When Florence Ramsbottom
opened her front door, she was surprised to see
an official looking man and woman standing on her
Her visitors were wearing
smart, freshly pressed, blue trousers, and the
letters RSPCC were embroidered in gold thread
upon the breast pockets of their matching, blue
shirts. To complete their appearance of
officialdom, they both wore peaked caps
also embellished with the golden letters, RSPCC.
said the woman in a questioning but friendly tone.
My names Joyce,
the woman continued as she held up an ID card for
Florence to inspect, and this is my
colleague, Nigel. The woman pointed to the
man. Were from the Royal Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Computers. Can we
come in and have a few words with you?
to worry about, said Nigel reassuringly
when, five minutes later, they were all seated in
the front room of Florences bungalow.
Its just that weve had reports
that you own a computer and that youre
having a bit of trouble looking after it.
My son helps me with
it, Florence cautiously admitted.
We gather that youve
had to ask him ten times in the past month how to
cut and paste text, and that youve never
succeeded in updating a file in Dropbox,
Nigel responded, consulting his notebook.
technologys very complicated for us old
folk, Florence replied in her own defence.
I dont think thats
an excuse, Florence, Joyce responded with a
touch more assertiveness. Youre an
intelligent woman, and you had a responsible and
complex job before you retired. Lots of people
who are many years older than you are managing
their computers perfectly well. Lots of young
people can understand computers too
despite modern standards of education.
Florence looked anxiously
at the computer on the table by the window.
I love my computer, she said, tears
forming in her eyes. Youre not going
to take it away from me
What would you think,
Nigel responded to Florences obvious
anxiety, if your neighbour owned a dog but
seldom fed it. Suppose that neighbour said she
found it too complicated to open tins of dog food
unless her son explained, every single time, how
to operate the tin opener.
Id think that
she wasnt the right person to own a dog,
said Joyce once more in a kind and
sympathetic tone. It wouldnt mean
that your neighbour was a bad person, or that she
didnt love her dog, but the RSPCA would
have no choice but to take the animal away and
So you think Im
not a suitable person to own a computer,
another report from your nephew, Nigel
explained further. He says that youve
rarely succeeded in adding or removing an
attachment from an email even though hes
showed you how to do so, time and time again.
Also, if by chance youve removed an
attachment, you cant find where youve
put it within the computers filing system.
Nigel paused. Thats just the same,
he leaned towards Florence, gently took her hand
and then continued speaking in a quiet, kindly
tone, as if your neighbour never took her
poor doggie for a walk because she couldnt
work out how to put on or take off its lead.
Florence was silent for
many seconds. Now you put it that way,
she said with tears trickling down her cheeks,
perhaps you should take it, she
glanced fondly at the machine, and find it
a good home.
Will I be able to
visit? she added.
Well try to
make arrangements for you to stay in touch,
said Joyce. In any case, Im sure youre
making the right decision.
Will I get into
trouble about this? asked Florence
We want to protect
poorly treated computers and the long-suffering
people their owners ask for assistance,
Joyce replied reassuringly. We dont
want to harass the sad individuals who arent
coping with their machines.
Sometimes people are
prosecuted for gross digital incompetence,
as the law calls it, Nigel added. They
can be fined and banned from keeping
computers. As youve been so cooperative,
however, I doubt that any further action will be
Miss Roberts from
Rawlings Towers, was banned for ten years from
owning any digital equipment, noted
Florence. I read about it in the paper.
That was an
exceptional case, Nigel replied. Shed
homed any discarded computer that shed
found she finally had eighteen living with
her. She clearly loved them all, but, sadly, she
didnt understand their needs. When the
police broke in to her flat they also found the
floors littered with old CDs, usb sticks, HDMI
cables and other discarded computer peripherals.
When her computers
were examined by our IT expert before they were
taken away for rehoming, Joyce took up the
story, she found that Miss Roberts had
regularly forgotten her Skype password, had no
idea where any of her documents were stored
within the computers filing systems, and
had never managed to print a Gmail to fit an A4
sheet of paper.
A trainee RSPCC
officer who was involved in that visit was
physically sick after he left the flat,
Joyce revealed, shaking her head. Thankfully,
cases like that are very rare.
As Florence watched Nigel
carry her computer from the bungalow she felt sad
but also, in a strange way, relieved. Deep down,
she had known she was not treating the machine
properly and at least now it would be safe.
Florence resolved that,
first thing in the morning, she would go to the
local shops and buy a pad of paper and a pen.
That technology had been good enough for her
mother and her grandmother. She now understood
that it was also the right thing for her.