Monthly Archives: December 2018

Windy day on Mars

Why the delay in posting? Let me explain.

Sometimes I worry that I just might be being boring. No, no, no! I hear you cry. Well, when you have little of import to say, no ripplingly funny cat anecdotes, no hospital misadventures involving poorly arranged gowns or hilarious pensioners getting misdirected by the Sat navs into one way streets (oh wait, that was me in Hull on my way to collect an old telephone from an eBay seller in a car park) it’s hard to acquire the confidence to press finger to keyboard and wax. But I owe it to you all, dear readers, to ensure you are fully conversant with my escapades, unremarkable though they are.

Maria is mid her seasonal Dickens read hence the rhythm of the last sentence.

Christmas is pretty much over and a big family super success it was. Due to conflicting schedules and parental turn taking we had our four early for “fake Christmas.” Maria had done her customary thing with trees and lights and lights and lights and baubles and candles and ribbons and incense and turkey and Christmas cake and lights and mulled wine and stuffing and Christmas pudding and more lights to which I contributed zilch. Why she endures my complete physical and emotional absence during the Christmas preparatory period I don’t know. She is so into it! And incredibly loveable it is too. Day one of the family visit and we blew the main fuse at 2:30 in the morning. Not some trivial circuit breaker but the fuse that is the first gateway between power station and domicile. A big black thing that looks like it was once part of a Lancaster bomber. Its demise indicated that the 9 storage heaters, the tumble dryer the 4 foot blow up Santa, the two immersion heaters and the 3000 watts of outdoor lights bought at a car boot sale (I jest not) could be drawing more power from the grid than the rest of the village put together. Anyway I slept on the sofa with a delighted ex Ferrell awaiting Northern Power who arrived after only a couple of hours with full mining helmet lights and generators to reconnect us. Last time this happened, donkeys years ago, we actually blew the cable off the outside wall and burnt it through like a Roman Candle, this time happily I did not have to lie about our power consumption and blame the previous house owners, as apparently it wasn’t our fault, the supply having been recently upgraded, however they agreed that excessive Christmas electrical joy and the blown fuse were probably not unconnected.

This outage came just a week or so after the 8 days we were cut off from phone, internet, landline, text, Netflix and catch ups of “Strictly.” The result of some over enthusiastic pruning of ivy on the telegraph pole with a chainsaw!!! by two nice ‘Open Reach’ chaps from Cumbria. I must admit when I saw them assault the pole I did wonder whether the combination of delicate electrical wiring, entangled knots of ivy stems as thick as blacksmiths arms and two burly enthusiasts, the bearers of said arms, wielding a chainsaw, a hand saw and an axe would result in the intended ‘pole clearance’ or the more likely “whoops we have cut through the wire but we ain’t the right guys insured to fix it” scenario. Anyway the latter came to pass as predicted. The blacksmiths and I enjoyed an amicable coffee together discussing the incident. My Bulgarian was taxed to the limit by our reflections on the quality of Bulgarian coffee versus Italian. I still don’t know which of us won or indeed if it was that we were talking about but anyway after many apologies they went back to Cumbria and we were left bereft of all digital connectivity. I would like to report how much we both enjoyed ‘being away from the telephone’ that old desert island disks “how will you cope marooned on a desert island cliché”, but actually, if I could have broken out with a digital connectivity yearning rash I would have done. Both of us became really quite anxious and fed up. I was no longer able to contribute my paltry amount of admin to the University, the telephone box was forced into silence, Nonna could no longer summon us (her mobility is now virtually zero) nobody could get in touch with us through any channel except by travelling to York and banging on the front door and the only telly was the telly that dropped down the telly aerial, ie repeats of top gear and QI. I was onto BT support daily, facilitated by hacking into the neighbours poorly secured Wi-fi from our shed, or using the telephone next door at Nons. Four times over four days BT promised to fix it and on three of those four occasions they did not show up. We were so so so pissed off. Finally they arrived with a Cherry Picker from Tadcaster, not a peasant wearing traditional dress with hands stained with purple juices, but a mobile person crane. This time the right people to fix it were present, although staggeringly they had to borrow some of my tools, having been gifted with a new junction box equipped with a lock and no key. Anyway to recap, imagine our surprise and delight when a week after digital connectivity was restored and my blood pressure settled to its normal just below Chernobyl level, we blew up the electricity supply in the middle if the night just as our Christmas guests had arrived. Anyway all turned out well in the end.

