My Christmas tree has turned itself off. Since this is the modern age and the consumer has to do what she is told, the transformer uses a timer setting you can’t change or override, which usually means it turns itself off during Christmas Dinner.
I tried to be elegant by restricting the decoration to a scheme of deep blue, silver and white baubles, but the baubles don’t even match… different sizes, different shades… it looked uneven, like a water-stained ballgown. So I threw the rest of the box of baubles at it… all colours, all styles. Didn’t matter. I don’t think there’s a single bare twig now, but it looks livelier, sparklier and less like I tried to do something and failed. The red baubles in particular seem to bring focus, unless it’s just that they’re distracting you from the rest of the chaos.
What I take from that is that things you throw together can succeed better than something intricately planned. There’s far more energy and joie de vivre when everything’s included, not just the specially chosen. Chaos and order…. you’re merely a part of it, repeating the experiences of generations upon generations of others in your own unique way. You retell the human story.
In your own life you get to ‘do over’ a lot, though occasionally you have to accept the loss of something that plummets from the tree… such as a friendship fragmenting into a thousand glass shards. You may wish it had turned out differently, but that particular bauble has now gone.
Now and then, however, the bauble disappears into shadow and you search around cautiously, trying to find it without cutting yourself. A little while goes by before it finally comes to light, amazingly still intact.
Some baubles break, others go missing for a while but survive. At times you aren’t sure which, and have to step carefully.
I expect you are sitting at the other side of the screen, frowning at my chaotic ramblings. You likely have a mug or glass at your side. I don’t know what you’re drinking… coffee or tea, or maybe hot chocolate, or beer or water. Or Bovril. Chicken Bovril is nice… I like that.
Probably you’re wondering why you’re reading this… you could be doing something nicer, such as weather-stripping the house, leaf-blowing the snow or cleaning the drains. It’d be more useful, but doubtless you’re the efficient sort who has done all that already. So you’re stuck.
I wonder where you live? Maybe New York in an apartment high up, and the lights sparkling all over the city? Or a cottage on thunderous dramatic moors, with a sluggish internet connection? Or across the road from me, even? Can you see me waving out the window? No, well, that’s all right. I wasn’t waving… my curtains are closely drawn.
So many things to do. I get confused and find myself standing still, looking over my shoulder…
…oh yes, I meant to change my wall calendar to December before it’s too late and the whole month blows over. What IS that, exactly? A warrior hobbit? I wish I could flip back to October, to that nice angry dragon. I could, really, but that would be cheating, and I won’t have got full use of the calendar. I don’t know why I got it — I never write anything in it.
Kind of like my blog.
I’m getting the déjà vu sensation an awful lot lately. I keep thinking I’ve read things before. I even feel I have written things before. Have I already written this blog post, word for word, and posted it maybe nine years ago? Bits of it, then? Or perhaps I’m catching glimpses into a closely parallel universe where I’ve done all this stuff alrea… but that is such a depressing thought I shied away from it. It’s bad enough to have done all this once, but twice…?
Do you remember reading any of this before; does any of it ring any bells? No, not this bit, but I have a funny feeling about my drawn curtains. Perhaps they’re the portal. Close them, shutting out the real world, and in swims the fantasy world… sorry, the parallel universe. That’s just the real world twice over, so it’s no wonder I hate the idea!
In this chaotic universe, anything can happen.
If that’s true, then perhaps it’s not a parallel universe, but a repeating one. We are doomed to retrace our steps over and over till we get them right. Don’t you get the feeling that most of the time absolutely nothing changes, and we just make the same mistakes over and over and over? Every so often someone thinks a little deeper or sees something a smidgeon of a different way and improves everything just a fraction. Even if it’s an incremental change by one person, it could have a remarkable effect on everyone else, like lights going on all over… and suddenly the latest round of existence is a whole lot better than the one before. And so it goes.
