Angel Delight, concluded

Pete had never heard of a new router somehow managing to reset a person’s home page, but that was what it seemed to have done. Instead of Google, Hot Babes popped up on his screen. Although…

Well she was hot enough, he supposed – blonde, blue-eyed, a shapely figure from what you could see of it beneath that white, feathery outfit. Too much of the feathers, he thought, and not enough flesh. It was hardly worth the subscription, this site. And she wasn’t… she wasn’t behaving like a Hot Babe usually did – none of suggestive pouting, the secretive smiles, no writhing… And where was the bed? The whole set looked a bit weird compared to normal. Instead of a boudoir type thing, this blonde babe seemed to be in an office, working on a computer not so very different from his own. She seemed absorbed in whatever she was studying on that screen, didn’t even look up though she must have known he was there. Some little light must have gone on.

At last the webchat box came up. Ah, that was more like it.

Helo gorjus! Pete typed, with one cigarette-stained forefinger. And wot is yr name?

The girl looked up then. He wasn’t using the webcam but he could have sworn she could see him. An expression which might or might not have been distaste flitted across her face, to be replaced by one of neutral efficiency. Must be some sort of role-play, Pete thought: a variation on the one where there was a nurse in a very short, starched white uniform which would conveniently get removed, in instalments. Sometimes the one fee covered all. Sometimes the girl would pause and demand extra in bitcoin before she took off the rest. When were those feathers going to start falling? He hoped she wasn’t going to want the extra. Pete had never really understood bitcoin, and couldn’t be bothered to find out. She was taking her own sweet time about replying.

Nameless, she replied, eventually. And your name please?  All this was beginning to unnerve Pete. His head was beginning to thump again. Why hadn’t Google come up? What was this?

Pete.

Pete short for Peter? Peter what?

Hey, liten up babe…

Surname now, please, and any middle names. Reluctantly, he typed in the information. Surely they didn’t usually ask for surnames? It was getting weirder by the minute but he couldn’t seem to unglue his hands from the keyboard.

Nameless is typing…

Nameless is typing…

The girl in the feathers appeared to be looking down a list of names, then second list of names. As she typed, he spotted something. There was something on the desk beside her. It moved… it was alive. A small, black, silky creature that looked very much like a cat. It came closer and bent to rub its head against her ear. Nameless reached up a slender, well-manicured hand to acknowledge the affectionate greeting. Then it walked right across her keyboard and for a second or two was looking straight out of the screen. What was it about that cat? Something familiar…

Nameless is…

You do not appear on my database, Mr Peter.

Yr wot?

You do not feature on any of my lists, Mr Peter. I believe the most helpful course of action would be to transfer you to a colleague.

Wot colleeg?

A colleague in different department. Transferring you now.

Hang on, Nameless. Cum bak hear!!

But another face had appeared on the screen. This time it was a middle-aged man in a very dirty singlet. He was in the process of mopping a sweaty, soot-smeared brow with what might once, many aeons ago, have been a white handkerchief.

What can I do for you tonight, mate?

Tonite? Iss no even diner tim hear!

Different time zone, matey. Different everything. Black as the night and fiery as a furnace, hahaha. Name?

Pete.

Pete what?

Jus went thru all that with the other one.

Well just go thru it again, eh, Pete? Humour me. Surname and any middle names? Ah, here you are. I found you on my Little List. Hmmm…nice one! No fewer than three pitchforks against your name, Pete. You’ll be a splendid addition. Come on down, mate…

Down were?

Down here of course, matey. Come a little closer to the screen, that’s right. It won’t hurt much I promise you.

WOT wont hurt much?

Just a little closer to the screen, that’s it.

And a little closer…

Featured Image: Black angel kitten cat – I miss you too 3: Cyra R Cancel, Florida

Angel Delight, continued

The doorbell-leaner was the postman, with a flattish cardboard package. “Looks like a new router maybe, Pete,” he said. For a moment, still trying to prise his eyelids open and squinting against the light, Pete squinted suspiciously at the man’s face, wondered how a postman knew his name. Then it came to him – Jerry. They’d been at school together, once, a long time ago. Jerry: quiet and dull. Wouldn’t say boo to a goose. No real challenge. Apart from the occasional routine beating for the purposes of extracting cash Pete had hardly noticed him. The loser had never had much worth stealing, anyway.

Jerry was sweating and obviously ill-at-ease. I’d sock you one in the eye just for old times’ sake, you fat git, thought Pete. Lucky for you I don’t feel up to it this morning.

