Canavan’s column _ June 20, 2013

Phones menace: Everything from bra straps to berating... a lot to listen to in public every day
Phones menace: Everything from bra straps to berating... a lot to listen to in public every day
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Far too much information...

The advent of mobile phones has had one fantastic knock-on effect – we get to find out so much more about other folk’s lives.

People on the phone, wherever they may be, don’t seem to mind discussing rather personal details in front of complete strangers.

This occurred to me the other day as I took a bus from Blackpool to St Annes.

“It’s this bra strap,” boomed a woman in her 50s at the top of her voice. I looked up in interest, as you would. She had a mobile phone clamped to her ear. In her other hand she was holding a bag of cheese and onion crisps. “The strap Beryl. Strap. It’s too thin. It’s digging in and I’m sagging. It always happens when you wear an old bra.”

Remarkably everyone else on the bus paid this exchange no attention. An old fella at the front continued to stare into the distance – perhaps recalling a time before mobile phones, when the world was more peaceful and younger people actually talked to each other face-to-face – while a harassed looking woman with two small children carried on reprimanding the older of her sons for shoving peanuts up his brother’s nose.

Now before mobiles this glimpse into this women’s private life, and specifically her lingerie, wouldn’t have happened. But because of phones and the way they’ve encouraged us all to talk in the most public of places, this ‘sharing too much information’ disease has become commonplace - and it happens whether we’re on the blower or not.

In the barbers on Tuesday, a woman cutting the hair of a customer next to me said, scissors flailing: “The problem with our John is he refuses to get a job. I’ve told him, if you carry on with that attitude then don’t expect me to put you up in food and drink forever. And he never goes out. In his room, curtains closed, door shut. I don’t know what on earth he gets up to in there.”

‘I know,” said the customer, shaking his head – a risky manoeuvre mid-haircut. “It’s the younger generation. My sister’s lad is going off the rails. Got arrested by the police last week. They reckon he’ll have to wear a tag.”

Imagine sharing that with a stranger – me – though I have to say it was a damn sight more exciting that the conversation I had with the young girl trimming my locks. Her: ‘Are you going away this summer’. Me: Yes, France. You? Her: No (Cue 15 minutes of silence).

But in general I don’t like it. I don’t like people thinking it’s OK to talk about personal matters in very public places, and mobile phones are definitely to blame. It’s the age we live in and for better or worse, privacy has, quite literally, gone out of the window.

* Nice line from comedian Lee Nelson at North Pier last week. “My little lad said ‘dad, when I grow up I want to be a painter like Van Gogh’. I said to him ‘son if you work hard and do all your homework, you could be better than Van Gogh - you could be painter and decorator’”.

* We receive some bizarre emails at The Gazette. One arrived the other day from a group called The British Trout Association, prompting a colleague to remark: “I never realised fish were so well organised”.