This has been difficult to write. For the past little while I’ve wanted to… no, it doesn’t feel like a ‘want’, it feels more like a ‘very much not want’, like I don’t even want to be here. I’d rather go back into space and be a simple star again, spinning a little, perhaps, whistling a happy tune, burning up any asteroids that wander too near. Who decided I should sit on this earth with an increasingly labouring heart, to blog, question why and… and edit?
Sometimes there’s good stuff, like… cats when they’re sleepy and purry and not killing things. Bears when they’re sleepy and furry and don’t have a headache. Family when you discover how to get along and aren’t torturing each other.
It’s a chaotic world, though, at least to our limited senses. You get both the nice and the nasty together, like the soothing sun on one level and icy deeps on the other. The velvety blue with hornets or jellyfish hanging in it. The yin and the yang and the sweet and the sour… you never know which it will be; can change so suddenly.
Or simply end.
And, after a long pause, like a bonus song, start up again when you weren’t listening any more, and go on for what seems like forever.
I assume this would be over and above basics such as food, fresh water, shelter, blankets, a couple of changes of clothing, etc. If Little Witness was on board with me, he would have to be one of the items, as I’m not leaving him to sink beneath the waves.
Second, I’d want a fully-charged iPad so I can tell somebody I fetched up on this little island… no I don’t know the co-ordinates, but we were on our way to some place… sorry, I thought I heard a noise but it was just a coconut dropping. Let me move out from under this palm tree. OK, bye.
While waiting in comfort for help to arrive, I would study the environment and wonder about the other three things I really should have with me.
A good book would be a boon. You would think my Kindle would be suitable as it has a fair-sized library on it, but battery power on this island is a non-renewable resource. I would be better off with a long and engrossing paperback… perhaps The Memoirs of Cleopatra (Margaret George) or a Lymond novel by Dorothy Dunnett. The first Hornblower book would be a good choice from a nautical point of view, or (better yet) the full set of Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian.
Are you sure I can’t have them all? Dorothy Dunnett then, as it’s years since I last read any.
The six volumes follow the life and career of the charismatic Francis Crawford of Lymond, the younger son of the Crawfords of Culter, members of the landed aristocracy of the Scottish Lowlands. Brought up according to the Renaissance ideal of an educated autodidact, he is a polyglot, knowledgeable in literature, philosophy, mathematics and the sciences, a practitioner of all the martial arts, a spell-binding musician, a talented thespian, and a master strategist with a genius for imaginative tactics.
Two more items?
A stationery set. I insist that counts as one item and will include paper, pens, pencils, ruler, eraser and sharpener. Then I can blog to you about what it’s like sitting on a desert island waiting for somebody to come. I wouldn’t be able to publish my adventure till later, but it would give me something to do. If there are colour pencils in there too, I could draw geckos and beetles, pretending I’m a female version of Stephen Maturin.
How many items is that? Four. I need one more.
A nice big chunky bar of chocolate comes to mind, refusing to be dismissed, especially if I can keep it cool and the ants don’t get to it. I’d eat it slowly while reading the Dorothy Dunnett novel, and the rescue boat would arrive just as I polished off the last piece.
Provided no lives were lost, that would be a good day.
‘Today,’ said Lymond, ‘if you must know, I don’t like living at all. But that’s just immaturity boggling at the sad face of failure. Tomorrow I’ll be bright as a bedbug again.’
― Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights
In my last post I talked about being over-connected by tech, so wasn’t surprised to find the following article in the Scottish Daily Mail:
If these alerts are ignored, the garments will get in touch with a clothing charity and ask to be recycled
In this brave new world that’s to be our future, I can see myself and my clothes falling out *big* time.
If they stalked off to the local charity shop and I had to fetch them home again, they’d be in the dog house for sure. Even worse would be if something I used to own gossiped about me all around town.
It was her over there; I used to be her skirt. She got tired because my label was always digging into her back… like so!… so that was me out on my ear. By the way, she paid £5 less for me than you did. Bwahahahaha.
