My last remaining ambition, apart from becoming an astronaut, is to read every book I possess.

This may be a harder ask than you’d imagine as I have spent an inordinate sum on books down the decades and they fill shelves too frequently with virgin spines. Others are tattered and dog-eared from repeated reading and have appropriate documents from foreign lands as bookmarks to remind me of where they were first consumed - that Geneva to Bern rail ticket for Graham Greene’s ‘Dr Fischer’, and an Iraqi banknote for Frederick Forsyth’s ‘The Fist of God.’

I blame the mobile phone. Like many of us I spend far too long on mine. I check the news headlines every few minutes, the weather forecast by the hour. I look for specific sporting scores and, because I still have that journalist’s inquiring mind, I check facts and figures constantly.

Then there’s social media. Which pal has a new dog, which friend has said ‘rude not too,’ instead of ‘rude not to?’ and which acquaintance has a friend who, unbeknown to us both, is also my friend?

Given where I live, I have succumbed to apps which tell you which ship is on the Gare Loch and which plane is overflying it. I study the train times from Helensburgh, Central and Upper, to virtually anywhere in the UK. Then there’s the chat groups. Who has sent an inappropriate meme about which celebrity?

So there I was the other day, in a bedroom in a corridor in an annexe which had no phone signal, far less 4G, far less wi-fi.

What was I to do? What altitude was that airliner? Indeed, what kind of airliner was it? What time were the trains back to the ‘Burgh in the morning? Who captained Iran against Scotland in the 1978 World Cup? I would have to wait for answers to them all.

Whenever I travel, I always carry a book with me for precisely these exigencies, and this night, for the first time in years, I opened it where I had last closed it, marked by the boarding pass from my New Delhi to Mumbai flight, and started to read.

The book is one from John le Carré, whose mastery of prose took me to another place in another time, with other people. His descriptiveness and imagination made me instantly feel at home there.

The best I could do with my phone that night was stick it on charge. The trick now is to keep a book at my bedside and leave the phone on a bookshelf.