It’s the little things that trip you up isn’t it? I mean here I am in Greece, all zenned out with yoga and sunshine, and something is really buggin’ me. Quite apart fom the actual bugs.
It’s the people next door. In the next room. They keep nicking our chairs.
All the rooms have two. And a table. Out on the balcony, overlooking palm trees, a newly impressive, brick-paved walkway, grass, boats, pebbles, lots of sea and – in the misty distance – Kefalonia.
The trouble is, our neighbours are part of a bigger group who appear to congregate in their room. More bums than seats to sit on. So, rather than bring their own, from their own balconies, they take ours. We’ve tried draping damp towels. We’ve tried knotting wet bikini bottoms and pegging out still-dripping swim trunks. Still they take them.
But that’s when we’re out. When we’re in, they confine themsleves to wandering onto our balcony while we’re minding our own business, reclining on the bed semi-naked, reading, relaxing, applying the after sun, while they conduct a conversation with some pal on the walkway or inspect the makeshift washing line we’ve fashioned from a bit of Wilco strimmer cord. As if we were invisible.
Strimmer cord which I am now devising ways of fashioning into tripwire. So much for yogic zen.
To walk into Vass of an evening is to run the gauntlet of restaurant staff soliciting your custom. All part of the fun.
Once you become ‘a regular’, as we now have – returning as we do year on year – your favourites welcome you back with handshakes, hugs and holiday banter.
But then something else happens. We order our wine – usually a half litre of something chilled, more than enough to see us through the night. We drink our wine. And as if by magic, another half litre appears. ‘On the house’.
This week, one of our favourites changed tactics, delivering a whole litre to the table, unbidden. We sent it back, politely explaining that really we only wanted a half. But no. Back it came again. ‘On the house’.
There was a time when we tried. We really did. Politely plodded on through. Staggered home. But not any longer.
The Gremlin reckons it’s a marketing technique. Give someone something for nothing and they’ll come back again. Guys! If you haven’t twigged by now, we love it here. And we love eating out at yours. We’ll be coming back anyway. Seriously. Keep that spare half litre in the barrel.
Getting grumpy about social media
If you haven’t yet read Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier, do it soon*. It’s salutary reading. Our addiction to social media makes us irritable, he reckons (if I’ve got it right).
And the more irritability we express online (the more we ‘engage’), the more quantifiable we are in terms of the advertisers and political manipulators who use our data to target us – worse, turn us all into hopeless addicts – our views and prejudices constantly reaffirmed, the adverts which spookily seem to track our every move (because they literally do) continuously modifying our behaviour. Even if we like to kid ourselves we ‘only use Facebook to share photos with friends and family, so what harm can it do?’
And, incidentally, that blummin’ post I keep seeing copy pasted into my newsfeed, the one about only ever seeing 20 friends in your newsfeed, with jubilant instructions on how to cheat the Facebook algorithm?
First of all, it’s a nonsense. The first time it appeared, I ran down through my newsfeed over the previous 24 hours. Got bored after 65 so stopped counting.
Second, all you’re doing (apart from making me twitch every time I see it), is playing right into that algorithm’s hands. Thought you should know.
And if you still believe all this Facebook and Instagram and Twitter nonsense is free. It’s not. We’re paying with our data. And we’re the product.
Social media is having its filthy way with us – however much we might imagine ourselves in control – and it’s making us ever more grumpy. Even as we fall deeper in love with it.
Interesting then that the incident at Manchester airport which delayed our flight by several hours didn’t provoke more irritability online. At the gate, just about to board, we were stopped in our tracks. Blue lights appeared in convoy. An air ambulance landed. Ground crew scurried back and forth.
Hard to tell what was going on as the commotion was directly behind our aircraft but surely, with 240 passengers abruptly deprived of any chance of seeing that evening’s sun set over a litre of rosé, someone must have hashtagged something? Something irritated.
But no. Nothing.
Plenty of other stuff from days before. Competely unnecessary, patently untrue, click-baity stuff. The sort of stuff Lanier talks about.
‘Manchester now a third world airport’, reckoned one.
Really? I mean, really? Have these people ever flown from a ‘third world’ airport? In truth, neither have I. But the Gremlin has and I’ll take his word over Mr Angry Pants any day.
‘Thousands of people going through security! Get your act together Manchester!’ barked another.
Maybe, m’dear, that’s because thousands of people, just like you and me want to fly off to sunny climes. All at the same time. And we now live in constant fear of the ‘nutter on the airbus’. So this is to protect YOU, you idiot. And, actually, the day we went through, it was pretty damn slick. And quick.
Thank you Manchester airport. You probably don’t hear that so often.
But all around me are people simply getting on with it. Nipping to the loo. Again. And again. (Or was that just me?) Nipping out for coffee. Making light of things.
‘At least I’ve got a spare pair of knickers in my handbaggage’, quipped the silver-haired lady across the way.
‘Too much information,’ parried her husband, rolling his eyes our way.
No irate counter thumping. No arguing with the staff. No furious tweeting. Not so much as a digital tut. Perhaps the human race is not yet as doomed as we think we are.
Only when we finally arrived in Vass, very late at night (but not too late for that first ‘holiday beer’), did we discover through a newspaper site (not social media), that an airport worker had been involved in a head-on collision, his vehicle trapped beneath the other, breaking both his legs.
Here’s hoping he makes a full and timely recovery to health.
Oh the irony of it
I’m not ready to delete my social media accounts just yet. It’s proved a fantastic tool for me, helping me keep tabs on mountain rescue news, vital to pulling together a whole magazine dedicated to the topic. But this last week has been blissfully Facebook-free owing to the intermittent internet connection here refusing to load it – even aided and abetted by our two personal hotspots (that’s not a euphemism, I promise you).
And now, I find I need to get on there somehow to share this very post. One more push with the hotspot, perhaps. Wish me luck. One way or another, I’m going in.
*If you have neither the time nor the inclination to read Lanier’s book in full, I recommend this Sunday Times article, written by Danny Fortson, and published in May this year.