Doesn’t it just make you want to kick that skanky rag down the stairs?
I found myself wondering if people would be able to buy ‘smart’ teddy bears. They would send you random emails… not too regularly or too frequently… just often enough to keep you guessing.
I was just thinking about you yesterday. I know you’re still alive, because I can hear you walking around the house. It’s cosy inside this bin bag and I get on well with the others, but feel somewhat taken for granted.
Ratzo next to me says he’s thinking of emailing Save the Children. He reckons he might be bought by a nice careful eleven year-old girl, someone who carries him around everywhere, but I said if he’s unlucky he will end up as a dog toy. So I wouldn’t do it.
I think I persuaded him, but you should come and talk to him yourself. He really needs to get out of here soon — I fear for his sanity.
Wait a sec, my phone rang… just off to see who it is.
Love and hugs,
It would be bad enough if you only had a few bears, but if you had a collection of over a dozen bears and they all sat around texting and emailing you, it would drive you to distraction.
What would be even more unbearable would be if some of your bears were wearing clothes, and those decided to start texting and emailing as well.
I’ve been on this bear for three years without a break… he doesn’t even take me off at night, which is truly abysmal. Is there a chance of a nice soothing soak in warm water with a gentle eco fabric conditioner? A jasmine-fragranced one would be perfect.
Pure fantasy, I know; it wouldn’t get that bad. But even if you only had one ‘smart bear’, it would become difficult on a whole other level. Normally, when you have a bear, you have your own idea of his character… his likes, dislikes and the kind of conversations he would have with you. It would definitely jar if he was sending emails that sounded nothing like your idea of him.
Take, for instance, the Little Witness.
He and I like all the same things, of course. We appreciate our iPad a little too much. We enjoy the games we play on it — such as Trolls vs Vikings — and are happy when Inspector Montalbano brightens the TV. We have all the time in the world for each other, and our spats and arguments are few.
I wouldn’t be happy if he took to sending emails that clashed with my picture of him.
I was looking on Amazon just now and ordered a 7″ Kindle Fire. It’s a better tablet than that over-priced Apple rubbish you have. Incidentally, we watch too much TV and lie in bed too long — it’s time we started going for some nice long walks in the early morning air. If we haven’t made it to the top of yonder hill by noon tomorrow, I will contact the local gym and book a life membership with your credit card. You don’t need to worry about the expense, as I suspect you don’t have much life left anyway, so the membership will soon expire.
I’m sorry if you don’t like me lecturing you… it’s all for your own good. The boffins at the EU told me to keep an eye on you.
It would be the end of a beautiful friendship.
I recently listed a few pestilences of modern life in my diary.
(1) Corporate arrogance and technology in general… lack of customizability and options; the forced pace of progression (whether real or artificial). Products becoming obsolete long before they’ve actually broken down or outlived their usefulness. I can’t afford to keep updating or subscribing to everything. Things aren’t always matching up so that everything works together at the same time… like camera, different kinds of software, the hardware, scanner, printer… there’s always something that’s not able to use something else because it’s too old. Everything and everybody is supposed to be seamlessly connected, but it’s not working out that way. I’m starting to ask myself why I bother — I’d like to dump all of this stuff and just knit, tend my plants, watch a few DVDs and read paperbacks!
(2) Apps (and subscription software). Sometimes a project is interrupted (temporarily or permanently) because the way the app works changed in an update. It’s not progress to have goal posts constantly moved or options taken away.
(3) Keeping everything in the cloud. Huge security risk. And what happens when we lose connection?
(4) An increasing number of ads. It’s reached an impossible level. It doesn’t help when a website doesn’t let you zoom in on the text… their print is too small and my eyesight is not what it was.
(5) Increasing number of photos, podcasts and embedded videos. When an online news article is packed with them, you have to scroll cautiously to get past these obstacles to the next little dollop of text without losing your place… sometimes needing to scroll slightly back because something on the page changed and pushed all the text away. Some videos I’m able to watch, but a few aren’t captioned, or are captioned poorly. It’s frustrating when everyone’s saying how great a video is, but you don’t know what it’s about.
