ONCE a week at 6.15pm on the dot, as the Edinburgh Monarchs supporters’ bus pulls away from Waterloo Place, bound for Armadale Stadium, I switch my mobile phone off.
Not to silent. Not to vibrate. But off. Completely. No signal. Nothing. For the next four hours it remains like that.
In between, free from distraction or interference from the outside world, I get to watch my speedway in peace.
It’s my escape from the texts, e-mails and messages we’re now bombarded with 24 hours a day, seven days a week and consequently the stress that comes with them.
In my case that’s never more true than during the Fringe, when a constant stream of questions, requests and demands have to be fielded, whether it’s authorising press tickets or calming the panic when a show computer crashes.
For those precious four hours, as I watch the match, and hopefully the Monarchs win, all such problems are someone else’s concern.
Being phone-free takes me back to a simpler time, when phoning pals required military precision and a trip down the street to an iconic red GPO phone box, usually at a prearranged time with 2p pieces in hand.
God forbid there should be someone already on the line making a long call.
It was Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown who set me thinking about the impact mobiles have had on our lives, when he told me how he suffered from home-sickness when touring as a kid.
He recalled that phoning home from across the pond was a rare treat – it was so expensive.
These days it can still cost a small fortune, but communication, whether by phone, e-mail, or any number of messaging apps is so much more accessible. Instant even.
The world, as they say, is shrinking and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Such modern technology has also had an impact on the entertainment business.
How many times have you been at a concert only to find yourself gazing at a sea of glowing smart-phone screens?
Theatre too has not escaped the curse of the phantom filmer. Time and again this Fringe I’ve noticed that, despite the obligatory warning at the start of the show – “The taking of photographs and use of recording equipment is strictly prohibited” – people believe buying a ticket gives them the right to film the performance.
On one occasion, an audience member actually attempted to live stream a play via Facebook, as it happened. The ever vigil front of house staff quickly put paid to that.
Another clip I found on line included the warning that recording was not allowed – ironic or what.
Many seem oblivious that such behaviour is distracting for other audience members and performers – they’re either selfish, stupid or both.
So next time you go to the theatre, enjoy it as I enjoy my speedway, with your phone switched off.