Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

MERRYN GLOVER: Savouring a letter of love from my husband in self-isolation, I text him to buy some milk

© SuppliedMerryn Glover
Merryn Glover

My husband and I stand at opposite ends of the kitchen, gazing longingly at each other while hugging ourselves.

I’m in the last days of Covid self-isolation under the old rules and it’s been bizarre and more difficult for us than being apart. We’ve taken to writing letters again and there’s nothing that beats finding a love note. I know I’m old-fashioned, but texting just doesn’t compete.

I’m also old enough to be nostalgic for supposedly slower times and to feel peppered as a darts board with the speed and relentlessness of modern communication. Way back, in the good old Stone Age, if someone wanted your attention, they had to be in your presence. Or at least within yodelling distance.

And, although families might be large or the neighbours might turn up en masse, I’m guessing you weren’t expected to have more than one conversation at a time (small children of yesteryear being, of course, impeccably behaved).

Then messengers heaved into view, walking, running or galloping on horseback, but I doubt they went to such trouble to announce they were 37% through the latest epic from the village bard.

Some groups developed remote messaging, like smoke signals or jungle drums, but these, one suspects, were for danger or high ritual, not to share what the chief’s daughter was having for dinner.

And, so, the wheels of progress creaked on and we developed writing and letters. Vellum, papyrus, cloth, paper. Even then, unless you were the emperor dictating to scribes, you could only write to one person at a time, and delivery could take weeks (some things never change) so no one was getting antsy about instant replies.

And then came the printing press, the telegram, the telephone and the computer. Enter the internet and the smartphone and there’s no stopping us. All have made it easier for everyone to communicate with others, advancing information, connection and democracy (until a cursory glance at social media suggests the opposite).

But with each rise in technology comes a corresponding, and often disproportionate, rise in expectation. Now, all of the following can happen to me all at the same time: someone at my side, a scribble on the kitchen whiteboard, a visitor bonging the doorbell, the postman delivering a hand-written letter and printed bumph, the landline ringing, my mobile buzzing, emails arriving on half-a-dozen accounts, texts pinging, direct messages, tags and “mentions” on WhatsApp, Messenger, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and notifications dinging on any number of apps. All seek my attention, all seek a response.

I’m not claiming to be busier or more popular than anyone else and I accept it’s my choice to open all these portals, although being a writer today involves enormous pressure to do so.

I also acknowledge that I’m firing missives willy-nilly myself and seeking attention from others. Time management gurus advise blocking notifications and batching responses, but I know the communications are massing like midges on a Scottish tent and I’ll need to deal with them all at some point.

And, then, I see how many of these messages bear kindness, encouragement and blessing, and I am humbled. So I love and hate it. I’m drawn to connect, but overwhelmed by the traffic. Pondering this dilemma from my last day of isolation, I savour my husband’s love note, then text him to remember the milk.


Merryn Glover’s second novel, Of Stone And Sky, is set where she lives in the Highlands