Jerry cleared his throat. ‘That cat, Pete…’

What cat, Jerry?’

‘The little black one.’

‘I ain’t seen no cat, Jerry.’

‘Oh, I see, only…. only if you had seen it I was going to offer to take it off your hands, like. I’m fond of cats, see, Pete, and… well, I expect you’ve got enough on your hands, what with the wife…’

‘And what about my wife?’ he asked, pushing a bleary, unshaven face into Jerry’s and breathing stale alcohol. Jerry took a step back, and then another.

‘Oh, well nothing really, but… the cat, Pete. Were you looking to re-home it maybe? Only I’d be glad to take it off your hands, like.  It’s just that one or two of the neighbours… the RSPCA… I didn’t want you to get into trouble, Pete. I just thought it might be a help if I could take that little cat off…’

Pete glanced sideways at the bloodied heap of fur on the far side of his debris-strewn living room.

‘Get lost,’ he snarled, and slammed the front door.

Pete watched from the side panel as his former classmate shuffled off up the garden path, and then down the neighbours’ path, edging sideways between a cast off plastic go-cart and a heap of old wooden pallets, his postman’s sack hunched over his shoulder. He looked miserable.

‘Dammit,’ thought Pete, and went through to the kitchen for a black sack. Whose wheelie bin am I going to dump it in?

*

When he got back he engineered some space amongst a pile of grubby, union jack scatter cushions and watched some TV; then, catching sight of the remains of a take-away curry mouldering on the coffee table in front of him, he rushed out and threw up in the sink. Feeling a bit better, he made himself a mug of black coffee and watched some more TV. Then the long, flat parcel caught his eye – his new router. Better fix that thing up before he started into the booze again, he supposed. He was looking forward to visiting that new gaming site they’d been advertising, as soon as the computer was up and running again. And then there was Hot Babes. He hadn’t had a look in on those Babes for a while.

Seized by a sudden impatience to get a tedious task out of the way Pete muted the TV, ripped open the cardboard box, tossed the instructions to one side and discovered that he was just about sober enough, by now, to plug in a few wires. He pressed the button on the top of the router and a promising blue light came on – yay! Then he hit the power button on his computer and waited for Google to come up. But it didn’t.

Something else did.

Featured Image: Tuxedo angel cat with peace dove heaven stained glass window: Cyra R Cancel, Florida

Angel Delight

The story behind the story?

As always, miscellaneous. Late last night I thought, ‘I do believe I will try one of those six bottles of speciality, fruity-type beer I bought myself for Christmas’. I promise I only drank one bottle, in fact I drink so rarely nowadays that I’d had to buy a bottle-opener to go with it. Anyway, it was fruity, and a bit strange, and I woke at three in the morning sharing a fur-splotched pillow with Arthur (a black cat) who was snoring. No headache just a slight sense of confusion.

The Miseries arrived with a whoosh. I started thinking about Mum in that hospital bed, not ‘mobilising’ as they had so confidently predicted, not eating, not drinking, hardly responding. I was thinking how hard it was to live with the undead, the drowning, and how at some point you had to let them sink away down and out of sight, like Kate Winslet in that film ‘Titanic’. But how do you loosen your grip on the last of  your whole-life relationships? Mum has, with the best of intentions, been driving me round the bend my whole life and yet now I find I can’t imagine life without her.

And then – with that lightning switch you can only manage at three in the morning – I found myself worrying about the new broadband router instead. Would the little brown box arrive tomorrow as scheduled? Would I be able to sort out all those little plugs and wires and get it working? No doubt it would mean yet another stressful, circular call to a surly individual, barely able to speak English in a call centre half way round the globe.

At this point I gave up and got up. Stumbling downstairs I made myself a cup of builders’ tea, wrapped the spare dressing-gown round my knees to cut out the draught from the front door and turned on the TV. Mostly it was teleshopping but I managed to find something – was it Lucy Worsley wittering on about the six wives of Henry VIII? Or maybe she was the night before. Maybe last night it was endlessly-looped repeats of the unbearable carnage in Aleppo and the temporary ceasefire gone west again. The day ahead was promising to be a very, very bad one indeed, unless I could manage to write something.

And then I thought, supposing you were to get your new broadband router, plug all the bits and pieces in and get the all those little lights flashing? Something or someone materialises on your computer screen: but very much not the something or someone you had been expecting…

ANGEL DELIGHT

Two things woke Pete – bright mid-morning sun hitting his eyelids because he had forgotten to close the curtains last night, and some stupid bastard leaning on the doorbell. He squeezed his throbbing eyes tighter shut but could not shut his ears. However long he waited the ringing would not stop. He moved slightly and fell off the sofa, landing in the cold remains of a pepperoni pizza and knocking over a half-empty beer-can full of cigarette butts. Breakfast TV had already finished. They were on to the Business Program.

