) when I haven’t been able to print – the battery lasts for weeks if WiFi is turned off. I do all that and they often just asked for our names and checked a list! Thankfully most National Trust and English Heritage sites don’t need booking in advance now so we have had a run of visits on various UK trips. I remember being able to walk amongst the stones at Carnac on our last visit with few restrictions. I miss the days when you could just book a Chunnel or ferry ticket and go over in the car with little extra fuss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. the Kindle is an interesting alternative, particularly if I can merge it with newinvestor’s tip and share this in a personal area network. The Kindle’s directory tree is somewhat arcane. It would be even better if there were a way to change its default screen when off. I always wondered why there isn’t a choice to leave it showing the last page you were reading, sort of like a real book left open…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes the Kindle is handy I must say. On mine I have changed the screen to show the cover of the book I’m reading, it came in a recent update to the software. Unfortunately, if my ‘current book’ is some PDF file it shows one of those default screens like pencil ends, so that is no good.

        I just throw files like PDFs for camera manuals into the “documents” directory at the root of the Kindle file system then they appear to read. My Kindle also has an email address – you email a file like a PDF at an AMZ address and they send it to your Kindle so you can read it. But you need the Kindle on WiFi for that.To get the file sent to the Kindle there is a step where they email you to click a verify link, then they send it on. The email address for the Kindle is set up under devices in the AMZ account.

        So I just tried this – photo on Android, use photo app to convert to a PDF using the print option from the “hamburger” menu and save to Android file system as PDF, email PDF to Kindle email (specific to my Kindle), wait for AMZ verify email on phone and click the link, start up Android WiFI hotspot and connect Kindle to that, synch the Kindle over WiFi and wait for PDF to appear. Finally, screenshot is on Kindle! Of course obviously you can short circuit all that if you have a laptop – just connect both things to USB and copy the file over into documents. If there was only a way to connect the Kindle directly to the phone over USB so it appears as a storage device it would be easier…not sure about that (some googling required..).

        My original Kindle had the 3G option in addition to WiFi – this would connect me to 3G anywhere in the world where AMZ would support it. Their experimental web browser on the device used to then get you on the internet using their 3G connection for free, it was great for checking the weather on trips etc although a bit slow. I got 3G on the latest Kindle device and found they locked all that down – the 3G connection can only be used for buying and downloading books in the store AFAIK and no web browsing on their free 3G, they got wise…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. > If there was only a way to connect the Kindle directly to the phone over USB so it appears as a storage device it would be easier…not sure about that (some googling required..).

        I think what you need is a USB on the Go adaptor, which is a passive cable that breaks out the USB connector into a USB-A port. There needs to be a software conspiracy between the devices (or at least one of them, usually Android) to decide which is the host.

        Network connectivity is iffy on the road. well in wilder places at least. And probably about to get more expensive outside the UK, because, er, welcome to the Brexit and roaming charges. So this is worth a go.

        I had a USB OTG adaptor somewhere – I recommend the sort with a cable between the connectors, because the all-in-one cheapo device I go looked like it was asking to snap off in the Micro USB port with the weight of a whopping great USB A cable + connector and no strain relief. And then you would be hosed as far as charging the phone

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t know how to take a screenshot of a smartphone

    On my Android phones, simultaneously pressing Volume-Down + Power Button has done the trick. Took a couple of attempts to get the hang of it first time round.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Welcome back to the brexit Sir, pray do tell though, did you get those dastardly Frenchies back for insulting our clown prince, by eating some happy british fish sold over there because the patriots here don’t want most species caught here even before they used to be force-fed so much sewage?

    I think a lot of people are going to be so put off by the hassle of travel now that they only do it if they have to, so we can become even more insular and ignorant than before, happy serfs?

    Also, as people are steadily impoverished and inflation simultaneously bites, interfacing with anything significant in our lives via smartphone will become increasingly unviable if more and more of the population is socially excluded.


    1. > interfacing with anything significant in our lives via smartphone will become increasingly unviable if more and more of the population is socially excluded.

      I have read an alternative interpretation, which helped me reframe some of this. If I am with someone and their snout is stuck in a smartphone, in general I walk away, because I perceive it as f* rude. This is not the general angle people have, even older gits, though perhaps they have been socialised to greater smartphone tolerance by their kids.

      However, although I can’t find the reference, the article postulated that with the increased price of housing, and some of the economic changes described in this Atlantic article means that their phone and the connections therein are the only personal space some young folk have, so where people once used to rent crummy bedsits, some of the equivalent young folk live with their parents but in an almost parallel space.

      Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse is closer to the mark than I thought. While they aren’t making physical land any more, virtual space is unbounded. It certainly made me think, because my detestation for the smartphone barging in on real life is visceral, but that is because i can afford to carve enough of a niche IRL and grew up with that expectation. I can at leats intellectually grasp that living in your smartphone could have its attractions because of the low cost to entry. Yes, an iPhone is about a thousand pounds and I wouldn’t dream of spending that much, but that and a data tariff is damn cheap compared to getting a flat.

