Song Sung Blue


One of the modern-day first world scandals that governments and regulators seem reluctant to address is the outrageous costs that can be racked up when using your smart phones in other countries. Having just returned from my travels I studiously ensured that all data connections were firmly switched off on my smart phone. The charges that can be clocked up are even more baffling when you can connect to the internet with your tablet or PC at little or no cost.

That said, the phenomenal costs associated with data downloading has introduced a new strain of what may be termed as Darwinian evolutionary selection into play. With the advances in medical science we have seen over the last century or so, survival of the fittest (at least from a physical perspective) is a concept that is fast fading from our lives. The new test is mental acuity and the sob stories of those daft enough to clock up enormous data roaming charges from using their smartphones suggest that their genes are something the collective pool could do without.

Take the bizarre case of Katie Bryan, a maths teacher from Warwickshire. She was visiting her boyfriend’s family in South Africa and had endured a lunch-time family get-together fuelled by a couple of glasses of South Africa’s finest. An album by the Traveling Wilburys (Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty) was playing in the background. For some reason our Katie had a fit in her head to listen to Neil Diamond’s greatest hit (plus 19 other filler tracks) and promptly set about downloading it from I Tunes for what she thought was the cost of the album – £8.99. The download took 20 minutes – by which time surely the Wilburys had finished – exceeded her 10mb monthly foreign allowance by some way – it used 326MB of data – and landed her with a bill of £2,609.31. Orange, her mobile phone company, have magnanimously knocked £2,209.31 off her bill.

There are so many things to say about this. Whilst I admit that the Wilburys are not to everyone’s taste and few can claim that they represent the finest work of the artists concerned, to prefer Neil Diamond to them, I ask you! Most of us have been to parties where the music has not been to our taste but how many have been driven to such distraction that we have impulsively gone off to buy an album to drown out the background noise? And didn’t she, as a vaguely sentient human being, think that there may be some costs associated with her impulsive actions? What music would you seek comfort from in times of deep mental stress?

Seems to me she needs a GCSE course in Economics and a lesson in modern etiquette. Amusingly, Bryan admits to not being a Diamond fan, preferring James Blunt (beyond the pale in my books) and already had the Essential Diamond (but not essential enough to take with you on your hols) at home.

Truly a story of our times. You have been warned!

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