"The Oldie is an incredible magazine - perhaps the best magazine in the world right now" Graydon Carter, founder of Air Mail and former Editor of Vanity Fair

Subscribe to the Oldie and get a free cartoon book


I’m no longer remotely in control of my world

Blog | By James Pembroke | Mar 22, 2017

On Monday, I made my daily phone call to Fitzrovia IT, The Oldie's long-suffering computer-problem-solving company, about my emails.

I had just deleted an important email by mistake and wanted to retrieve it, but I couldn’t find it. Indeed, I couldn’t find any of my multitudinous deleted mails. I looked in my Trash folder and there were about three stubbornly hanging on since last year. Yet, I delete about 20 emails a day. Where had they all gone? 

I had a friend once called Gary (and I hope only once) who had a very polite black Labrador. In fact, so polite that, unlike every other dog on the planet, he would run and hide to make his morning constitutional, thus saving Gary the ordeal of ever collecting his turds. 

After a year of boasting about this, Gary developed a far greater anxiety. Where were all the dog’s turds? Were they gathering in a pyramid of dung in some distant corner of the neighbourhood? 

I feel the same about my emails. Will I open a cupboard door in The Oldie, and be deluged by them?

I called Fitzrovia. They had no idea either. How many times have I heard ‘We've never had this before?' They’re coming today to look at the problem.


I’m no longer in charge of my car. On the drive back from the brilliant literary lunch at Kimberley Hall in Norfolk yesterday, I kept hearing little voices. I asked Harry, our editor,  and Annabel, our editorial assistant, not to talk; so we could discern their origin. To my relief, they could hear them, too. 

‘They’re singing at us,'  cried Annabel. ‘But where are they?’ 

'They’re coming from your phone,’ Harry announced calmly, as one would to a man on the edge. He found the Ink Spots on my phone and pressed ‘pause’. They got out at Stansted airport, somewhat relieved - Harry and Annabel that is, sadly not the Ink Spots with whom I continued to do battle all the way to Chiswick.


A year ago, the same car wouldn't go 15 minutes without announcing the traffic news, completely uninvited, even if I was in a quiet rural lane on a Sunday. 

Then, I gave a friend a lift who, within ten seconds of hearing that Sunderland bypass was closed, pressed a red light on the dashboard. I’ve never had another traffic announcement again, but how did he know?

I had seen that red light beaming for a year, but didn't dare touch it in case it propelled my passenger through the roof or blew up the Sunderland bypass. Who makes these rules? Where are they published?

I’ve discreetly emailed Ryan at Fitzrovia about getting a personal robot. One must have a man like that.

JAMES PEMBROKE, @james_pembroke.