Although I am not a complete technophobe, I am no fan of the internet. In fact, at times I hate the world wide web. It can keep me occupied for an eternity with no productive result. I cannot imagine how many hours I have wasted at work and at home on random, pointless browsing. One day I might be captured by the urge to find out how many platinum discs the 1979 Bee Gees album Spirits Having Flown was awarded, or to check the latest news updates on the 2010 Grand Prix driver line-up.
The net is full of this type of pointless information that goes into your brain instantly and is forgotten almost as quickly. And then there are the stupid social networking sites with their trivial messages, status updates and other nonsense, all seemingly designed for people who have had lobotomies. It's a parallel world that is as unfulfilling as it is addictive. In the first couple of years of my life as a newspaper reporter, I used a computer that was not connected to the internet, and I think I got more done as a result.
And don't get me started on illness and the internet, as I am a fully paid up cyberchondriac. Despite the sum total of my medical training being a short first-aid course when I was at school 20 years ago, thanks to the internet I have managed to diagnose myself with just about every infectious disease under the sun, especially the fatal ones. You can add to that half a dozen psychiatric conditions, each of which I have decided I suffer from thanks to a quick check of a list of symptoms on the web.
And before most holidays, I now terrify myself by finding out, thanks to the web, that I am at risk of falling victim to malaria, dengue fever or even the bubonic plague in my destination. But the internet is not all bad, of course. I certainly think spending time to read a quality newspaper on the internet is a worthwhile activity, and I am not just saying that because I work for such a publication.
And the internet is a vital tool these days for keeping track of one's finances. Each time I send money back to my British bank account, I can check within a few days whether it has arrived. And in a few moments I can transfer money between accounts to pay off flights I might have bought on my credit card. When it comes to managing my flat in England, which I bought last year as an investment, the internet is even more helpful.
There is no need for costly and crackly international telephone calls if I have to communicate with the lettings agency I have charged with renting out the one-bedroom apartment. The agency has recently found a tenant who is due to move in later this month, and they were able to ask for my instructions on whether to proceed with the tenancy by e-mail, confirm the arrangements and sort out a fee for preparing an inventory with just a few clicks on a keyboard.
And the same went for the actual purchase of the flat: my lawyer sent regular updates and requests to my e-mail account, and I could respond immediately. Internet banking and e-mail are things we now take for granted, but imagine what it would have been like trying to sort this type of thing out in the pre-e-mail era. It would have involved 10 times as much work and hassle, especially for the expatriate.
Yet there is something that I have found to be far more useful than the internet in sorting out my finances from afar: parents. Now parents date back to the origins of the human race, and earlier if you count our animal ancestors, yet they trump the latest gadgets and web innovations every time. While I was thousands of miles away, it was my parents who collected the keys for the place after I completed the purchase.
It was my father, an architect, who checked the property over initially to ensure there were no major defects. And it was he and my mother who sorted out getting the laminate flooring put in. And they handed over the keys to the lettings agency when they wanted to take pictures of the flat. What would I have done without this help? The simple answer is I almost certainly would not have been able to go ahead with buying the property.
My parents might not be as shiny and new as the latest computer with its internet pages, e-mail and myriad other applications. But when it comes to looking after my finances from the other side of the world, they are an awful lot more useful. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org