Well my dears I am happy to report that I am typing this on a newly-refurbished laptop. It’s a great feeling when refurbishment comes together and you can continue using something rather than recycling it. In any case the time had come when I could no longer juggle my old laptop plus a USB keyboard: having ingested a small amount of water, the laptop keyboard was incapable of producing words other than ‘t;hf5co.vfp- 1;f!g9gc;b.’ Not exactly what I had in mind. But lo! The son’s old laptop lay languishing under the sofa, needing only a new connection to make it as serviceable as ever. So off went OH to the computer shop while I searched for the mains lead. I found a bunch of phone chargers and a snake-pit of unnameable wires with bizarre plugs on the end, none of which remotely resembled the charger I wanted. Ah well. We bought a new one, the computer wizard worked his magic and so here I am fully-toggled and ready to go.
Not so fast, Lizardyoga! For the new laptop does not have Word on it. Instead it has Open Office. Well that’s fine, it’s Word-compatible as most things are nowadays (I use Word not because I like it but because publishers usually insist on it. That’s my excuse anyway.) So I plugged in my shiny new pen drive (joy) and fired up the word-processor. What? What the actual – ? Oh. My. God. I’d forgotten that before buying a new and utterly righteous machine *, OH was using this. And guess what? The user interface was all in Swedish.
Swedish! I ask you, what good is that? Instead of friendly helpful headings it had inexplicable words like nyark and verdstrom. What the hell? I went downstairs to berate OH and insist on an English-language version.
‘Why don’t you just learn Swedish?’ was the reply. I was not amused. An hour of fruitless fumbling ensued during which OH frequently expressed the view that it would be easier for me just to learn Swedish (love that ‘just’) whereupon I retorted that I wanted to actually do some work not try to figure out what some digital Swedish chef was trying to tell me. Finally we got it working in English and the Swedes have gone home.
Swedes going home might be a by-product of Brexit – a propos of which, did you see the excellent Channel 4 drama ‘Brexit: The Uncivil War‘? I wasn’t sure about it at first as there was a lot of shouting and power-struggling between men which was reminiscent of The Thick of It (I don’t like TTOI because it’s too shouty and sweary and lacking in subtlety) but it got much better. Rory Kinnear (that man seems to be everywhere) played Craig Oliver, the hapless leader of the Remain camp and Benedict Cumberbatch played Dominic Cummings, a man so eccentric as to seem at times completely unhinged.
It is recommended. A word-processor in Swedish is not.
*OH never stops boasting about this machine, whose battery lasts for weeks without being recharged and which is so light you can balance it on your thumb.
Over Christmas I acquired an electric toothbrush. I had always wanted one but considered them an indulgence; however when you are given a long vibrating thing with bristles on the end there’s only one thing to be done and that is to use it. So having overcome my initial and quite irrational fear that once inside my mouth it would go berserk and get entangled in my fillings, I’m enjoying it. The vibrating circular action makes brushing much easier and pleasanter, it leaves the teeth feeling smooth and polished and even removes stubborn stains from dentures (yes I confess to having the odd denture.) On the other hand if you take it out of your mouth without switching it off it sprays everywhere like an overturned garden sprinkler, coating surfaces with a mixture of water and fluoride (we now have very strong bathroom tiles.) But no matter: this thing that I do three times a day is now much pleasanter than it was.
And there’s the thing: small things make a big difference. No matter what it is- getting the leaky toilet fixed (no more emptying watering cans) finding some plastic glazing on freecycle and putting it on the windows of the futility room (no more condensation) or getting a new shower curtain for the bathroom and not having to look at the manky old one – small things can make a big difference to your life. When trying to lose weight, for example, small daily changes can make a big difference: now that I’m older I tend to put on weight more so instead of three meals I eat two normal and one very light meal. Breakfast could be fruit and yoghurt, or lunch could be a salad; occasionally instead of an evening meal I might have a sandwich. And so on. This keeps my weight stable and gives me a means of losing weight if I’ve overeaten, say over Christmas.
Of course desperate situations demand desperate remedies: if you’re in imminent danger of a fatal heart attack you may need to make some big changes. But let us consider the 80/20 rule: you can apply this to all sorts of situations and it suggests that 80% of problems are caused by 20% of our activities. So let’s say you’re in danger of a heart attack – rather than trying to change everything about your life you could identify the 20% of activities which are the most harmful and eliminate those. Like, for example, giving up meat or alcohol. These may seem much greater than 20% because they are emotionally and mentally a huge part of our lives, something that defines us (‘I am a meat-eater’, ‘life without alcohol would be terribly dull’) but looked at in terms of how much time we spend doing them it may not add up to more than 20%.
Or you could turn that around and say that, of all the things you might do to change your life there is a crucial 20% which will make the biggest difference; and it may not even be the most strenuous 20%.
One thing is clear though: you’ve got to want the solution more than you want the thing that’s causing the problem. Just like I wanted that toothbrush…
This time of year the blogosphere bursts with projects, projections, plans, aims and objectives. Weight will be lost. Fitness regimes will be instantiated. Old hobbies will be pursued and new ones taken up. Ambitions will begin to be realised. And so forth. I don’t generally make new year’s resolutions but I do like to make plans for the year which embody a vision of where I want to go. I don’t feel the need to start a fitness regime because I already do yoga – though more walking couldn’t hurt, so I’ve done a bit of that.
I find walking on my own a very contemplative activity, particularly if it takes me away from my usual environment. Hence I went for a drive the other day with only the vaguest idea of where I would end up; and where I ended up was Cropston village at the top of the reservoir. Knowing that the reservoir backs onto Bradgate Park, I formed a scheme: I would walk down to the park and all the way round its perimeter. Which I did; this being a walk of about six miles all told. Then yesterday morning, inspired by OH’s new regime which is to go for a run every day at six am (yes, I know) I drove up to Beacon Hill and went for a short but very brisk, cold walk before Quaker meeting.
But the main part of my vision is of course writing; and so I’ve formulated plans for the year involving where I want to be in December and working back from there. I found a really good idea in Paul McKenna’s book ‘I Can Make You Rich’ which I mentioned a few weeks ago in which he uses visualisations to create a picture of the future.
First on one side you draw a big picture (either on paper or in your mind) of where you want to be at the end of the year. On the other side you draw a much smaller picture illustrating where you are now. Then in between you create pictures which get larger each time creating a timeline between now and the future and illustrating your progress. I’ve found these to be very powerful.
My aims for this year are to publish (or have accepted) a full-length work; either a novel or a collection of poetry, and to get an agent. To this end I will send off one thing every month and I will find out the best way to approach agents. And as far as this blog’s concerned, I’m aiming for 1000 readers. I know it’s been a bit quiet over Christmas but that’s only to be expected, but we’re back now. And don’t forget that my 500th follower will receive a FREE volume of my poetry.
So if you’ve enjoyed this blog, tell others. If you haven’t, tell me (but tell me nicely please.) And let me know how you’re getting on with your writing projects.
Happy New Year!