I woke at 6.00 and thought – don’t read, it will only clutter whatever passes for your mind. The research demonstrating that children are slowed in their first lesson s if they have been watching tv before they go to school didn’t surprise me – I wonder if their brains are in the process of adaptation to the omnipresence of the phone … my brain has normal brakes, – whoops, normal ? A word to be used with extraordinary care. Normal tissue, yes. Normal disease path, yes. Normal behaviour – what is normal for you . Normal for me is if I start to think about something else before I think about this, I feel as if I have to clear a muzzy screen. A week without the computer … let’s do this very quietly, less for it than for me. The most sophisticated thing produces very primitive response.
When I switched on the computer at 7.30 on the morning of Monday 2 November, I sent some emails and it switched itself off. It hadn’t done that before. I switched it on again and smoke billowed from the machine. I switched everything off, noticed the acrid smell and opened the window – hardly a hardship, it’s clammily mild. And then I call the computer wrangler (CW).
And what was it like, a week without a computer ? Suspended. I don’t get off on spending money if I don’t have to – but I had no option. The CW and I had discussed replacing the tired old computer before and delayed it a bit longer with a new keyboard and screen but this was unarguable. Then there was the small question of what could be saved. I tried not to think about it.
I cleaned the silver which means I cleaned the three things that are silver (jam spoon, teaspoons, small container) and washed the rest of the cutlery box. I engaged with the beeswax the master carpenter who fitted the wood top in my kitchen assured me was the best – it may yet be. I read when I could, that is to say, in sections because the book I was reading was formidable.
CW and I bought the machine and the essentials. Then the printer wasn’t compatible. We located that and I went back to buy it. And yesterday he installed that, Windows 10 and showed me the basics.
I read history at 4.00 am when I can’t sleep. History is always best for my unquiet mind. I can’t do anything about it, it’s done. Though I am still not convinced by the notion that the medieval Thames was less conducive to trade than the Seine.
I kept looking at the papers and the tv news and searching for something to strike a spark to the dry wood of my mind. Russia ? Athletics ? Olympics ? Coe?? The PM doing a buck and wing over the EU ? I was interested that Centre Parks had commissioned a small survey which showed that mobile phones and other devices lower happiness and lead to fewer happy memories of shared time with families and friends. I was delighted that Oklahoma City, one of America’s most overweight, had declared war on fat, involved the fast food companies (with some success), built new exercise and fresh air type facilities including a white water course to Olympic standard (and imported a Scottish Olympian to run it). These are not vain promises, they’ve been working at this for five or six years and have made some headway, everybody from the mayor on down.
However it does seem that during a week in suspension, the world goes on spinning and unless there is something that grabs your attention, the impression you form is that everybody else feels much the same.
I am immensely grateful to the friends who cheered me on (only they know what a terrible state I get into): to the CW, a man of practical help and admirable manner: for having had enough money to pay for this instead of just put it on a card and pray – though I would have done if I had had to: but really my thoughts this week are with a book I never expected to read but I was given and was transfixed by, by a story I didn’t know, written in a way I couldn’t imagine. I may never make it to see this that or the other work of art which suggests they have not spoken to me as viscerally as this book did. God bless the paperback, I have a work of art in my home : The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.