For poorly captioned videos, I’m thinking mostly of YouTube type captions — automatic? I’d rather have them than nothing, but they are hard to follow because, for instance, ‘Brexit’ becomes ‘breaks it’ or ‘breakfast’, and UKIP becomes ‘you kept’. I can barely remember what was said by the end, whereas I have a clearer grasp of content if I read an article or transcript. I don’t know if others find the same? Possibly too much of my concentration is taken up with decoding the captions — it’s as though there’s a filter between me and the information.
Earlier tonight I found the following two articles, both of which are food for thought. They reminded me of the grumbles listed above. Life doesn’t seem richer or smoother — instead it’s becoming more frustrating and not a little frightening.
In Scotland yesterday it was unusually hot. The wind here is generally cool or cold on your skin, but for once it was like a tropical bath. Our bus stopped for a small group of people who took their time buying tickets. The sun burning through the windows became intense. Heatstroke started to seem like a real possibility, and when we finally got moving again, fresh air circulated through the bus and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. I didn’t think we could take many such hold-ups.
When we got to town, there were queues in shops where there are normally few people; tourists and locals ‘enjoying’ a day out. It’s odd when you think about it — shopping is the least fun thing to do when you’d rather sit in the shade with an ice lolly.
According to weather reports we were heading for thunderstorms, so it wasn’t surprising when the sky started lighting up that night. At 2 a.m. when everyone was in bed, the menace was profound… ancient forces were stalking the land. Like mice, we lay quiet in our lonely burrows, hoping to escape the attention of something much bigger than us.
Lamp switched off; curtains closed; all I could see was the repeated repulsing of outer darkness. A picture formed in my mind of houses huddled across the curve of the earth. Nothing dared go abroad while the storm stepped overhead with stately imperiousness. It was all very old and powerful, and I could imagine dinosaurs in the streets and in open fields, hoary heads swinging, on the hunt for prey.
In the midst of all this I started worrying about the sunflower.
It normally sits in the kitchen window but was crawling with aphids. I didn’t want the little horrors to spread to my chillis, so put the sunflower out for the night. Standing on the doorstep, I belatedly remembered the snails, and put the pot on the top shelf of a tall garden what-not which was standing beside the back door. Above my head, the sunflower stabbed the night with its loathsome burden of greenfly.
Now, in my darkened room, I had visions of this slender green rod attracting lightning. The aphids would burn up, which would be great… but, less happily, so would the sunflower. I could get up and move it to ground level, but told myself not to be so stupid. After all, the house is taller than the sunflower… if there’s any stray lightning around, it’s more likely to hit the roof.
Being all too aware of aforementioned ancient forces, you have no wish to stir out of bed. I didn’t want to be found on the doorstep the next morning as a small pile of ash covered in slime trails, so the sunflower would have to take its chances.
Lying in bed, not sleeping, you still worry.
The cats were indoors and in their beds, probably as glad about that as I was. Was everything unplugged? I reassured myself I was unlikely to be zapped and there was nothing I could do to make it less likely, while probably a lot I could do to make it more likely… then was disturbed by a memory. Something happened on a night like this years ago.
That other night, I lay awake with frequent flashes of lightning punctuating the darkness. The rain came down so hard it bounced off the tarmac. Suddenly there was a crash, causing me to leap up and run around to see if anything had blown up. It wasn’t till next day I found the aerial booster had stopped working, though the TV itself was fine! Ha.
I said there was a crash that night, but it’s not that simple. I’m profoundly deaf. I only know I started to my feet all of a sudden, and it wasn’t out of panic… it was because some internal alert had gone off abruptly, as yours would if there was a loud bang in your house.
Fortunately last night was uneventful. It rained, the sunflower fell off its perch and the aphids disappeared. There was thunder I couldn’t hear, which lacks all drama — yet I knew something big had passed.