‘All right, all right!’ he screamed, and then wished he hadn’t. His skull hurt, and unknown creatures whistled, shrieked and reverberated inside it like bats in a cave. How much had he drunk, for God’s sake?

The cat got in his way as he staggered towards the door. He kicked out at it with his still-booted foot, not really expecting it to connect with the animal’s scrawny frame, but it did connect and the cat cried out and fell down. How long since he had fed that thing? Pete couldn’t recall. Why had it even persisted in hanging around? It wasn’t even his. Shelley had taken the kid but not the kid’s cat when she ran off to that feminist shelter place. Looked like he’d done for it this time, anyway – it wasn’t getting up.

The front door seemed unusually far from the sofa. That sun needed a dimmer switch. There wasn’t room on the carpet for him to tread without treading something underfoot: everywhere, clothes, magazines, bottles and cold, greasy take-away food. Bile rose in his throat.

‘I will never eat again,’ he told himself. Not realising it was true.

To be continued…

Angel Delight, continued

Angel Delight, concluded

Featured Image: Black Angel Cat – Green Eyes 2: Cyra R Cancel, Florida

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do…

You can either make people feel better about themselves, or you can make them feel worse. Some people excel at the former, some at the latter.

About six years my then-desktop-computer was clanking and spluttering its way to the end of its life. My then-computer-engineer broke the bad news and advised me to buy a new one. So I did. For me it was a huge expenditure, but I was so kind of involved with the computer, for email, for surfing the jolly old internet, and for writing my endless bits and pieces that I decided to go ahead. I went to one of those computer warehouse places; some nice lady in a blue suit came out, as if by magic, from wherever she had been lurking, and sold me one.

You see, I know about as much about computers as I do about TVs and cars. To me a TV is a box that lights up and brings me news of the outside world and the occasional half hour of entertainment. I do not know what is inside a television. It runs on electricity, that’s all I know. Similarly, a motor-car is a box with a steering wheel that takes me wherever I need to go and helps me lift and carry a lot of stuff. I would be lost without my car but I have very little idea what’s inside her. She runs on petrol, that’s all I know. And a computer is another box, usually black. I would be lost without it but have no idea what’s inside it. Furthermore, I have very little idea how the programmes it runs are put together. Something to do with zeros and ones. Terribly logical. Not my scene.

So, I was forced to act upon the recommendation of the nice lady in the blue suit. I was at her mercy. The computer cost me a lot of money, but at the end of the day it worked, it looked impressively big and black and shiny, and with any luck it wouldn’t make with the coughing and spluttering for many, many years.

When my then-computer-engineer saw it he stared at it, speechless. Then what I can only describe as a restrained explosion. What did I need such a mega-machine for? Did I have any idea how many mega-whatsits it contained? Why, I could… do this… and that… and… (I can’t even remember what all the this’s and that’s were – probably streaming fifteen movies simultaneously whilst calculating the Meaning of Life). I laughed it off at the time, but I felt really bad about my Computer Blunder, and have continued to feel really bad about it at intervals ever since.

How could I have been so foolish? What would a middle-aged woman want with this (I now discovered) hideously expensive Ferrari of a computer? What would a doddery old dear like me be doing with this Stephen Hawking of a computer, this HAL 9000, this…? Unbeknown to me I had been fooled into purchasing something Albert Einstein might have used, if he’d been born a bit later, and all I needed it for was word-processing, a bit of surfing, a bit of email and some internet purchases. I felt embarrassed. I felt bad.

Recently my now-computer-engineer came and took the humiliating purchase away with him and brought it back with Windows 10 installed. He had apparently rebuilt it. Rebuilding is another one of those mysteries. I was so pleased with his handiwork, so relieved that this was one fearsome task I wouldn’t have to attempt on my own, that I became quite confiding. I told him the story of having bought the computer, and the silly mistake I had made.

He looked at me, aghast. But don’t you see, he said, in buying this computer you have future-proofed yourself. This computer has enough memory to take any programme they are ever likely to invent for it. You will probably never need to buy another one. And then he said:

He was probably jealous.

And in that moment one weight at least fell from my shoulders. I had not accidentally done the wrong thing in purchasing a machine more sophisticated than anyone of my advanced age, inferior gender and limited intellect could possibly have a use for. No, I had accidentally future-proofed myself!