      So possibly exactly the converse will come to pass, as social exclusion rises the smartphone will increase in importance.

      The fish was pretty good. I didn’t have the balls to take on the whelks and mussels though 😉


      1. Hmm, that escape and/or privacy angle is interesting and makes sense, I hadn’t thought about that at all. Ironically, I wouldn’t have considered it even now if I hadn’t had to lockdown with frail parents to look after them and been quite shocked at their tendency to infantilise their adult offspring again, while acting more like toddlers themselves. This makes you think that in these circumstances, confined space, limited independence and a lack of consideration or boundaries, people could get creative in escapism. So yes, escape from stressful real life to the internet for sanity, could well be the equivalent of 21st century allotments or sheds for those with no access to even those pressure-release valves.

        It reminded me of a friend of a different vintage who grew up in the UK in the ’70s and when I asked why they were so into music, said it was a depressing time for most youth back then and music was the only affordable redeeming feature.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for bringing up what FI called “the escape and/or privacy angle”.
        IMO, this is a very interesting view that would never have occurred to me for, I guess, similar reasons to those that you give.
        The graphs in the Atlantic article you linked to are similarly intriguing.
        Every day is indeed a school day.


      3. @FI curiously I found growing up in the 70s a fairly good experience, although I could imagine primary school in the late 1970s could be tough. Economic adversity tends to be good for music though 😉

        > this is a very interesting view that would never have occurred to me

        It didn’t occur to me, and was causing me increasing paranoia until I read that. I am very hard line on phubbing, to the extent it has caused conflict, but I am unapologetic. I have absolutely no problem with someone wanting to live in their phone. but I don’t want to be in the same room with them, and will leave when they get their snout in it. I don’t particularly hold it against them, each to their own, but I don’t want to see it or hop on one leg to the other in a wait loop while someone in my presence is attending to something that is clearly far more important. I don’t use a phone much so I don’t generally do it to others, though Mrs Ermine had a little more understanding for my intolerance when I first got one and did that. It’s not a problem now, because I came to the conclusion that if a mobile phone makes me such a rude shit then it is something I am rich enough to let alone. I apply the same to any screen work – even if I am working on some CAD and Mrs Ermine comes in, I will turn away from the screen and give her my full attention. Because I value people more than distraction, and I value Mrs Ermine more than money (though I will clock out of the time tracker, since it would be unfair to charge a client for that!)

        I wish I could recall the original article, though the Atlantic article has a similar thrust. It gave me a better understanding of the phenomenon, and intellectually I can lean against the visceral feeling “that is so fucking rude”. But it’s a significant effort, and in the background the emotional centres are still of that view. so in general I avoid such people. I still remember a small part of me dying when I observed four teenagers diddling on their phones ‘talking’ to each other, without lifting their eyes from the screen. With the help of that explanation I sort of understand the phenomenon now, in a theoretical and intellectual way, and acknowledge my privilege. It’s all very well for CEOs and aspirational Guardianista 1 & Guardianista 2 and Warren Buffett to celebrate their retro telecommunications preferences, but the reality is that you have to be well-heeled to eschew carrying a smartphone. It’s not an option open to your Universal Credit claimant or someone who works on a zero-hours contract. It’s a pain in the arse for my clients, but they know I am FI so I would walk off the job if that sort of always-on-ness were demanded. It seems my skills are worth the friction – and I try to be more responsive to email than I otherwise would be for them.


  6. Funnily enough, I’ve just made the decision to move a significant part of my personal organisation back to paper-based. Specifically, I’ve dusted off my 20+ year old Filofax (the leather still looks very good) and bought a 2022 diary insert + notes and ‘to do list’ pages.

    I just felt the urge to have a proper, paper diary/notebook that I can actually write in. It’s large enough to fit everything in, but small enough to be easy to carry round.

    Older Millenials are apparently doing this, too. My daughter begged my A5 Filofax (similar vintage, and again still looking very nice – I’m glad I kept it!) 2 years ago because she wanted it for her work desk diary and reminder notes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to take the mickey our of Mrs Ermine for such antediluvian practices until I saw google calendar swallow some entries. The big problem with paper diaries is where your life interacts with others there’s error-prone copying out to do. But you can’t argue with the battery life, and indeed the speed of data entry on the go. Plus the ability to add sketches. Paper takes much beating, and if you use a biro or a pencil it takes a dunking in coffee or dropping on the floor better than a phone


  7. Lived just up the road near Pleyben for 16 years. Good to see your paw print on the Breton flag!
    I share your distaste of the smartphone, reverted to an old Nokia a couple of years back, a charge lasts at least a fortnight. Old smartphone now wired to amplifier as an internet radio. Bloody thing still wants to update, spawn of the devil.
    Great photos, 50+ years back they wanted to widen the road so they just removed a couple of stones hey ho.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As well as the Breton flag I have a soft spot for the flag of the city of Vannes not so far away, with the noble ermine featured in all its glory on a red background!

