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When our internet went down a few weeks ago I was reminded of the time my sister’s cat Mitsi had to stay at the vet overnight to have her fluff balls taken out. It’s the waiting that gets you. The anxiety was almost exactly the same, only without all the wringing of hands and pacing up and down. There was none of that when Mitsi had her fluff balls removed. C’mon, she was just a cat.
However much our server’s representative tried to reassure me we would be back on the net in forty-eight hours I couldn’t be mollified. How would she know how long it would take? She was phoning from Colombia. It was 3.00am on Sunday morning over there. And we all know what they get up to on Saturday nights. In a move to keep clients on the brink of tearing their hair out, Latin America has become Spain’s India for call centres. Trying to allow for the time difference set my brain whirring out of control.
A full three days passed before a telephonic technician stepped out of the room where our router was located to announce the operation had been a total success! Angelica and I fell into each others arms weeping with joy. We were connected again. I could’ve kissed the techno on the lips had he not been a heavy smoker.
You can imagine my disappointment the following week when the laptop decided to stage a nervous breakdown. All of a sudden, the keyboard began displaying symptoms of acute dyslexia. Not being an expert at computers and stuff, my first thought was that it must be another case of fluff balls. Somehow, they’d got wedged under the keys. Out of the keys still functioning few produced actual words that made any sense. It was like trying to have a conversation with my nephew after a night on the jungle juice. I couldn’t even tap in my password to see if my handful of true followers cared about my predicament.
Just like Christmas turkey and heroin withdrawal, cyber cold turkey can last for days. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat wondering if Gandharaj in Andhra Pradesh has posted something new and exciting on his fashion blog.
But the good side of not having a computer meant that I was able to experience the pleasure of writing by hand again. When I began my travels around Turkey, in the mid to late 1980s, I started to keep a diary in the hope I might become a professional travel journalist for a national daily, which I eventually did for a couple of months in 1999. It didn’t leave me much time to travel. From 1984 to 2012 I wrote around 600 words in my diary almost every single day. Not much seems to have happened after Friday, March 22nd in 2013, as most of the pages have been left blank. Anyhow, I stopped.
Angelica is giving me a diary for Christmas this year, so I hope to take it up again. Kind of spoils the element of surprise though; telling me before Christmas.
Anyway, on with expanding the theme. Cogitating deeper on the calligraphic arts, I got to wondering how many schoolchildren are capable of writing by hand for long periods nowadays. Back in my day, by the age of seven, we’d learned to dip a pen nib into an inkpot without tipping it over. At seven and a half, or so, we’d mastered the art of scraping and scrawling our full names in a wobbly line across a piece of paper. The tricky bit was doing it without splodging ink all over the shop. Took me a while, I can tell you. For about three years I was known as Inky because of my blue fingers, the blue stains on my shirt and blue smears round my mouth. The ones round my mouth were not from drinking the stuff, I hasten to add, but from chewing a pen end dribbling ink, while in deep concentration. But I got there in the end.
I have the strong suspicion there are not so many schoolchildren aged seven and a half, or thereabouts, as skilful at wielding a fully-loaded nib as I was at their age. I’m sure most reputable anthropologists and world-renowned orthopaedists will support me when I say the main problem is that their tiny little fingers have evolved into digits for pressing buttons, which are incapable of performing the more sophisticated manoeuvres required for legible handwriting. Of course, without wanting to appear patronising or condescending, I fully understand that stunted stubs able to jab and poke are ideally suited for twitting, apping and obtaining tasty snacks and fizzy drinks from vending machines in a world where such skills have become essential for survival.
But just say the internet goes down for a much longer period, like three days, for instance, how will they cope then? What will they do for entertainment? Tapping your fingers on a table top could be amusing for an hour, I suppose. And that puts me in mind of my Norwegian uncle. He could tap out some amazing rhythms on the dining room table, but they weren’t able to keep us entertained for an entire evening. As for sending messages to friends, finger-tapping is fine if your house is connected to a telegraph wire and you know Morse code, but then you have to have someone at the other end of the telegraph wire equipped with the same skills and a Morse key.
To get back to the subject, which was something to do with Mitsi and her fluff balls, I think. If they can’t cough them up, like they normally do, the vet has to slice them open to get them out. That’s what you get for spending half your life licking yourself.
Well, Happy Christmas, then.
For more on cats licking themselves click: Old Miguel and the Cat
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