Things don’t go right for me very often. Life’s pleasures are small and increasingly infrequent: but this, I do believe, was one of them.

THE ROBES OF WIZARDESSES

I’ve just been dipping into an ancient blog which I was posting into from 26th of April 2003 to 22nd October 2006. Well, technically it was a blog but really it was little more than a personal diary gone public. I hadn’t grasped the concept of blogging for an audience as yet.

I remember the day my then-computer was delivered; I had the evening before acrimoniously broken up with the gentleman-in-name-only who had been going to set it up for me. Good riddance to him but bad timing. So there I was with a monster cardboard box containing a monstrous monitor, a monstrous computer box-thingy, a monstrous keyboard, a monstrous mouse, miles of monstrous cables ending in pluggy-in bits, and a multitude of sockets in the back of the monitor where any of the pluggy-in bits might or might not be plugged in. Plus some diagrams which I knew it would be pointless even to look at at. I’m afraid I do such things the ‘man’ way – set everything out on the carpet, put all the little nuts and bolts in a teacup and guess. If something doesn’t work I wrench it apart and start again. I get cross and exhausted but usually succeed eventually. Then I entirely forget how I did it.

I had never set up a computer before. At work we had a computer engineer. He (they were always he’s) set the machines up in the first place and he it was who would saunter along and make them better if they went wrong. In addition I was emotional. Traumatised, tear-stained and hiccupping, I set to work. That was around midday. By 10 o’clock I had a thumping headache but the computer was working. And in only ten hours.

My Stone Age blog was called Blue, with Stars. I’ve lost the username and password for it and can now only view it via a bookmarked link. It was called Blue, with Stars because of the little paragraph, which I used as a heading:

The robes of Wizardesses are blue with stars. The robes of Wizards are green with stars. And there are still Others, of whom little is known and less is said, whose robes are beyond description being of all the colours of the rainbow, and none. But all have stars.

This meant quite a lot to me but probably nothing at all to my readers, assuming I had any. It’s the first paragraph of a fairy story I wrote, or half-wrote, which was mislaid in one of my house moves. Midwinter, it was called. Maybe I’ll have a go at rewriting it.

Predictably, much of Blue, with Stars is tedious to read back and not recyclable. Nowadays I write for different reasons – to entertain, amuse, or at any rate contact other people, so I’m putting much more effort into it, searching around for more varied subject matter and editing and rewriting more carefully.

Re-reading an old diary can be a double-edged sword, a queasy business. There am I, but somehow twelve years younger and sounding twelve years younger. I want to shout to her ‘Look out!’ and ‘Don’t do that, you twerp!’ And then there is the inevitable sense of loss. What happened to the ‘me’ still marginally attractive enough to have a gentleman-in-name-only with whom to part company acrimoniously?

And then the exasperation on discovering that some of the things I have been posting about recently I was already posting about twelve years ago. I recently wrote a post, for example, called A BRUSH WITH HERBERT. I thought I was being clever with that title until I discover that on Saturday, May 21, 2005 I wrote a post in Blue, with Stars entitled – guess what – A Brush with Herbert. I think I may append the old post to the newer one for comparison. But can I really have been thinking the same things over and over, coming up with the same bright ideas and then ignoring or forgetting them, then coming up with them all over again? It’s Groundhog Day.

But it’s all grist to the mill* – seems a shame to waste it – so I decided every now and then to ‘lift’ selected high- or low-lights from Blue, with Stars should I happen to have posted something ‘lift-able’ on the equivalent of today’s date in 2003, 2004, 2005 or 2006. This is how it’s done on the Pepys Diary website http://www.pepysdiary.com/ Currently, for example, they are showing Pepys’ entry for Sunday 24 August 1662

(Lord’s day). Slept till 7 o’clock, which I have not done a very great while, but it was my weariness last night that caused it.

So rose and to my office till church time, writing down my yesterday’s observations, and so to church, where I all alone, and found Will Griffin and Thomas Hewett got into the pew next to our backs …

Pepys Diary website is excellent … it looks good, and it enables a busy person to follow one of our greatest and most prolific diarists without having to plough through the whole thing, end to end, which would probably take almost as long as the Dickens Challenge. Reading him this way also gives you a chance to ‘savour’ not only Pepys’ personality but the historical context in which he wrote.

