Helen Martin: Are you a slave to your mobile?

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MY hero of the last week is Sheriff Martin Edington, whose busy courtroom in Livingston was interrupted by someone’s mobile phone going off. He asked the culprit to own up. No-one did.

So he cleared the whole courtroom and made everyone stand outside until their cases were called.

It may be necessary nowadays to have a mobile phone, especially for emergencies, but anyone who knows me is aware that mine may be switched off, left at home, out of juice, or so far down in the depths of my handbag that I can’t hear it ring.

I am in control of it. I use it when I want to. I am contactable only when I wish to be. I don’t have time to be continuously reachable by others. I have things to do and I don’t like interruptions. What’s more, the nuisance calls are now coming on the mobile as well as the land line. So unless I recognise the number I won’t answer either of them.

But all that’s just the tip of the why-I-hate-mobiles iceberg. Mad strangers stand on street corners talking to themselves or worse, appearing to talk to whoever is passing. No – they’re on their hands-free mobile kit. Or they happily stroll out in front of oncoming traffic, engrossed in their conversation, pausing only to glare at the shocked and innocent driver who had the audacity to interrupt their phone call with a screech of brakes.

Why do people feel it’s compulsory to answer their mobile phone, even if they are in the middle of a transaction in a shop or in conversation with someone else?

And why do they think it’s acceptable to say “excuse me” and take the call rather than wait and ring the caller back when their current conversation is over? The number’s logged, they won’t have missed anything so why should a mobile call take precedence over the real person in front of them? Mobiles are making mincemeat of our manners.

Of course it’s not just calls people access. . . it’s emails, games, the internet, cameras, video clips, photo albums, diaries and whatever else.

I wouldn’t mind betting that the generation now in the 20-40 age group will probably reach old age with humped backs caused by all those hours at the bus stop, on the train or on park benches hunched over and looking down at their little screens rather than up at the clouds and the birds, across at the trees or observing the world around them. We already have back and arm injuries due to PC screens and keyboards. Future ailments all depend on how the mobile phone evolves.

Will it be more of a Star Trek wrist device that develops from today’s smart watches​? Or will it be a chip in our brains and a screen switch in our eyeballs so that people with Borg-like adaptations can alternate between here-and-now reality or telecoms function?

Whether it’s an electronic wrist tag or a cerebral implant, by then there really will be no escape from the mobile phone of the future as we become slaves to technological communication.

That’s why Sheriff Edington is my kind of guy, a man who realises mobile phones have a place, but not in his courtroom or anywhere else when more serious human engagement and conversation is taking place.

We need to see if care homes really fit the bill

THE care home industry is warning a rise in the minimum wage would force many to close.

I’m well aware that a care home is expensive to run and staff are the biggest cost, even though they are currently woefully under-paid.

But so far, five years in a care home has cost my mother around £160,000. It’s a good place. She has a modest room, some others pay twice as much, and there is capacity for around 40 residents. Self-financing people do pay more than local authorities are charged for those they subsidise, so while some are paying more than mum, others are paying less. Despite these variations, it is seriously difficult to believe that companies and owners of care homes are struggling so hard to scrape by that an extra pound or so an hour for the lowest paid would break the bank.

We need an urgent root- and-branch review of this industry – how we pay for it, how much we pay, what is deemed “reasonable” profit, and how we can maintain it – because more and more of us will have to depend on it.

Kez comes late to the party..

THE Labour Party faces a difficult election choice – do the right thing, or do whatever it takes to win power in middle-England and keep the Westminster Club in charge. It’s a tough call.

And into this blighted and torn wilderness pops poor wee Kezia Dugdale, 33, our new Scottish Labour leader, determined to improve things, talented, passionate and smart. Pity she wasn’t around 20 years ago when there was still time to rescue the party while keeping its principles.

Dying for a good job

ONE extra hour’s work a day ups the risk of stroke by 10 per cent. An extra three hours raises it by 33 per cent and carries a 13 per cent higher risk of heart disease, says a report in the Lancet. Puts

that promotion in perspective doesn’t it?