So the other good news for me is that I am off the drugs. My numbers are the best they have been since diagnosis so the nine months of mildly disabling medicines and three months of not going into work or driving anywhere has been worth it. Pretty much immediately I have started to feel much more normal. I am no longer dizzy, I can drive again, my energy levels are going up and I would swear I can see my legs metamorphosising from something an anorexic stork would be ashamed of, to something the Incredible Hulk would be proud off were he also to be anorexic. As you know the machine at the NAC always reports the ratio of my muscle to bone-matter gristle as laughably poor in my extremities. Basically my arms and legs are barely strong enough to stay attached to my body let alone contribute anything useful. If I find myself in the crouched position, say to retrieve a toothpaste cap, I need to find something substantial to haul myself up on, the sink, a handy scaff pole or a passing visitor will suffice. After a childbirth level of straining and groaning I am eventually restored to homo erectus. Thus; for the most part if I drop something, unless it is really crucial, valuable or embarrassing, it stays right there on the floor until the clean up fairy retrieves it. The alternative being the spectacle of me wheezing my way upright while grappling for hand holds as if I were climbing the Matterhorn without ropes. Anyway all of that is improving and while I am no springy chicken the improvement is massive already.

I have tons of teaching next trimester so I do need to do a lot of prep over Christmas but in between we are having return visits from some, or possibly all of our four. We will be doing another Christmas lunch on Christmas Day for Nonna, just the three of us. To be honest I can’t be arsed but as I contribute nothing to the process it seems churlish to complain and at least I get my presents. Spouserly presents are modest this year as we bought an expensive fence. Maria designed it and to be honest I was concerned that it could end up a bit Guantanamo as it’s about six foot high and of Trumpian substance but I have to say it’s turned out to be a design triumph. The issue has been that easy access to the dog walker lane from our garden has encouraged a steady flow of friendly pups to visit us unexpectedly, either in the garden or occasionally in the house. While I am an enthusiastic dog lover and tend to toward the welcoming, the three cats are not so delighted to see their food vacuumed up by anything from two white devious shiatsu to a dim adorable but not unintimidating Doberman. The fence has the added advantage of curbing that annoying Yorkshire habit of friendliness, manifest in worthless chat about the weather, a topic I simply don’t care about, particularly when I am engaged in lofty literary thoughts on our loggia regarding telephone directories (see below).

The new year looks promising for one and all and I eagerly await the arrival from our four of a novel, a screenplay, an album and accomplishment in Senegalese drumming. They are all being as incredibly arty as I am being incredibly dull. I am currently thrilled by a book recounting the history of the telephone directory which, by the way, began in America as one sheet of card listing predominantly doctors and dentists. No numbers of course, that hadn’t been thought of, just names.

Here is a cultural puzzle for you all I have been considering. There was a vogue, after the invention of the telephone, particularly in France for postcards featuring, predominantly anonymous children but also adults, photographed speaking on the telephone. These were often accompanied by some sentimental verse.

The romantic connotations of lovers communicating over a distance seems clear enough but some fella just sitting at a desk holding a telephone receiver to the ear is not particularly romantic, festive or cool. I know I am missing something here but can anyone think of an example of modern technology which has been repurposed in a similar way? It seems to me a bit like sending someone a postcard of an unknown person operating an iPad and expecting the recipient to be pleased, surprised, amused or moved. I just don’t get it. That said I am completely drawn to this period of rampant eccentricity. The era from 1870 to 1920 is variously stuffed with technical and cultural innovation as well as a mixture of self indulgent angst and wackiness. I have already bored you with my enthusiasm for the music of that period but the more I read, the more I find the “stuff” of that period alluring. Telephones, phonographs, radios, photography and film. I think part of it is a childhood sense that despite the brilliance of the inventions most of them are reasonably easily understood and thus potentially duplicated in Meccano or with a few lengths of copper wire and a magnet, whereas technical innovation today is largely incomprehensible and certainly not reproducible in Meccano.

Did you hear the sound of the mars wind? Actually it was really the sound of the spaceship vibrating because of the wind, but so what. “A windy day on mars.” What a thought.