It has happened again. There I was planning no such disconcerting thing as a week away from the office, when first thing this morning Mavis comes round to the flat with a set of airline tickets and a taxi sitting at the front door with its engine running.
“But I am supposed to be having lunch with Felicity, not being whisked away to some Caribbean paradise by you! What will she say?”
“You can ask her. She is meeting us at the airfield,” Mavis told me.
We were in the taxi before I realised she had said airfield rather than airport. An hour later and the three of us were strapped in to a 24-seater turbo-prop which forms, I strongly suspect, the majority of the fleet of Bogcaster Airlines. Not the Caribbean then.
Five rather scary hours later we landed at Pisa. This was after an unscheduled stopover at Grenoble to, as the pilot put it, “Check out what is causing that smoke.”
The villa, which is in the borgo of a Tuscan hill village about an hour from Florence, is more like it.
Of late 16th century construction, it is built around a cool courtyard with pools and a fountain and has a staff of three including a silent old woman who looks like an ogre and cooks like a goddess.
The furnishings are exquisite. There is a library of several thousand volumes in both Italian and English. The one salient disadvantage is the complete absence in the place – indeed, as far as I can see, in the village – of any modern technology.
There are no cars, phones, TV – in fact no electricity. Cooking and heating is by wood stoves. Lighting is by oil lamp and candle. There are no computers or net links of any kind.
Third day and cold turkey is starting. My fingers, deprived of the key work they need to sustain their natural balance, twitch involuntarily. My ears buzz with remembered ringtones. The sudden cut off in the information flow leaves me anxiety ridden and nervous.
Paranoia begins to take over my reason. Who is reading my e-mails? What are they keeping from me?
This morning Mavis discovered the computational engine I am building out of bits of wood, twine and shards of chicken bones. I had hidden it in the kitchen wood stack.
“I am sorry, but this is for your own good,” she said before smashing it to pieces with an olive tree log.
They watch me constantly. If I do not get even a text message soon I will go mad.
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This was first published in August 2006