Science Fiction. July 2017.

Dear Rowley,

Technology does have a nasty habit of creeping up on you, doesn’t it? I didn’t even know that drones existed a year ago. Then I saw the wretched things on sale in Tottenham Court Road. So picture the scene this weekend. I’m lying on the divan in Bloomsbury Square on Sunday afternoon with the sash chord fully open watching Now Voyager.

I hear a buzz and, like Patsy Stone, think ‘Is it a bee?’ ‘Is it a bee?’ Then suddenly hones into view a drone that hovers staring at me like the Creature from the Black Lagoon for a good ten seconds before buzzing off again. Firstly, it felt like robot rape of my privacy and I don’t want to hear a word from the PC lobby about that bon mot. It did.

Well, after ten minutes the flying spy was back. I lent out of the window to see the Chinese students living in the basement beaming and giggling up at me holding the controls. I believe what I bellowed out of the window would have done an irate fishwife in Billingsgate Market proud. If I ever see that thing hovering at my window again I shall shy one of my Amber Balls at it and, failing that, have a tin of car spray handy to blind the little fucker.

As you know, I am not a cheerleader for robots or artificial intelligence becoming commonplace in my lifetime. Who the hell wants the skies over London thick with drones rather than starlings and nightingales? Not me. Neither do I want my post delivering by a robot on wheels. The postie in WC1 happens to be a total hottie on whose dimples I dote.

And another thing! I still haven’t got used to the self check-out at Waitrose and nor will I because it deprives me of my daily chat with the charming kids who work there not to mention the Matron Mama Morton of Waitrose Holborn who always shares a laugh with me. The banter usually goes along the lines of ‘How are you?’ ‘Off suicide watch’ ‘Ooooh don’t!’ When there was a particularly juicy sex and cocaine romp scandal of my newspaper she looked me dead in the eye and said ‘Chance would be a fine thing!’

But back to the march of the machines. I’m going to rage against them with every breath in my body. I was born in the early 1970s and never in a million years thought that the technology on Star Trek would be placed in practically every human hand. I know we can’t teleport (yet) but Skype is the stuff of Star Trek. What new technology does is to push us justified and ancients into a state of dependancy on the kids for whom it was designed.

Hopefully I will snuff it before a tyrant such as Trump or Kim Jong Un finds Logan’s Run on Netflix and decides we are overpopulated hence compulsory euthanasia over the age of thirty. I think the trouble is that we of a certain age are on a ride we never wanted to get on in the first place. Sure I prefer a MacBook Air to a manual typewriter but I do weep for Google replacing the quest for knowledge between the pages of books written by trusted authors.

I have worked with fashion students recently and have come to the conclusion that if something isn’t on Google or YouTube then they actually don’t believe it exists. Isn’t that extraordinary? Never mind fake news, there’s an awful lot of fake history that’s been taken from an erroneous source and repeated a million times. I still predominantly use books to research but will get editors with Wikipedia-happy fingers contradicting facts laid down in first person narratives.

Rowley, I’ve tried to talk myself into thinking we’re so fortunate to live in such times but all I can do is mourn for black tie, gin martinis, the foxtrot and Cole Porter. We can’t stop hearing from the gender neutral and transgender lobby about body dysmorphia. Well, I know me and my tribe in London have time dysmorphia. We don’t want to be in a world where twenty year olds become billionaires thanks to apps that don’t make profits. How can this be?

Neither are we best pleased with ‘computer says no’ culture where the machines truly do have intellectual superiority to the people on the other end of the telephone. We don’t like fat people in jeans so shredded there’s more flesh than denim. We don’t warm to tattoos that the Victorians would pay a shilling to look at in a freak show. We’re also rather fed-up with the ignorance, ill-manners, selfishness and piggish behaviour of adults on the streets of London barging into us because they’ve got their noses pressed to a mobile phone and ears covered by Dr Dre headphones.

I know I sound like I was born in the 1920s (if only!!!) but even in the 1970s and 1980s I think the British were a decent lot not perma-tanned, pierced, tattooed, botoxed dumbos of the Love Island ilk who think Cosi Fan Tutte is a prophylactic. I don’t think we can underestimate how dumbed down Britain is today. My evidence comes from my favourite question on The Chase. When a lady was asked which ancient civilisation built Fosse Way and Watling Street in Britain, she replied, ‘Is the the Apes?’

I rest my case. Well, I’m glad I got that off my chest! The next time someone launches a drone attack anywhere near Bloomsbury Towers it will be a declaration of war.