When I first moved to London 30-odd years ago – yes, that long! – communication was limited to land lines, phone boxes and fax. As crude as that sounds now, it was a straightforward, near fool-proof way of getting in touch with people, bar the odd food order being accidentally left on the voicemail of the local brothel, which a mate of mine once did.
Today, of course, is a different story – if someone told me back in the 80s that we were going to be chatting over mobile phones and sending each other letters over the internet I’d have laughed them out of my kitchen. And sure, most of the time these things are great – I use group messaging and online shopping as much as the next chef – but there are times I still long for the uncomplicated schlep to the nearest phone box.
Some of the complaints about modern communications are fairly prosaic, like never being truly switched off, meaning I’m forever checking menus and tweaking orders, whether I’m shooting in the Highlands or fishing in the Caribbean; the mind boggles thinking about how I got anything done in the pre-internet days.
But there are more embarrassing problems, too. My editor for this column has a chronic lack of urgency in responding to my emails, so I finally badgered him into giving me his mobile number so I can let him know when I’ve completed another word-perfect, sparklingly witty column.
I was excited to receive my first message from him. It said: “Hey babe, I’ll be home in time for dinner x”, which is strange, because he never invites me to dinner. It was, of course, not intended for me. Thankfully it wasn’t a saucy message, but it shows how easily you could can land yourself in trouble if you’re not careful (he actually did it a second time as I was writing this – either his girlfriend has a similar name to mine or he’s trying to tell me something).
A few years ago my friend received a message from his 18-year-old daughter at 4am asking for “A gram of ket”. When he showed her the message she made up some cock and bull story about how her boyfriend thought it would be funny... Yeah, right.
I got into a spot of bother not long ago, too, making the classic mistake of hitting “reply all” on an email intended for my assistant, essentially resigning in an entirely unflattering way from a magazine column I used to write. Let’s just say I won’t be winning any chef of the year awards from that editor any time soon.
My all-time favourite mistake, however, was committed by my ex, Clare, who sent out a press release for my restaurant Hixter Bankside with the subject header “Hitter Backside”, which she still hasn’t lived down.
So remember kids, technology may have opened up amazing new avenues, but always check thoroughly before you press send, and never drink and dial.