Nov 19

Good H, bad E – the life of a mobile internet junkie

The internet is pretty important to us. It’s our virtual water-cooler, connecting us to friends, family and the rest of the world as we meander around Europe. And it’s our primary source of entertainment. If we lost it we’d have to live largely without music, films and – most horrifyingly – Radio 4. A fate worse than a fate worse than death.

It’s also the basis of our income. Cut off from the internet our earnings would quickly fall to zero. And then we’d have to find gainful, full time employment. Using the internet, probably. On the list of things we need to live, the internet is tucked in just behind air, water and food. Just.

But we always knew that at some point we’d have to get by without a fast, reliable internet connection. There are simply more opportunities for something to go wrong when living a quasi-nomadic life. And the odds increase dramatically when the corporate omnishambles that are French telecoms providers are thrown into the mix.

Yes, as many of you will be unsurprised to hear, a French internet provider is the villain of the piece. Boo! Hiss!

So, the vague contingency plan that was lurking at the back of my mind has been thrown into action. An internet Bons Plans has been added to our old Orange Mobicarte SIM. For €7 a week we have unlimited internet through our creaking Android phone. We’ve had a few hiccups but it’s basically worked.

The hiccups largely stem from where we’re staying. It’s a great house in a lovely village in Normandy. But it also seems to be surrounded by some sort of internet forcefield. Having repelled efforts to install a wired connection, the home is now doing its damnedest to block mobile signal too.

At the house the mobile internet signal is ‘E’. ‘E’ is bad. ‘H’ is good. Our trips out in the car are now littered with comments like, ‘yay! We’ve got good H here’ and ‘damn, more crappy E’. Yes, I’m sad to say the rumours are true, we’ve become mobile internet signal junkies. If the car’s bugged we’ve got some explaining to do.

Anyhow, it turns out we’re living on the only patch of Normandy without 3g coverage. For me this isn’t too much of an issue. It’s Mel who’s faced bigger difficulties. Mel does a proper job, with big spreadsheets and everything, which is more reliant on a fast connection. It turns out internet speeds that would have been laughed at in the mid-90s aren’t up to editing big online spreadsheets. Not without the air turning a deep shade of blue anyway.

Fortunately, our daily routine includes a drive up to the owners’ new house to walk the dogs. There is good H up at the farm. Real good H. Having hooked herself up to the source, Mel can work free from the internet forcefield at our usual abode. It does mean working in the car, but the view more than makes up for that small discomfort.

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