ON OUTLIVING THE CATS

I don’t find writing difficult nowadays – I just kind of do it. Sometimes I ‘talk’ straight onto the screen. Luckily I can touch type very, very fast; the only advantage of a lifetime’s incarceration in office blocks. Sometimes for preference I write the old-fashioned way, in pencil on yellow paper – the Rough and then the Smooth. Then I type it, which I suppose is Smooth 2, or the Edit. Even editing – it’s as if some machine takes over. Although it’s a complex task I seem to be able to do it the way those giant Italian robots make cars and am often starting to write the next piece in my head while I am doing it.

I’ve been reading a chapter in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (Anderson, Murphy, Troyer) – about something they call Cognitive Engagement. Now in spite of being older I’m not, as yet, impaired. If you don’t believe me I suggest you read posts (1), (2) and (3) EL DESDICHADO. Nerdy and boring – hmmm, yes – unless you happen to have a thing about Nerval and El Desdichado. Sorry, I just had to get him/them out of my system. Unfortunately he/they aren’t entirely disparu yet. Post (4) – the last, I promise – exists in rough but has yet to be typed. Impaired, no – but I watched it happening to Mum.

It was when the bookmark stopped moving. She had always liked to read: great seafaring blockbusters by Patrick O’Brian; humungous historicals by Diana Gabaldon and Philippa Gregory. I do enjoy a good historical novel every now and then, and am a sucker for historical movies especially if, as they usually do, they contain Alan Rickman, but on the whole our tastes are not much alike. However, she always read and I always knew what to get her for birthdays and Christmas. Plus, a doddle to wrap because square. Always buy square presents.

But then the bookmark stopped moving. Week after week, each time I visited, it would be stuck in the same position, in the same book, on the same table. There was always a good excuse – tendency to keep nodding off in the evenings, busy in the garden, jigsaws to finish. Except the jigsaws weren’t getting finished either. Of all the problems, present and to come, this should be the one that impacts on me the least. After all, Mum’s not reading doesn’t take up any of my time; it doesn’t stress me out; it doesn’t require patience, phone calls to be made, light bulbs to be changed or official ‘bumf’ to be deciphered. Nothing to be done about it at all, but it was one of the things we shared, and it makes me sad.

This is one reason for writing the Blog. Writing, I think, comes under the heading of Cognitive Engagement – as do reading, playing chess, learning languages and Sudoku. Chess and Sudoku are out, I’m afraid. Wrong sort of brain.

Cognitive Engagement is one of those Very Important Things like eating well, doing lots of healthy exercise, volunteering in charity shops and engaging in relentless social activity (none of which I do) that might delay the onset of the dreaded D-word. Well, I’ve read and written all my life – so maybe I just need to carry on doing that.

Because, you see, I must outlive the cats. Furthermore I must remain compos mentis so that I can remain with the cats and be capable of looking after them. There are so many: who would have them if I were to lose the plot? Most of them nobody wanted in the first place – that’s how they came to me. I’m not too fussed about staying alive. Dying – frightened to death of that, like most people – but hanging about for ever and a day on this forgotten outpost of the Vogon Empire for no particular reason – not bothered.

But I must outlive the cats. To this end I have invented a number of projects, and one of them is this Blog. More of the others in a separate post.

I have given up on the idea of anyone actually buying anything I have written. I did for quite a while have a go at self-publishing e-books under a pseudonym after months teaching myself to ‘build’ them, to master the dreaded Clickable Table of Contents and even design my own covers. All of this was most certainly Cognitively Engaging but the books didn’t, and don’t, sell. Well, maybe one a month, and then I suspect someone’s child has pressed the Buy button by accident. I know the thing is to be out there on Facebook and Twitter and, blagging, bragging, schmoozing, wheedling, networking and whatever, but it’s just not me. So I started this website so as to have somewhere to collect all the old stuff – the Writer’s Group homework, the University writing course assignments, the anguished poetry of my youth, the … and to have Someone to write to.

Now, I know you’re not really Someone, more of an amorphous collection of folks who may or may not be reading my Blog at any one time in this or that part of the world – but the fact that you might be reading – perhaps not today or tomorrow but the day after – is enough to keep me writing. Writing is something absorbing to do with my time. It’s talking to somebody. It is, as Anderson, Murphy & Troyer put it, ‘actively using your thinking skills in a way that requires effort’. The writing may not nowadays cost me a great deal of effort; however the thinking and imagining that leads up to writing does. I think and imagine as I wander around the house, as I wash up, as I feed and muck out the cats, as I drive the car and often as I appear to be listening to other people. Here inside, ‘I’ is in constant communication with ‘Me’, observing, comparing notes, wittering, proposing ideas and rejecting them. ‘I’ and ‘Me’ often converse quite heatedly, even tearfully but, thank the Lord, silently.

I learnt that lesson when I was six.

Well now, Norton Securities has decided my disk requires optimization in order to continue running efficiently…

Que?

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