Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Monday 3rd September 2018

WHEN it comes to mobile phones I am officially labelled “dumb.” However, I could soon become fashionable in the world of the older mobile user because “dumb phones” sales are rising as more and more of us attempt to escape smartphones and the tentacles of social media.

It makes calls and it sends texts. What else do you need? With no internet and no apps there is no temptation to spend your whole existence wedded to a little handset. It’s for emergencies only and I, for one, can live without the frills that so entrance half the population these days.

Widely spaced keys for arthritic, fumbling fingers; enhanced sound for the hard of hearing and a backlit keyboard for the visually challenged. Yup, that’s me. And it’s got a neat flip top to ensure folk don’t view you as a complete Luddite. The big plus, as the advertising says, is that my phone is “best for super stylish over-60s”. So I’m cool, yet free of the risk of addiction.

For addiction it is. Social media users are being targeted by a campaign to give up their screens for the sake of their mental health — at least for the month of September. Scroll Free September asks habitual users to take back control of their relationship with social media and go cold turkey, or at least abstain at social events.

I positively seethe when in company someone sits there fiddling with their phone. The Royal Society for Public Health’s recent poll suggests two-thirds of people would be willing to rein in their use of social media, but for many of them peer pressure and the fear of missing out are too compelling.

Author Matt Haig, in his book Notes on a Nervous Planet, says it’s like “substance abuse”. It has the power to take over your life. There are always more emails to answer, pages to consult, website links to follow, comments to leave.

Nobody holds a conversation any more and children start school unable to socialise because parents spend so much time attending to their phones rather than their offspring.

They tried to scare us by saying there was a threat of radiation if you spent too much time with a phone pressed to your ear. No evidence has emerged to prove it.

However, there is a safety element which is often overlooked. In Germany, during the long, hot summer, 300 people have drowned, a sizeable proportion of them children. The national lifeguards association has drawn a connection between kids getting into difficulties and parents too busy with their mobiles to notice.

Motoring round the Lake District this summer, I am amazed there aren’t more accidents involving jaywalkers stepping out into the road while absorbed in their phones. Is it something about the Lakes and their perception of our way of life that prompts them to take risks? Maybe they think we all live life at a slower pace and consequently drive our horse and carts slowly.

I’ve recently seen kids no older than nine or 10 stepping off the pavement in Keswick’s busy main streets, locked in to their phones, while mum and dad follow them, equally oblivious on theirs.

Matt Haig argues that our dependence on technology is causing a kind of “mental paralysis” although, unlike him, I have not yet got to the stage of breaking down in tears in Tesco. “Have times of the day when you are not beside your phone,” he begs. As if. I fear we old-fashioned humans are going the way of fax machines and VHS tapes.

How can we live in a mad world without going mad, he asks. Just play dumb, that’s my answer.


SHE was a perfect vision of beauty. I thought she was anyway. The essence of the Swinging 60s.

She’s my age now — 71. And, just like me, she’s got creaking joints. The former wild child has arthritis and the days of flitting from party to party, from scandal to scandal, are but a distant memory. Not that I had many parties or much scandal in the 60s. Sadly.

Marianne Faithfull, the glamorous muse and girlfriend of a youthful Mick Jagger, survived struggles with drink and drugs and a broken back. But now the great beauty is as mortal as the rest of us oldies. She shares the same fears about getting old and living with the pain of arthritis.

If you are male and of my vintage and you saw the film Girl on a Motorcycle you will never forget the images of Marianne Faithfull. She also recorded one of my favourite 60s songs, As Tears Go By.

Now, to quote from the song, “it is the evening of the day”. And, for Marianne, me and thousands of others, the tears are caused more by aching shoulders, backs and knees than by dramatic passions.

Still, as the lady herself says, “it’s awful man — but I get through”. I guess that’s right. This getting older isn’t a fraction of the fun they keep telling us about. We’re good at laughing at our misfortunes. Well, you’ve got to be. And like Marianne, forever delectable in our memories, we’re “getting through”.


MY fear of flying is probably not helped by the number of times I watch programmes on the TV about air crash investigations.

I also suffer from a putative worry that I’m going to be stuck in a plane along with a party of drunks who keep trying to open the doors at 30,000ft.

It’s a largely unreasonable fear. The last time I flew was with Ryanair, to Ireland. It was a smooth trip, on time and cheap.

But then I read the story about the Cumbrian woman who got 21 weeks in prison for assault, being intoxicated on an aircraft and using threatening behaviour. This charmer, travelling to the Greek island of Kos with her daughter, reduced passengers to tears with her swearing and aggressive behaviour. At one stage she punched a crew member and said it didn’t matter as he was gay.

She had been drinking on the way to the airport, at the airport and on the plane. Why are people so palpably the worse for drink even allowed on aircraft? It strikes me the airports and the flight companies are making money out of selling booze to drunk passengers and bring a lot of trouble on themselves.

The number of reported incidents of abusive and disruptive behaviour in the air has more than quadrupled in four years. A legal loophole means retailers can sell alcohol irresponsibly at any time, day or night. The chief executive of Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, says the problem of disruptive behaviour is getting worse. Seventy per cent of passenger incidents involve alcohol.

Yobs on flights have become more frequent with the ease of travel by stag parties to more exotic locations. Yet they go on selling booze to travellers who clearly have had more than enough then complain when they kick off mid-air.

If it’s correct that ministers are considering a crackdown on binge-drinking at airports then it’s long overdue. Flying is supposed to be the safest form of transport. Then keep it that way. Meanwhile, I’m sticking to terra firma, and there’s another air crash investigation drama coming up on the box in 10 minutes.


IF advocates of rewilding of the fells get their way then it spells curtains for our famous and historic Herdwicks and a lot more breeds of sheep.

Could the sheep be planning to fight back? In Ireland a rambler was struck on the head by a sheep that had leapt off a crag above him. He was injured and taken to hospital. The sheep make off sharpish.

Next time you are up on the fells give due respect to the Herdies. These guys may look cute, but if you threaten to replace them and their habitat with lynx and wolves, they are not going to take it lying down.


THE Bank of England claims that getting rid of 1p and 2p coins would have few adverse effects. It’s a trick. Ditch small change and every price will be rounded up, just like they always are. Plus charities say they stand to lose millions in donations.

I paid the exact sum for an article this week, rounding it up with a 2p coin. The bloke at the till looked positively shocked. He doesn’t handle many of them obviously.

And what about my jar full of pennies? Better cash those in before they become worthless.