It can be a real problem, anger. It makes me angry just thinking how nice life could be if nobody got angry. Who decided we should get angry, and what’s the purpose of it?
You won’t get any answers to that here, because I hate being angry. My nice smooth life turns into one with rocks, clouds and anything else wet, dark or bumpy. I have unpleasant decisions to make and ruffled feelings to soothe. What is the real issue? Should I protest? Carry on breezily? Go silent?
I’m angry tonight, yet not furious. I’m not throwing things or firing off angry emails. I’m not stamping or slamming doors. On the floor beside my bed there’s a book on Mindfulness. I tried to read it a few weeks ago, and failed. Now here I am feeling angry about something, and I bet that book would have some tips. Like, perhaps, being responsible for my own emotions? Thinking of nothing else but the now, of my breath going in and out?
I couldn’t get far with the book, but keep thinking I could start again when feeling calmer. The same thing would probably happen, though — I’d get annoyed, start flipping rapidly through the pages, and finally shut the book and put it down. As always, there’s a core idea that’s sound, but we like to overdo things, take them to extremes and expect miracles to happen. It’s not good.
“It’s impossible to be furious when lying down,” I’ve been told. Well, I should sleep but don’t feel easy in my mind. The reason being there’s a large spider with one foot on the valance. If it was just any spider, I wouldn’t pay attention, but it’s *this* spider. It has a known track record. Twice already I found it lolling in bed with the Little Witness. I put it out on the landing last night, and tonight it was back. I carefully removed it with an old hardback copy of Still Glides The Stream by Flora Thompson, and when I turned round, it had glided off the book and was over by the bed again. I sense it’s waiting for me to turn the light out.
It’s not that I’m scared of spiders. I just don’t pick them up with bare hands, and get a little freaked if one is too intent on me or something I have. It’s worse when it’s in plain sight for ages then suddenly disappears. You wonder if it has disappeared further away… or much closer?
I considered dropping the Mindfulness book on it, then felt ashamed. Forever after, I’d be haunted by its ghost every time I tried to meditate. OK, I don’t think I’ll ever meditate, but the mere word ‘mindfulness’ would put me in mind of myself battering the wee soul to death with a shiny yellow book.
If I went to sleep now, I would worry about where it was, throwing my mind out to every corner of my bed to explore every crease and shadow, and my toes would itch. Much more effective than standard mindfulness at distracting me from my anger, but I think I’d rather be angry…
If we were having coffee, you would have a red cat on your knee and a notebook to write on, and we would be writing notes back and forth. Probably we would be fighting over the black cat pen — who had it last?? I thought you had your own pen!! Peeve.
There would be a fresh shower of rain streaming down the windows, as it’s pretty wet these days… windows to front and back, so you would see a quiet street out the front and a hedge at the back with a lot of big trees. The pigeons would sit in the trees and look at you. They are always there, and sometimes a grey squirrel too.
Presumably you would be writing something like, “Well, this is nice, isn’t it, but a bit puzzling. How did I come to be here?”
I would take the cat pen and reply, “I think it’s my fault. I decided to try this hashtag thing — weekendcoffeeshare — without having a clue how hashtags actually work. I thought it would bring bloggers to my page, not here to have coffee with me. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to meet you, but I do hope you will excuse the mess…”
And you would write, “Oh, the mess is fine. Just don’t do it again, that’s all! I am not quite sure how I’m going to get back now. Thingy will be wondering where I disappeared to.”
I would say, “I don’t know. If you know how to work hashtags, it might be the way home for you?”
And you would say, “Sorry, I don’t know a thing about hashtags. Never use them.”
There would be an awkward silence, then the red cat (Delilah) would stretch happily and dig her claws in, as she does love having someone new to
torture sit on.
