Friday, 2 February 2007

Melancholy Baby

My late friend John Forde says my blog is 'tinged with melancholy'. I'm not tingeing deliberately, although it does seem to be developing into a piecemeal autobiography of memories triggered by incidents from today. I flatter myself that's Proustian rather than requiring urgent prescription medication, but it tempts me to ask, preferably with a blinking cursor on a full screen like Carrie Bradshaw:

... in order to embrace the present, must we fall out of love with the past?

My past, particularly my childhood, does seem to me a sunlit upland but one to which I know I cannot retreat. Isn't childhood always the undiscovered country to whose bourne no traveller returns? I'm paraphrasing Hamlet but also the final toast to "The family, that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor in our innermost hearts never quite wish to" in Dodie Smith's Dear Octopus, the play in which I first appeared in a real theatre (Harrogate Opera House, October 1965) and this in itself is exemplary of the trigger mechanism, but you get the point. Nostalgia is a lovely place, but if it were a destination, EasyJet would be selling it for £9.99 plus tax.

I'm delighting in my present at the moment partly because of a young man called Sam who has entered my life and challenges me regularly with questions about my past experiences as part of our getting-to-know-you process. Talking to him seems to release a slew of anecdotes and half-remembered stories that I've not told to anyone else in years, if at all.

It's cathartic, but with his collegiate gift for generalisation he sees patterns I don't acknowledge, and maybe he's right. Perhaps by resurrecting the dusty trivia from my emotional attic, I'm also getting them out of my system.

Who knows, maybe move on?

Phone Saga

After months of dithering and overpaying the wretched T-mobile people, I finally took the plunge into a new cellphone contract. Tons of minutes and a thousand texts for half what I used to pay. And I went everywhere on and off-line to check it was the best deal, including some spivvy mauve-shirted lads in Phones4U who told me my preferred provider was run entirely from call centres in India, innit, and I'd have the devil's own job if it ever went wrong. I took this to be peevish commercial rivalry and swanned out of the shop to sign up online.

Rather plasticky handset arrived, but it lit up OK when plugged in and I made a few calls and sent and received some texts. Then I tried to call the handset from my own landline and got the weird message "this phone cannot accept your call please try later". So did my friends when I emailed them to call it from their phones, neither landline nor mobile seemed able to get through to my new number.

I spent several hours berating the call centre in Bangalore, each time being escalated to "the higher technical team" and a number of patient but useless managers one of whom actually phoned me back when I was in Sainsbury's and was treated to 20 vituperative minutes during which passing shoppers were giving me the thumbs-up for sticking it to them good and strong about "customer service means nothing to you people" and "managers are supposed to manage, not read bland scripted responses off a screen".

This morning I discovered I'd just written the number down wrong.

I feel such an utter twat. But now I want to do like Margo Leadbetter in "The Good Life" when Jerry comes home and points out something which means the wigging she's given the garage about the car was totally undeserved ... she gently takes her hand off the receiver and says pleasantly "Good day to you" and puts the phone down!

Got better sleep last night apart from my typical "holy hour" awake at 5. If I go to bed with the central heating on, sometimes I wake up bathed in sweat like I'm working the graveyard shift in "Four Floors of Whores" in Singapore. There really was a knocking shop called that.

I was listening to Radio 4 the other day and it said something like "most pensioners just control their central heating with the thermostat" because they can't figure out computerised programming.

Time to phone for the Saga catalogue and book a holiday.