So to kick off Blue, with Stars, and a few days late, here is part of the post for:

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Rosie is asleep on my lap. I wonder if all kittens are red hot, or is it only this one? She doesn’t seem ill or anything. She did get a bit of a fright this afternoon when the carpet-fitters finally arrived this afternoon to do the bedroom – leapt off my back, lacerating in the process, and went and hid under the dressing table until well after they had gone. It’s funny, she’s so bold most of the time, it hadn’t occurred to me she might be frightened of strange men. And they did hammer a lot. I thought the house might fall down. Put the mockers on the tear-jerking ending of Whistle Down The Wind, when ‘Jesus’ finally has to leave.

I’ve been watching that programme (can’t remember the name, there are so many similar ones) where contestants sing each week and the public votes to keep them in, or not. They are all so unutterably – mediocre. I can see each and every one of them singing on a cruise ship, to an audience of old ladies and slick lounge lizard types in white naval uniforms. One degree better than karaoke.

Have been exploring BookCrossing but am still trying to pluck up courage to release a book into the wild. I just think someone will see me. And they’re bound to run after me with it …

# posted @ 7:23 PM

Rosie, a tiny black kitten, had been rescued from a country road in Norfolk by one of the lady solicitors I worked for at the time. Rosie must have lost her mother and been wandering for some days. We thought maybe the mother was one of the gypsies’ cats, since my boss said it was an isolated area. She was then driven all round the M25 in a cardboard box, in hot weather, and brought to me. Thin, dehydrated and with diarrhoea, she was in a much worse way than I realised during that invasion of the carpet-fitters. However, the vet saved her and Rosie and I are still together twelve years and two house moves later. She is the ‘rosie’ element of my blogging name. I will plonk in a picture of her with this post.

* Apparently George Orwell in his essay Politics and the English Language (1946) dismissed ‘grist to the mill’ as a dying metaphor. Well, George – dead, dying or whatever – I just used it.

THE DESERT ISLAND QUESTION (1)

You are an aspiring young writer in need of a holiday. Being all but penniless you decide to stow away on an ocean liner, the SS Ruritania. Being also a bit of a lone wolf you tell no one of your plans. One morning you simply pack a bag, lock up your flat and leave. What a story your adventures are going to make. Publishers are bound to snap it up.

It’s not much fun in the bowels of the SS Ruritania. It’s damp and noisy, so dark it’s hard to tell whether it’s day or night. You soon lose track of time. You get so hungry and disorientated that you can’t even remember where the SS Ruritania was supposed to be heading.

One day, or possibly night, you are woken by an almighty bang and hear someone shout ‘Abandon ship – we just hit a reef / whale / iceberg / yellow submarine’. It takes you an age, in your weakened state, to clamber up all those little narrow stairways to the upper decks, by which time everybody has already jumped. You jump too.

You manage to cling to a piece of driftwood and many days later are washed up on a desert island. You could be anywhere in the world. You have no means of contacting anyone, and no one knows you are there.

Exploring the island you discover a plentiful supply of bananas and cocoanuts, and a freshwater stream. There is also a substantial hut, once occupied by a hermit. You find his sun-bleached bones on the beach. The hermit must have been a writer because, in a dry underground cavern you discover – amazingly enough – an enormous cupboard full of A4, wide-feint refill pads (green or yellow tint – easier on the eye) and an unlocked treasure chest full to the brim of 2B pencils, the ones with the orange ends. Oh, and a smaller treasure chest full of pencil-sharpeners.

So, knowing you will never be rescued and no one will ever read your words – will you write?

That is the Desert Island Question.

Which reminds me of another story, slightly more subtle than the one I just cooked up for you, or rather one of those peculiar, po-faced English jokes disguised as a story. It was told at a lecture by Geoffrey Bateson, a brilliant anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and scientist, who died in 1980:

A man had a very powerful computer, so he asked it ‘Will you ever be able to think like a human being?’ The computer rattled and clicked for a bit before printing out its answer:

THAT REMINDS ME OF A STORY

 Human beings can’t resist telling stories – which was Bateson’s point. It’s our natural mode of communication. It must have started with the Stone Age equivalent of Guess what? A mammoth chased me and it was THIS big!

But what happens when there is no audience, no other caveman/woman with an interest in mammoths? If you are alone in your house watching tennis on TV, do you leap up and exclaim: Guess what? Roger Federer just beat Andy Murray! Probably not.

On your desert island, will you finally start planning that epic novel? There will be no kids to separate, no dog to be walked, no washing-up to wade through, no tennis on TV – just you, and all that paper, and all those pencils. You might start a diary; but in the absence of other human beings what of interest could be said to be happening, day by day?

It rained.

I made cocoanut-and-banana soup. Delicious.

Saw a fish.

To be continued…