You would say, in a relenting tone of scribble, “Since I am here, I’ve often wondered what you really look like behind that eskimo bear,” and I would say, “Well, as you see… there’s no eskimo bear! It’s upstairs, just sleeping.”
“Oh,” you would say, and “I guess you don’t look like an eskimo bear.”
And I would say, “You don’t look how I imagined, either.”
“What, doesn’t my picture look like me?”
“Noooooo…. you look…. more real.”
After another silence, you would say, “Don’t you think that eskimo bear photo is a bit outdated? You’ve had it since you first began blogging in 2005 or whenever. Now it looks kind of soft and old.”
I would start having a panic attack at the thought of just how old the bear is, the camera it was photographed with and the blog, and you hastily say, “Don’t worry! It’s all good.”
“OK,” I’d say. “Let me just get my iPad. Where did you say you lived again? I’ll look up the train times. Where?? OK… PLANE times. Oh, and take the bear with you, just as a souvenir. I feel the need for a brand new profile picture…”
I was going upstairs with an armful of stuff when suddenly the bluetooth keyboard and the iPad rushed together down the stairs. I didn’t see the keyboard fall, and it landed off to the side near the letterbox, but as I watched in horror, the iPad cartwheeled merrily from step to step, gathering speed. When the smart cover flew open, the screen flared out briefly, then the iPad smacked against the cupboard at the foot of the stairs… and all went dark.
In the ominous pause, my mother came out of the sitting room and stared at the still figure lying at her feet, some distance from me at the top of the stairs. Giggling in an embarrassed way, I started down.
I’m sure the iPad’s life flashed before its eyes when it was falling, but what flashed before mine was the price of a new one. Fortunately there was no damage — both machines were intact and started working immediately. In fact the lock screen was waiting blandly for me as soon as I lifted the cover.
It’s an old iPad. Yesterday I was trying to update it to iOS 9.3 and it kept telling me it couldn’t verify because I wasn’t online. I found an article explaining that some older mobiles were shutting out their users after updating, so Apple has temporarily withheld the release from all elderly devices.
That explains why the red flag suddenly winked out on my Settings icon a couple of days back. I thought that was odd — it was as though someone had been there… I almost felt the wind of his passing. The ‘please update’ nagging boxes kept appearing, though.
Well, it may be an old iPad that has had its share of ‘ups and downs’, but I’m not yet ready to pay the price of a brand new one, whatever way it gets ‘bricked’.
And after all
You’re my wonderwall
Daily Post prompt: price.
He sits with his chin on the iPad tray, a game of Risk he will sometimes play; protests my paintings are never quite right, while rolling his eyes at the words I type.
Thoughts from my diary swim past his eyes, mistakes in my emails cause him to cry, and when I’m drafting posts for my blog, with a shake of his head he gustily sighs.
When trawling the ‘net I turn up odd sites on the evils of iCloud or nasty tick bites. He forbids me to believe all that I’ve read — opens eyes wide, says “no no no!” But when ignored so that all falls on my head, this little witness… no, he does not go. Sitting up close, he soothes my distress; says “yes, I forgive… now it’s time to rest.”
Drift to a land of shadowsaurs; they’re so big they eat mountains whole; roaring rivers burst their banks and all past your house tsunamis roll. When you rush to stare from the door, it’s deathly quiet — the land is no more. The moonlight is bright and so is the scene but it’s the single worst thing you’ve ever seen. You bound up the stairs, hurting your arm, but no one is left to raise the alarm. With a gasp you wake in the cold light that’s dawning to tell him bad dreams that seem like a warning.
“Listen,” he says, with a disdainful look, “You are far better off with a good fiction book. You should read about people in fantasy worlds as far from the stars as a cold snowball hurled. Dragons and unicorns suffer no ticks, while evil cloud nets are eventually bricked; real life then has no cause to intrude — the chatter of millions you completely exclude.”
Oh, you might think you’re well enough off; when you get in a twist he’s not there to scoff! But with all of your posts that I read every day, he’s a witness to my life and yours also…