Switching off and logging out

Cribyn Image copyright bbc
Image caption An oasis of calm away from the digital world

I've just spent a few days back in the 20th Century, before mobile phones and the internet meant you were never offline even on holiday.

This time travel involved a short stay deep in the West Wales countryside, near the lovely coastline of Cardigan Bay.

Our journey back in time started when we arrived at our holiday cottage to find we couldn't master the electronic safe needed to retrieve the door key.

No matter - there was a number to ring for help, and we had two mobile phones on two different networks. But neither could pick up any kind of signal, so I set off through the village to find a phone box.

There was one handily located outside the post office - long since closed - but this too turned out to be out of order.

Luckily, we somehow managed to open the box and gain entrance to the cottage, where we found this entry in the visitors' book:

"The best thing is no phone, no mobile signal, no technology, but everything you could ever want to be able to relax."

Over the following days we found ourselves in agreement. The lack of telephone, or even a terrestrial television signal in the village of Cribyn did not seem to matter.

There was supposed to be a wireless internet signal from the neighbouring cottage that we could use, but that involved standing outside the back door, pointing west and hoping - it didn't seem worth the bother.

Slow lane

The 21st Century did intrude from time to time as we drove towards the coast my phone came alive with messages about a new hack at Sony and an attack on Google's Gmail.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption Soon you will be able to explore the village online

My unread e-mails piled up in my phone's inbox, and by the time I tried to answer anything that looked urgent, the signal had gone again.

But proof that we were in the digital era, even deep in the countryside, came in the form of an oncoming car we met on a narrow lane.

On the roof was a complicated camera rig and it turned out to be a Google Streetview car - "I'm just filling in the last few gaps", the driver told me.

When we got back to our high-speed home connection in London, I looked up the village on BT's broadband website, and found that residents could only get online at 1Mbps, and there was no immediate prospect of the Infinity fibre service arriving.

You could, however, tour the entire village on Google StreetView.

So our holiday haven is one of those places stuck in the communications slow lane - no mobile phone signal, and no broadband service worthy of the name.

An oasis of calm for stressed visitors from the always-on world, but presumably hugely frustrating for the residents who need to be connected to stay in touch with a modern economy.

There seems little prospect of anyone laying a fast fibre line down the narrow lanes in Ceredigion.

So it may be mobile broadband, delivered via the upcoming auction of 4G spectrum, which offers the best hope of bringing places like Cribyn into the fast broadband age.

It will - and should - get harder to find anywhere in the UK that is disconnected from the technology of the 21st Century.

That might seem a pity to anyone who wants to escape for a few days but then we can always just switch off our phones and ignore our e-mail. Can't we?