Towards the end of the 1990s I was the best despatch-rider that ever lived. I sped around London occasionally breaking a leg or knee, fighting with car-drivers that regularly tried to kill me and and lived at 1,000 mph.
As my despatch-riding days dwindled to an end after a decade of insanity and injuries, I landed the best job there was to be had; a retirement home for old bikers. Instead of sitting outside advertising companies on St Martins Lane waiting for my controller to give me a random job to a random place, I started delivering mobile phones.
The company was called TNT, the office was in Vauxhall, very close to the M16 building and everybody in that office was doing cocaine, even some of the riders were doing cocaine. It was bonkers, but it was easy money; you could have made a movie about it. The company had an exclusive contract with Orange to deliver mobiles to anybody within the M25 who had lost or had a dysfunctional mobile.
The cocaine-addled staff would put the phones into a plastic bag, dump them into a bucket and then us lucky riders would have four hours to deliver them. It was zoomy and dreamy. A hundred quid for a couple of hours work and no mania, just a nice ride around London. I didn’t even fall off the bike for at least a year.
What was clear was that just about every single mobile I delivered was a Nokia. Whether it was N16, W6 or E13, I could change a SIM card faster than a decent footballer changed clubs and it would always be a Nokia.
As a late adopter I didn’t even have a mobile, I just delivered them. Finally the ‘Future is Orange’ ads got me and I also bought a Nokia. There were other phones around but Nokia and mobile was like Adam and apple.
Then I gave up motorbikes and became an IT journalist in Soho. I wrote about phones, I was given phones to review, I had lots of phones, I gave phones away to my mates, but Nokia was always the best phone.
As the years rolled by I moved into mobile publishing and Nokia used to give me more phones. I wrote a newsletter about the mobile industry, Nokia sponsored it, Nokia gave me phones that hadn’t even passed the beta stage.
I loved the Nokia interface and I loved Nokia. When my girlfriend accepted my marriage proposal and when my son was born I told everybody using my Nokia. Then I went to India for two years to live on the beach.
Everybody in India had a Nokia, one particular handset sold millions, not because of access to the internet or a fantastic camera, but because it had a great torch and having a torch in crepuscular India is a very useful asset.
Then I went travelling to Ethiopia and Somaliland and I left my Nokia charger behind in India. But whether it was Addis Ababa, Hargesia or a village in the Ethiopian Highlands, I always managed to charge up my Nokia because everybody had a Nokia. Then in September 2010 I came home.
A lot had changed in two years. People who hadn’t worked for ten years had smartphones, women with those weird asymmetrical haircuts who probably couldn’t spell four-letter words had iPhones, I even overheard two fishermen in Hastings talking about mobile video and that Harry The Hamster video and their fucking iPhones.
But nobody had a Nokia. I hadn’t noticed the change. I’d been to India and Africa where Nokia still ruled, but Nokia in Europe had been dying for years and I didn’t know it. I literally found it harder to find a Nokia charger in the UK than in Ethiopia.
And that is probably what fucked Nokia. Not its ridiculous foray in trying to define itself as a software, and not a hardware, company. Not its dumb N-Gage and its daft Ovi, just the plain fact that nobody used them any more.
Even old arguments between operators and Nokia about who owned the subscriber/customer/idiot-who-signed-a-two-year-contract became effete. An iPhone dangled in front of these potential customers was as powerful as Kaa’s eyes in The Jungle Book and Nokia didn’t have a chance.
But I still had my battered N95 that had been around the world, its sellotaped presence in my pocket as comforting as that mnemonic in the movie Inception, a reminder that I had actually lived in India for those two years.
But the end is near and I face the final Nokia handset. I just can’t do it any more. Whether it’s talk of fucking burning decks or Windows Mobile 7 or whatever current disaster is afflicting the company, it doesn’t matter. Other phones are better now.
So after what seems a lifetime and a company I have kept as close to me as a joey is to its kangaroo mother we are now bouncing across different territories.
It’s been great, love you, man, best of luck in the future but I will be opening that ZTE handset that is sitting on my desk in about five minutes We are officially over and it really has been emotional.