Before The Deluge

I need to get out more. Too many days in a row spent indoors in various stages of unkemptness, saving money, saving petrol. Or could that be Unconscious Code for saving effort or (whisper it) incipient agoraphobia? And what have I been doing?

Not a lot, to be honest. Well of course I’ve been feeding and cleaning up after the houseful of cats. That in itself is the equivalent of a part-time job. And I’ve not been slumped on the couch watching television because I no longer have a TV. I have done some ironing, and discovered why my tumble dryer isn’t working, and that I can’t fix it.

And I have forced myself to start working through Python For Infants. I was pleased to find that I could understand the first few pages. I have made it print out Hi Python! and not print out You are a silly shoe! I have learned about Strings, Comments, Syntax Errors and Escape Characters.

Getting rid of the TV actually made me realise how long a day is, and how much of it I must previously have used up – watching TV.  At the moment I still haven’t adapted. I seem to be cycling through alternative ‘things to do’, trying to settle into a new routine.

I check the News App more often than is necessary. The news doesn’t change that often in the course of one day, but it might. That’s the trouble. What if something really dramatic did happen, and I didn’t know? What if somebody was assassinated or something actually changed in connection with Brexit? What if – I don’t know – Scotland suddenly calved away from the mainland – after all, it’s only attached by that little skinny bit in the middle –  or there were to be a plague of tigers?

Sadly, I have to confess, I have watched some TV on my tablet. Not live TV, obviously, because I haven’t got a licence, but those highly addictive whole series. I watched the first three series of Mr Robot in a very short time, and still haven’t recovered. The fourth series is supposed to have started in the United States but it isn’t on my tablet yet. When will it be on my tablet? I simply can’t wait.

And today I have been watching, in short bursts between housework, cat-tending, ironing and coding-learning, a British TV movie called Flood. It stars David Suchet and Robert Carlyle. Any film with either of those in is usually a guarantee of quality, but something has gone awry. David Suchet is acting all right but everyone else – including the great Robert Carlyle – seems to have got an attack of awful-acting-itis.

However, this is made up for by the tension of following this great hypothetical storm surge, from Scotland down the east coast and up the Thames, overwhelming (of course) the Thames Flood Barrier. In the control room here is a lot of terse commanding whilst staring at multiple wall-screens. In British disaster movies the characters, no matter how stressed, tend not to bellow or punch one another on the nose. No, they command, increasingly tersely.

And then there’s a lot of dramatic splashing about in the water and clinging to the tops of lamp-posts, just visible above the flood. And everybody’s hairdo is ruined, and they are rescued by helicopters with searchlights.

Given where I live, and knowing my luck, if there were to be such a flood I would be the lady up in the attic, hammering against the stuck-fast dormer window, the water up around my ears. I spend some time, whilst washing up, making plans. I will bring in all the cat boxes from the garage and – if I can get the dormer window open (which I do not have, by the way) I will pass all nineteen moggies up to the hovering helicopter with the searchlight first. Take them first, I hear myself tersely commanding. Don’t bother about me… Come back some time. If you can.

As the helicopter slowly sinks towards the water, weighed down by all those hefty cats in all those hefty pet carriers.

The News app shows newspaper headlines. The Sun appears to be saying we should prepare ourselves for three months of non-stop 100 mph winds. I find this hard to believe and impossible to imagine. I am refusing to try. I inherited my paternal grandmother’s hatred of windy weather.

“Devilish Wind!” she used to exclaim. Tersely.

Stargate is all wrong at elevenses!!!

Our days our organized around numerous small actions we repeat over and over. What’s your favorite daily ritual?

Why do they keep changing the listing for Stargate Universe on Pick? I don’t have Sky – all I have is this free Pick channel, which is a kind of shop-window for Sky. Pick is generally loathsome (endless programmes about monkeys, lorry-drivers, the Australian Air Ambulance Service and people failing to smuggle pickled ostrich-meat into Canada). The only good – indeed, excellent – thing about Pick – making up for all its other deficiencies – is the sci-fi: on Pick I am gradually catching up on all those splendid series I missed out on for five whole years whilst working the twilight shift at the call centre.

It’s not so much to ask, is it? The highlight of my day – Pick permitting – is 8 p.m. when the classic sci-fi repeats come on. I settle down – or did settle down, before Pick spoiled my evening ritual – on my ancient, community store sofa with a cup of instant coffee, a bowl of cereal and a whole lot of snugglesome cats and am transported to other universes… universii…

Some sci-fi is excellent, some is bearable and some is… frankly, beyond the pale. They aired three-quarters of series 1 of  Stargate Universe starring – amazingly – how did they land a catch like him? – Scottish actor Robert Carlyle and then… and then it’s vanished and in its place is some idiot futuristic cartoon starring a girl with a ponytail and one giant eye, plus a little pink chap with tentacles. Not my cup of tea at all. Whole evening spoiled.

Frantic rummaging on the internet reveals that SGU has now been moved to 11 o’clock in the morning. Also, if you have access to Pick + 1 – 12 midnight. I do not have access to Pick + 1 because I don’t have Sky, because I can’t afford it. Also, I would object to paying a whole subscription in order to watch exactly the same programmes about monkeys, lorry-drivers, the Australian Air Ambulance Service and people failing to smuggle pickled ostrich-meat into Canada an hour later than I would have done on Pick proper.

Quite possibly next week I will discover that they have moved SGU back to 8pm and the girl with the uni-eye plus the pink person with the tentacles will have been relegated to some other time. Until then, it’s 11 a.m. or nothing.

But Robert Carlyle is not the same unshaven hero/villain with the birds twittering outside, sunlight streaming in through the kitchen and endless delivery lorries reversing up our unmade road, as Robert Carlyle when the curtains are closed, it’s pitch black outside and you’re covered in snugglesome cats. The whole point about SGU is that it’s dark, and sinister and clunky and… mechanical. They’re trapped in this alien spaceship hurtling through space and getting on each other’s nerves something chronic, plotting against one another, falling into mineshafts on abandoned planets, getting infested by brain-scrambling space-ticks and… and it isn’t the same at elevenses, with the post falling onto the mat and a heap of ironing to be done, and the cats full of (daytime) beans, zooming around destroying the house, and all that washing up…

Neither is it the same watching a blurry, too quiet YouTube version of Robert Carlyle in s.1 ep.18 of Stargate Universe on a desktop computer, even at 8 p.m. It’s just not.

Really, it’s not.