The phone conspiracy

I like conspiracy theories. However wild or far-fetched, they freshen our perception of things, break our routines, make us willing to question our assumptions. The alternative is to get stuck in our beliefs, insist that there’s only one way of seeing things. Conspiracy theories are creative – they grab perhaps a partial or possible ‘fact’ and build a complex ‘truth’ with its own coherence, its own persuasive (or not) internal logic. They’re fun.

And the thing that set me thinking about them is a very local one. Visitors to my previous blog may have read a posting I did once about feeling sorry for vitamin pills and toilet rolls. Two of the commenters said they enjoyed it but that it was the silliest blog I’d written whereas its conclusion was in fact a brilliant encapsulation of existential thinking. Anyway, I was suggesting that writers are weird and often make connections that escape others (or, more likely, don’t actually exist). Which is why I think my late telephone was conspiring against me. (I say ‘late’ because, when I replaced it with a new one, I didn’t want anyone to be able to access the contact numbers I’d loaded into it, so I took a hammer to it and, after a long, surprising resistance, it eventually expired – as a phone, although it may have simply transmigrated into another type of existence.)

I have no idea why that phone decided to plot against me. My first suspicion was, obviously, that it was something to do with Rupert Murdoch, but its actions made even less sense than his testimony at the Leveson enquiry. No, its rebellion was more subtle. To begin with, it’s always lied about the level of charge it was carrying, claiming to be empty when it wasn’t. I could live with that. But then … For years, the ring tone had been the conventional brrrr brrrr that’s typical of UK phones. Then, one day, without any intervention on my part, it did the initial brrr brrr then broke into an electronic version of one of the themes of Rossini’s overture to The Barber of Seville. And from then on, that’s what it did every time. OK, I could understand that, too – it hated being stuck in one mode, loathed its own predictability, so decided to branch out.

But then its bid for individuality took a turn which interfered with its function – which was to act as a link between me and others. We went away for a week (to the party I mentioned in the previous blog). When I got back, its little red number thing indicated that there were seven messages for me, but when I listened to them, they were all the same – not the clicks and half-heard conversations you get when someone accidentally dials from a mobile and doesn’t realise they’ve done so, nor the automated sales pitch from some double-glazing or bathroom-fitting company. No, each one was just a recording of my own dialling tone, the one I get when I pick up the phone to make a call. Which is impossible. I called the people most likely to have left messages but none had tried contacting me. It could only have been the phone itself.

I admired its creativity but then the thought struck me: what if Spielberg had been trying to get through to buy the rights of a novel, or the Nobel Prize Committee had wanted to check my availability for the ceremony? And I knew it had to go. I couldn’t let a piece of plastic and some wires come between me and my destiny. Hence the hammer and my new and so far obedient slave.

I still haven’t solved the riddle of this strange conspiracy but trying to do so certainly beats being sensible and serious about everything. And it puts off the need to get back to the WIP..


  1. Never knew you had this violent streak Bill. Did the phone bleed when you bashed it and did you manage to pound the bug that MI6 put into it, into dust! I do hope you’ve thrown the hammer into the River Dee, or is it Don, I’m not sure, but you really must get rid of the incriminating evidence.

  2. Chris, you know you’d be the first person I’d come to for help with disposing of evidence (and for the psychiatric help I clearly need).

    Rosemary, the thought never occurred to me but it would certainly make at least a short story, wouldn’t it? Thanks.

  3. Forgive me, Sara, I have a perhaps irrational fear of ironic phones, especially when they exhibit a sense of humour. I should be more tolerant.

  4. Meanwhile, in a neighbouring -peaceful- galaxy:
    MOXON: How did your final attempt to communicate with those earthlings go?
    POXON: I had to give up after one of their leaders destroyed the portal.

  5. I refuse to accept responsibility for intergalactic strife. It was a bloody phone and it got uppity, end of story.

  6. Bill – IT WAS TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING. And now you’ll never know what. If only you’d been patient enough to hang on in past the prologue.

  7. Jenny, a prologue which consists of a single, sustained electronic tone, interrupted only by a voice saying “message 1, 2, 3, etc.” followed by a date and time might well work in a black and white French film of the 40s but it lacks narrative pace. It had to go.

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