      The other nice thing about the old tech is apart from the battery life being better all round as a result of it doing less, you could also take along a couple of spares, so for things like hillwalking you were in with a chance of a useful amount of service

      > Bloody thing still wants to update, spawn of the devil.

      There’s something to be said for taking the updates on something internet connected, to at least get the security patches, however. Which again is a whole load of hurt you don’t get on the Nokia!


  8. Believe it or not you have missed out the most annoying thing, namely: the next time you travel the rules/requirements/etc will have changed – often subtly, but change they will!
    Another observation: as time has gone on the faff, bs, etc has increased significantly as the jobsworths and pen-pushers have re-emerged and, by and large, the quality of ‘enabling’ software has also worsened too.


    1. > the quality of ‘enabling’ software has also worsened too

      It’s clearly written using ‘Agile’ development, ie throw a load of crap at the wall and see what sticks. And a somewhat generous interpretation of minimum viable product. In theory you are meant to study the customer journey through a MVP and fix balls like calling a QR code a bar code, but as you say, they will change it soon enough, so why fix it?

      The general complexity enabled by digitising government seems to be skyrocketing. There’s the obvious concern raised by Joseph Tainter in the collapse of complex societies, but it also adds a serious cognitive load to the governed, demanding information-processing and deductive reasoning chops that more and more people won’t meet. While one of the commenters charged me with being an old fossil which may well be true, I can use a smartphone, I just don’t like doing so.

      But I do know a fair number of people that would not have been able to get through this without cocking it up due to the cognitive load, and by no means all of them are my age or older 😉 As supporting evidence I offer all the good people that got clobbered last month by assuming the network-and-back-end dependent NHS app would work to clear them to fly. And indeed Wandering Bird, who is a much more experienced traveller than I, 38 and and digitally competent, but still got caught on the hop thinking a complex system could be relied on in the field.


      1. Cannot disagree with any of that.
        Devising any solution against evolving requirements is essentially impossible; but the reality of this is – at best – rather poorly understood.
        OTH, some of this inconvenience and faff might just cause people to pause and think about all the other day-to-day stuff that we just take for granted, like: electricity from a wall socket, water from taps, etc, etc.


  9. That’s a beautiful shot of Mont St-Michel, brings back memories as it was my first ever visit (school trip) to a place/country outside of Blighty.

    Like @Jane in London, I’m planning to go back to paper for organisation – I still use my mini-filofax as an address book but last used it as an organiser around 6 years ago. Looking at all the post-it notes that are now scattered around my desk and yes, stuffed inside my mobile phone case, I’ve come to realise that I’m not great with things hidden in an app.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Once upon a time you could travel with just a passport and a ticket”

    Depends on how old you are. The first time I went to the Continong on a school trip we didn’t need passports – an identity card was enough. The first time I visited Switzerland as a student I had a passport but it wasn’t necessary. As I was reaching for it the immigration officer asked “British?”, I said “Oui!” and he waved me through. He didn’t even see whether I had a passport or not.

    The first time my father visited the Continong he didn’t need a passport either – a troop of Churchill tanks was qualification enough.

    And if his father had visited (I don’t know whether he did) he wouldn’t have needed a passport either because travel was far less bureaucratised before the First German War.


    1. > troop of Churchill tanks was qualification enough

      I can see that it would take a very brave border guard to yell out “Papiere nicht in Ordnung” before being flattened 😉

      ID cards ,eh, I have a vague recollection that kids (who generally if at all travelled as an adjunct to their parents’ passports) could get some such at a Post office for skool trips where their parents wouldn’t be present. Though I still have a horror of the concept as inherently un-British, where perhaps more normal First World folk roll their eyes at the panoply of utility bills, bank statements at whatever we have to amass to open a bank account.


  11. Jesus Wept. Pensioner can’t work his out of date smartphone. Who’d have thunk it.

    I normally enjoy this blog immensely but it’s beginning to wear thin. We know older people don’t like technological or social change. I’m beginning to feel it myself…but at least I’m aware of it. The author appears not to be.


    1. Crikey, that Guardian woman was absolutely on the money with

      There’s a fanaticism that comes with everyone being a consumer of the same product. Any dissent is reflexively attacked or, at best, dismissed.

      At least some of those punters at the airport on Oct 13th presumably had Apple’s latest, but it didn’t help them ‘owt because an online system falls by its weakest link. My piece of paper with two QR codes would have worked 😉

      I know how to live in the metaverse, I don’t need those National Trust courses on how to master your smartphone. I don’t want to live in the metaverse of surveillance capitalism. Good luck to you and yours that do.

      Liked by 1 person

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