Dylan Jones: 'BlackBerry holidays are now called "soft holidays", where you are contactable all the time'

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The Independent Online

When I speak to my friends in New York, they never tire of telling me how hard they work. Oh no. Sure, they might slope off at lunchtime on a Friday during the summer to make their way to their holiday homes in the Hamptons (average journey time, three hours), but boy do they enjoy advertising their fearsome work ethic.

Generally speaking, they're correct, as most people I know who work in the States only get about three weeks' holiday a year. Unlike almost every other Western country, American employers do not have to give paid holidays, so everything is seen as concessionary. And even if they are away, they'll be contactable by BlackBerry anyway. BlackBerry holidays are now being called "soft holidays", which is basically a vacation where an employee is contactable all the time.

Personally, I haven't had a "hard holiday" (where you are assumed to be completely unreachable) for four years, and I'm not sure I ever will again. These days I am expected, like most people in my industry, always to be contactable.

However, if the events of the past two weeks are anything to go by, I'm not sure any of us will be having "hard holidays" any more. I've just spent the fortnight driving around France, inflicting my family on anyone who would have us, and the two benevolent households who took us in acted in a way I'd never seen before, at least not on holiday.

Both in Perpignan and in Normandy, there would be the habitual bread run in the morning; someone would take it upon themselves to get up early and drive to the nearest boulangerie to pick up croissants, petits pains au chocolat, pains aux raisins and piles of baguettes.

But - and this might be a shock to the owners of this newspaper - no newspapers. As soon as breakfast was laid out, people would crowd around the laptop and start planning the day; someone would scan the weather, someone else would look for interesting walks, and then someone would book a restaurant for lunch. Then, as we hoovered up the carbs, we would idly cruise through the online versions of the British newspapers. Then, 45 minutes later, as we washed up, the children would spend 20 minutes e-mailing their friends back in London.

For years, the internet has been seen as a solitary experience, a place you visit by yourself, even if you are communicating with millions of others online. The web has always been a virtual world, and even in a busy newspaper or magazine office, your computer is not something you often encourage others to crowd around. But in France this summer, for me at least, the future arrived.

For the past 12 years we have been told that the laptop would eventually replace the television in our homes. Well, that day is but a holiday away.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ' magazine

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