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How my husband finally cracked and got a mobile phone | Smartphones

In her new memoir, I Came All This Way to Meet You, the American novelist Jami Attenberg describes meeting a man who is not on any social media at all, and who therefore has no idea what it’s like to receive a like or retweet. Attenberg considers this state wildly unusual, not to say bizarre; she’s all over Instagram and the rest. But her amazement is tempered with what sounds like envy. “You goddam beautiful unicorn,” she writes of him. “What’s that like, being entirely self-validating? What’s it like to wake up every day and not worry what anyone else thinks?”

As it happens, I’ve spent the past 18 years of my life with just such a unicorn, though the man I’m talking about is – or was – an even rarer beast than hers. So, a guy isn’t on social media. So what? Lots of people aren’t. Facebook is for dinosaurs. The more important fact by far when it comes to my mythical creature is that, until three weeks ago, he did not, in a Britain in which around 87% of adults own a smartphone, even have a mobile. Not only had he never used social media, he had never sent, let alone received, a text. The exquisite torture that comes of WhatsApp and its blue ticks was entirely unknown to him, a man whose body is very far indeed from being hard-wired to respond to alerts. Nothing pinged in his pocket as he strolled along. When he was lost, he had to ask a stranger, not Google Maps. When he was out late, he had to rely on his legs, not an Uber. Calls? You’d be surprised. The last time he needed urgently to contact me while out and about, he walked into a hotel bar and, drawing on all of his great David Niven-like urbanity, casually asked a waiter if he might “use your telephone for a moment”.

Unsurprisingly, friends and strangers alike professed themselves astonished by this refusal to get with the programme (I mean the programme that involves being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week), their manner hovering between amusement and exasperation. Do you, people would ask sarcastically, still recite your number when you answer your landline? But I always found irritation the more interesting response, suggestive as it was of feelings of exclusion and hurt (“Don’t you want me to call you?”). Sometimes, it bordered on anger, a low-level rage that might possibly – I’m only guessing – have been connected to a sense of unfairness. While T had escaped the constant hassle, the stress and the surveillance, they had not, and never would. (Not that they would ever admit to this. Far too much – their entire existence! – was, is, at stake for that.)

What about me, though? At some point, eyes would inevitably glide in my direction. Wasn’t I the long-suffering one! How did I cope? I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t sometimes annoying. A couple of months ago, I left a party before him only to find that I didn’t have my keys with me; I had to wait on the doorstep for an hour. I used to roll my eyes if he asked to use my phone, not least because I would then have to explain how to use it. “Useful, aren’t they?” I’d say, jaw clenched. But, like Attenberg, I was admiring, too. Such a refusal spoke of confidence and ease; in his stubbornness, he reminded me usefully of a past in which we all survived perfectly well without being contactable at any moment. His phone-less state also, I think, helped to maintain the privacy that is vital for peaceable coupledom. Even if I wanted to check up on him, I couldn’t, and he, in turn, had no interest in my phone because, well, phones were not something he cared about. I watched others being pestered by – or pestering – those closest to them and found that I was relieved to have been exempted from this regime, however unwillingly at first.

Illustration by Eyon Jones.
Illustration by Eyon Jones.

But the biggest benefit of all was undoubtedly to him – and this is where envy sets in. All that extra time! When people asked how he managed to write so much – in the first lockdown, while I stared at my tiny screen, he began, and finished, his recent memoir – the answer was blindingly obvious. Unlike the rest of the world, he never wasted a single moment wondering why someone hadn’t answered his last message; nor did he indulge in doom or any other kind of scrolling. For his time to be his own, he required so little discipline. His in-between times were calm and quiet, to be used for good things like reading or listening to music. Mine were – they still are – punctuated by incoming fire I’m seemingly forbidden to ignore (“Didn’t you see my email?”). My phone has the capacity to make me deeply unhappy.

But as you’ll have noticed, this piece is written in the past tense. At Christmas, T asked me to give him a phone and this I duly did, sneaking it into his stocking so as not to make too big a deal of it. What had penetrated his defences? I had told him a hundred times – usually as I printed out yet another boarding pass – that he was in danger of becoming disenfranchised in a world where the phone is the key to everything, and yet still he would not crack. In the end, there were two things. First, his beloved iPod was obsolete; he wanted to be able to use Spotify while he was running. Second, there was Covid, which requires so much paperwork, all of which is best kept on a mobile phone.

Outwardly, I was triumphant. “It’s for the best,” I said, in the level voice I reserve for these situations. But inwardly, something else was going on. My goddam beautiful unicorn was about to disappear. When the Christmas post went to pot, and not one but two sim cards went missing, and the shiny new phone could not be used, there was no ignoring it: relief rose inside me. A stay of execution for us both. Soon after this, the sim having finally arrived, there came a moment when I found him in an armchair, AirPods in his ears, utterly absorbed in the black rectangle in his hand. For how much longer would he remain a free man? Never such innocence again, I thought, mournfully.

But there is hope. Having spent all of his adult life phone-less, some rules have been set; some habits are hard to break. T is not your typical phone user, and perhaps he never will be. Only me and his sister have his number, and I’m forbidden to give it out to anyone else. The other night, a friend begged for it – the phone is the talk of our circle; everyone wants to be the first to break the long silence/ruin his life – and thumb screws having been applied, I relented. The friend sent a text, but there came no answer – not then, or for the rest of the evening. “It’s probably switched off,” I said. “What?” said the friend. “No one switches their phone off.”

Hmm. When I got home, I inquired after the text that had been sent. Had T received it? He proffered his phone, showing me his reply, sent the following morning. “Automated message,” it read. “This number is no longer available.” It was very convincing; he’d added dashes to the words “automated message”, and somehow this made it look official. “I feel a bit guilty,” he said, shoving it in his pocket. But his face, which wore a smile, told a different story – of a phone that is not quite a phone. Or not yet.


Anthony Quinn: ‘A bus ride is now a bedlam of performative monologuists’

Anthony Quinn’s first selfie
Anthony Quinn’s first selfie.

People were often incredulous that I’d never had a mobile. They talked to me about it as if I were missing a limb or afflicted with a serious illness. But it truly wasn’t that difficult to live without one. Thirty years ago nearly everybody did, and life was fine.

Why, though? I suppose because I never wanted one. From the outside, looking in, I noticed the way mobiles changed everyday behaviour. Insidiously, the sleek pocket devil became what a pack of cigarettes was to a previous generation: something to occupy your hand, hugely antisocial, bad for your health.

At some point it became acceptable to interrupt a conversation by raising a finger and saying, “I just need to take this”; to place your phone on a dinner table and check your incoming, surreptitiously or not; to stalk along a pavement, head down, eyes absorbed by your screen (so I have to step out of the way for you?). I travel mostly by bus, which used to be a good place to daydream, to mooch, to worry about the next chapter of my book. Solitary mooching must be a cornerstone of any civilised society. Alas, the upstairs deck is now a bedlam of jabberers, droners, performative monologuists.

The dream was over after the pandemic. It no longer felt viable – or fair to Rachel – to have someone nannying me with NHS apps and Covid passes on a phone that wasn’t mine. It’s not all bad. No more trouble over entry at galleries, theatres, football stadiums. And I have Spotify when I go for a run – genius. For the rest, though, I’m hoping to maintain a low block on access. I don’t intend to give out my number. Email is the saviour. Honestly, I love my friends! I just don’t want them to call me – ever.

Anthony Quinn’s most recent book is Klopp: My Liverpool Romance (Faber); his novel London, Burning is out in paperback next month (Abacus)

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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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