This week, I lost the internet for 24 hours. I had no idea where it went. Sullen green lights on my BT hub flickered on and off, taunting me; the ether in which I usually roam gathered itself and went off to play with someone else.

Sometimes, when I am working very hard and I want to give my brain a rest, I switch off the internet. This deliberate act is restful and useful for concentration. I am keenly aware of the new neuroscience about the continuing plasticity of the brain and the anecdotal reports of shrinking attention spans.

Funny sheep
But to have it snatched away like that, without warning, was very disconcerting and rather melancholy. I suddenly realised what a cheering place the internet can be. It gets a bad reputation because of the porn and the trolls. The porn is self-explanatory and often very nasty. (Youth and bottoms are a recurring theme, if my junk mail is anything to go by.) The trolls are those cross shouty people who insult public figures and say astonishingly intemperate things about immigrants, people on welfare and anyone who does not have about eight generations of pure British blood.

But as well as all that, there is a perfect festival of unexpected jollity. One of the things people do on the internet is find really funny and clever things and kindly pass them on. Only two days ago I was literally weeping with laughter about a riff to do with Marmite and toast. It does not sound that promising, but it was so hilarious that half my online cohort was soon rocking with laughter. We were suddenly a little circle of Marmite-based jollity.

Funny sheep

There is also, of course, the overload of cute kittens doing repetitive things, and far too many toy dogs, and a rolling collection of misattributed quotations. But one may also find quiet wisdom, lines of inspiration and really excellent moments of comedy.

The people who see only bad in the internet always complain that it is a poor substitute for real life. I think they are making a category error. Online life does not replace actual life, but trots alongside it. It is a clever way to keep up with friends when there are not enough hours in the day for face to face meetings. I live five hundred miles north of many relations and best beloveds; thanks to the internet, I can see daily things I would otherwise miss. This niece is having a lovely day in the park with the dog; that niece is having a glorious time at a music festival. My old friend in California wants me to read a brilliant article she found in the New York Times; a more recent friend is buying lovely bunches of stocks in Covent Garden market. I may keep abreast of all my myriad interests, from lovely racing pictures posted by the Jockey Club to backroom stories put up by the political bloggers. And, on top of all that, there is always a diverting picture of a baby elephant or an enchanting mountain goat.

Funny sheep

Yesterday, I was most miffed because I had some top sheep photographs I really wanted to share with the group. I was going to put up the antic lambs and their august mamas, and there were certain people I knew would be as entranced as I, and we would have had an ovine joke or two, and the loveliness would be shared and appreciated. I felt genuinely cross that I was deprived of this small life pleasure.

The internet informs me and makes me laugh. And it is the perfect place to put pictures of sheep. You can’t say fairer than that.