It's one of the complaints you hear most often, particularly, I think, from men of 'a certain age'. They're always moaning about how intrusive and objectionable mobile phones are. Well, not the phones themselves exactly, but the people who use them.

They're everywhere, of course. It's amazing how quickly they've gone from being a novelty to a normal everyday part of our lives. You can't walk down a street anywhere without seeing at least one person chatting away on a mobile.

Of course, all this can be very intrusive. If you want to have a quiet conversation with a friend or read a book in peace, or just enjoy a few moments of reflection, the noise of those ringtones or the classic phrase, 'I'm on the train' (or bus or whatever) can be shatteringly unpleasant.

But I wouldn't be without mine. I may not use it much, but I know it's there when I need it. Like that time we visited a remote island castle in Scotland. There were two ways back to the car. My husband took the short route; my daughter, son-in-law and I the longer, scenic one. Then we lost our way. We ended up on a rocky shore with pools and bogs and no obvious pathway at all. Instinct told us that if we pressed on we'd eventually come out in the right place. But what about my husband, waiting anxiously by the car as the hours passed and there was no sign of us? Obvious answer: I'd call him on my mobile.

I got the voicemail service and left a message, though I knew pretty well he'd never hear it. He's never learnt to access his voicemail. But surely this time he'd be anxious and switch on his mobile, just in case there was a message? He knew I had mine, he must guess I would try and phone. As I did, again and again, to no avail.

Well, we did eventually find each other. By then, he was not only anxious but furious. After all, he'd been waiting for hours instead of the few minutes he'd expected.

But that experience hasn't made him use his mobile. He's one of those men of 'a certain age', and hates the things. It's one of those subjects we'll, never agree on.

As for me, I even love those noisy mobile conversations. After all, I reckon if people are prepared to talk about their most private concerns in a loud voice in a public place, then it's perfectly fair to listen to them. It's not eavesdropping. You can't help but hear. And it's pure entertainment, with all the drama and joy and heartache of real life - because it is real life.

There was the country gent on the train who was having a ding-dong row with fellow members of the local hunt (this was just after the ban on foxhunting went through). There was the girl at the station breaking up with her boyfriend in the most dramatic terms - though you did sense that an equally dramatic reconciliation was just around the corner. There was the woman in the London park who was telling her husband the divorce papers were on the way, as she jogged along pushing her child in one of those three-wheeler buggies. There are the fascinating accounts of who did what with whom at some office function; the stories of holiday journeys gone wrong; the intricate details of teenage relationships.

Never mind the grumblers, I think mobile phones are wonderful.

Published: 22/09/2005