Friday, 18 March 2016

Keyboards and Tea

The portrait of Hemingway is now framed and hanging over my workspace. If I’m struggling with whatever I’m writing, I can look up, see him busy at work, and get back to my own magnus opus. He’s using pen and paper, and will no doubt type it all up later. If by any mischance he should happen to spill his drink on his typewriter, the machine will still work. The paper might be spoilt, but he can put in a clean sheet and carry on almost as if nothing untoward has happened.

Computers, though...

Yesterday evening I realised I was behind with my writing, so made myself a mug of tea and sat down at the pc to write. I had an idea formulated already, just had put it into words and type it up. I started, reached for my tea, and spilt the whole scalding mugful all over the pc’s keyboard. I have never done such a thing before, so I suppose I assumed it would never happen. I unplugged the keyboard, tipped it over, and half a pint of boiling hot tea came out and all over me and the carpet (goodness knows where I thought it was going to go).

Not the end of the world. I might not be able to write by hand due to illegibility problems, and I might not own a typewriter, but I do have a laptop, so after a modicum of quiet swearing, I booted it up and started again. Trouble is, I don’t write well on my laptop. It’s not comfortable. The keyboard is horribly sensitive and it jumps about if I accidentally lean my arm on the edge. After a few sentences I knew this was never going to work. I thought I’d try the pc again, see how bad it was. I’d left the keyboard sitting on a radiator, so I now got a roll of kitchen paper blotted as much tea out as I could and then plugged it back in. At first, all seemed fine, though the numbers were a bit haywire. Then I pressed ‘shift’ and the computer promptly shut down.

I took the keyboard upstairs and gave it a good blast with the hair dryer on high setting until it was definitely absolutely bone dry. Brought it back down, plugged it in again. The shift key still shut down the pc. It must have short-circuited somehow because of the heat of the tea, which had been barely off boiling point. This was at about seven fifteen in the evening, and I was exhausted – I’d been out earlier and bought a smart phone. This is something I have never owned before, always thinking I didn’t really need one, but that morning my ISP had gone down for hours, and it had absolutely done my head in. I rely very heavily on email and had no way of accessing it. I occasionally get publishers emailing and asking for an immediate response as to whether a piece is still available for publication – I didn’t want to miss anything of this type, so connectivity had to be found somehow. I suppose taking the laptop to an internet café would have been a possibility, but that’s one hell of a palaver, so it had to be a smart phone. I’m sure anyone reading this has one already and knows exactly how to use it, but I’ve only ever had the sort of basic phone that costs £4.50 from Carphone Warehouse and does nothing whatsoever other than make phone calls and texts using a prohibitively expensive pay as you go scheme that discourages you from using at all except in emergencies. This means I can barely operate one of those, let alone an all bells and whistles modern machine. But I went out and I bought one, and a nice gentleman demonstrated all its functions and I nodded as if I was following, brought it home and switched it on and thought; so how do I make a phone call? And couldn’t work it out, though I did manage to set up various email accounts and facebook and stuff like that, which had been the point of the machine in the first place. But this had all taken time. I’d been busy drawing Hemingway all morning, and had spent too much time in the afternoon trying to work out how to make a phone call, so I hadn’t even begun to write – and that’s why I’d sat down with my mug of tea later on, and thrown it all over the keyboard.

Seven fifteen, and I really was tired, but I jumped in the car and hurtled down to Tesco’s which luckily is a 24 hour one, and bought a £6 keyboard, hurtled back, plugged it in, and wrote over 2000 words of a short story. I haven’t dared read it back. It possibly is one of the worst things I’ve ever written, but at least I wrote it. I’m trying for a minimum of 1000 words a day at the moment, and have managed it for several months, so it was a relief to have got something down.

I have Ernest Hemingway staring down at me at the moment, telling me to stop doing blog posts and write something publishable – a decent short story or a poem. Quite right too. I’ll get to it, just as soon as I’ve made myself another cup of tea – which for safety’s sake will NOT be placed next to the computer keyboard.  

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