Monday, 29 October 2007

Have you got my lighter?

One of the four most popular phrases in our household is "Have you got my lighter?" The person asking is usually me but it can also be used by my partner on occasions.

Just as many things on my computer disappear into cyberspace never to emerge, so the great universal forces have a habit of absorbing certain material objects. Most notable of these objects is of course the second sock of a pair which gets swallowed by the washing machine or somewhere else in the washing process. Sets of keys are equally likely to find a fourth dimensional home as are the remote controls for televisions, video recorders and DVD players. The tops from ball point pens are the only plastic I know which not only bio-degrades but can do so in the twinkling of an eye. But in our household it is lighters that have the most magical properties.

Such is the scale of their disappearance that I am tempted to contact the Police. I have already been in touch with the Liverpool Echo but they spurned the item as not being newsworthy. Perhaps they are correct . After all, their Editor has the task of setting such disappearances against the bad news of occasional horrific murders and the good news of being City of Culture 2008. But surely someone should take an interest in where these lighters are going. Could they be heading for some enormous terrorist stockpile to be dropped by plane upon some unsuspecting factory like a Second World War incendiary? Or is there such a black market in lighters that one cannot pass the end of a dark alley in Liverpool's red light district without hearing the sound of 'Psst. Wanna buy a lighter?'

I contacted the local Search and Rescue buy they said lighters were not within their remit. No one, it seems, cares about my losses.

Interest was expressed by Flying Saucer Review - the international journal established in 1955 and read regularly by Prince Edinburgh. They rejected my proposed article but sent around a little green man with a hand-held machine that looked like a Geiger counter. He chuckled gleefully and spent ages in the utility room, emerging from there with 32 odd socks and an 1890s corset - don't ask! When asked about lighters he just chuckled again and went into the fridge never to emerge. I have written to Buckingham Palace to ask if HRH is prepared to send a search party for the little green man.

Nowadays when I go shopping and ask for a lighter the shop assistant usually asks "Disposable or refillable". Since they are rarely around long enough to be refilled and are quite capable of disposing of themselves I tend to just shrug and "Whatever!"

Sunday, 28 October 2007

The ‘Good Old Days’

It is a sad reflection on our modern society that we so often have to hide behind our computer identities. In the ‘good old days’ (and, yes, I know they weren’t really good for most people) if two folk of like mind met they would swap cartes de visites and one would call on the other for tea. Cartes de visites were those lovely miniature photos that people had made when they went to the High Street photographer. After a few meetings under the formal conventions of the ‘never more than half an hour’ visit during ‘receiving’ time in the mid-afternoon a greater friendship might develop and much less formal contact become possible.

Nowadays we dare not even let people know our e-mail address for fear of what they might get up to. I have found an apparently like-minded and pleasant woman who lives in Devon – where my younger daughter resides – and with whom it would be nice to chat over a cup of e-mailed tea. My intentions are strictly honourable – I’m happily married (probably old enough to be her father though one doesn’t ask a lady these things!) and live two hundred miles away. Judging by the fact that she feels free to call her husband The Weirdo she too seems happily married! But dare I ask her for her e-mail address let alone her real address to send her a Christmas card if the friendship developed? No,

Why not? Fear. Fear that she may think I’m even more of a weirdo than her husband or that I will fill her e-mail box full of spam. Or, alternatively, that I have misjudged her and she will either bombard me with e-mails or give my address to some spammer. Jo and I have both had e-mail addresses that we had to give up because of spam and nowadays we each have half a dozen identities. One for the family (a strictly guarded secret); one for key friends, one for casual friends, one for work (in my wife’s case); one for internet purchases....

Recently I had quite a lengthy correspondence with a girl in Illinois – it was great fun, amusing and educational . But neither of us ever suggested swapping e-mail addresses we did it by leaving comments on each others blogs. Perhaps that should be enough but somehow a message that can be read by anyone seems so much less personal and satisfying than a direct e-mail. And, as soon as I wrote that I thought “Will people think I want to say things I wouldn’t say in public?” The answer, of course, is no.

For similar reasons I am very careful how I talk to small girls in the street. If one falls over and hurts her knee you have to be very careful how you touch her as you pick her up. Fear of being mistaken for a pervert requires that one is strictly professional in how you deal with her. Gone are the days when you could have picked her up off the ground, given her a hug and carried her back home with soothing noises.

I am not one who bothers much about what people think of me. They can take me or leave me, that is their choice. But I won’t be someone I am not just to make friends or keep contacts alive other than is demanded by the basic social graces. I spent years in work having to act a part. Now I am retired on ill health and I am just me. But for some reason I would be very bothered if people thought I had ulterior motives in doing good, in spreading a little cheer, or hugging someone better.

It is a shame that the internet has made finding like-minded people so much easier and yet, at the same time, divorced us from them through fear.

A series of Editorials

Pusuing my love of writing I propose to use this blog for a series of longer articles when I get the occasional bee in my bonnet or want to get something off my chest. It is purely for my own benefit but if anyone stumbles across it and wishes to comment they are welcome to do so...