“Rural broadband!” sighed a Perthshire friend, when she heard about the latest Hoolet hiccup. She was sympathising when a book festival event at which I was supposed to be speaking ended in disaster, as I was booted out of the system moments before it went live. By the time I had reconnected, the technical team looked like parents who have just seen their toddler running into the road. Since we were already behind schedule, and they dreaded the event starting, only for me to disappear into a black hole again, it was postponed.

Perhaps it was my connection, rather than theirs. Yet while we might live in what some think of as the back of beyond – “You live in the depths of the country, don’t you?” several folk have since said, as if that explained everything – in terms of the internet, we are well-served. Only a short while before we bought the house, high-speed broadband was installed in the village. My stepdaughter’s husband, who is a web designer, was astonished when he first visited to find that our broadband was faster than his in central Edinburgh. I could see it pained him to think that the pair of us, surrounded by a surfeit of old books and still not on first-name terms with Alexa, were unlikely to need first-rate connectivity except when watching Netflix. Here we were, bathed in the glow of high-powered technology whereas he, with his state of the art computer and designer know-how, would often find himself suddenly gasping for digital breath, like a landed trout, while he was uploading.

When we were hunting for a country home, our only 21st-century requirement was that there was phone reception and adequate WiFi. You’d be amazed how many properties we looked at which, being in a valley or the lee of hills, got no mobile signal at all. Little wonder phone boxes are still a feature on country roads, though if, like me, you have stepped into one recently, you’ll have reached for your mask. I recall a veteran Herald journalist reminiscing about the bygone days of calling in her reports to copy-takers in the Albion Street offices in Glasgow. As she struggled to read her notes in dingy phone kiosks on poorly lighted city streets, the vigorous draught and horizontal rain coming in through the broken widows did nothing to dispel the stench of public urinal. Thank goodness newspaper readers, turning to the headlines and sports pages over breakfast, cannot detect the conditions in which articles are produced.

Walking home to Hoolet in the dark, I could find my way by the red-lit satellite towers a few fields away. Shortly after moving into the cottage, in anticipation of long winter evenings Alan splashed out on a gigantic new television. For this, we needed the help of a TV engineer, who said he would come out that evening so long as we didn’t live in Earlston. There was something funny going on there. Setting us up in no time, he told us that, thanks to the nearby signal masts, in Hoolet “you could throw a piece of string into the air and it would get a reception”. Now, as well as a cinema-sized screen, we live with a permanent reminder of him. At eight o’clock every evening, unless we are watching live TV, the picture freezes and then disappears. When Alan’s granddaughter first experienced this, in the middle of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, she was flabbergasted, and not in a good way. We are hoping that, so long as schools continue to forge ahead with the curriculum this autumn, she’ll be able to fix this before her eighth birthday.

Although I’ve largely avoided Zooming, Alan has become an international traveller, connecting with folk in Australia, France, Italy, and who knows where else. I was about to say he managed this with ease, but that would not be entirely accurate. On his first session, with a friend in Melbourne, they could see but not hear each other. He sipped a glass of red wine and ate chargrilled asparagus while he waited for us to sort the problem. Eventually we managed to change the settings, but not until the next day. In the meantime, they resorted to olde worlde mobile.

That’s where the cottage is less than perfect. While the internet is top notch, the mobile is fickle. The best place for a call is in the summer house. That’s fine if the weather is good, and you can watch the sheep shuffling like sleepwalkers past the window. In less clement conditions, however, it makes for monosyllabic exchanges to a soundtrack of jogging on the spot.

Around the house there are various dead areas, where not even a stethoscope could detect a signal. A prime location is halfway up the stairs, which always reminds me of AA Milne’s poem Halfway Down. Reception is crystal clear, and often when speaking to my sister, who lives in Stirlingshire, I discover she too is leaning on the bannisters. Upstairs, the closer the mobile is to the windows the better, but even here we are frequently obliged to move from left to right, or switch rooms, as voices fade or we find ourselves addressing an empty line.

In the early days of mobile phones, I’m told neighbours would be seen hurrying out onto the green during calls, or waving their arms over their heads in their first-floor rooms. Occasionally, you’ll see discreet signal boosters on the top of people’s kitchen cabinets or by the TV. I’ve noticed that some people get into their cars to make calls or, on getting home, catch up on voicemail messages before entering the twilight zone.

I thought I’d stumbled on someone doing just that the other week when I was strolling around the parking lot at Tweedbank station, waiting for Alan’s train. At the far end was a car, lights on and engine running. I didn’t walk too close, but shortly afterwards it raced off. Moments later another driver zoomed in and neatly reversed alongside a third car, also with its lights on. Drug rendezvous? Undercover cops? Lovers’ trysts? Most likely locals less fortunate than those of us in Hoolet, taking advantage of ScotRail’s powerful WiFi.