Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Hello, my name is Tania and I am an addict. Today I have had to face that I am a writing - more specifically typing - junkie and an intervention may have to be mounted.
Yesterday, startled by the arrival of the kind Asda man with the sort of dull but necessary shopping that I like to delegate to the internets, I spilt a glass of water on my poor, chugging computer. It was four years old and had been getting rather creaky for some time, but I am not one of those web 2.0 people who update their hardware every five minutes (where do all the old laptops go?), and I loved its shiny old keyboard and its sleek black design and it was good enough for me. But the water was its death. The shift key went, and the page down key, and the return key, and possibly most tragic of all in my punctuation-obsessed universe, the semi-colon key. Imagine a life without semi-colons; it is unthinkable. (I would like you to know that I did not put that semi-colon into that sentence for comic effect, it was just muscle memory.) More fatal than all of those, some of which I might have been able to work around, was the loss of the letter L. I am always banging on about not taking things for granted; I like to make mental lists of the tiny things in life that bring me joy and make everything possible, like opposable thumbs; I pride myself on taking pleasure in the small things. But I had never, ever contemplated a life without the letter L in it. Every time that I write the word Love, I shall now pause and give thanks for the 17th letter of the alphabet.
So, today was Sunday, the day of rest. An unexpected sun was blazing gaudily out of the Scottish sky. My plan was to prepare for a workshop I am giving next week, and sit outside on the grass with the dogs, and do my work with pen and ink. I write often in a notebook, I am not a slave to the machine. But, dear readers, I could not do it. A day without typing turned out to be impossible. I could not put up a blog post, or send out a tweet on Twitter, or send emails, or just sit and write at my computer, which I do every day. My addiction was so out of control that I found myself in my car, on the hottest day of the year, making a seventy mile round trip to the airless palace of technology that is PC World. In all this beautiful weather, I spent an hour, voluntarily, in a room without natural light. (The owners of PC World should be prosecuted for subjecting their employees to cruel and unusual treatment, making them work in a place without windows like that.)
Like all addicts, by the time I arrived, I was shaky and irritable with withdrawal symptoms. I grew baffled by choice. Very pale people kept following me about trying to sell me things. (I can't blame them, in that environment, they are probably all suffering from the beginnings of rickets from lack of vitamin D.) All the computers were either ugly, stupidly expensive, or had nasty stiff keyboards. 'I want shiny keys,' I said to one man, who looked at me as if I were speaking Urdu. 'I'm a writer, you see,' I said, which left him no wiser. If you are bashing away at a keyboard all day, it must be the right keyboard, neither too firm nor too loose; it must feel right under the fingers or the thing is hopeless. I love the fact that I can touch type at seventy words a minute, when I'm really cooking; I love the sensation of the keys under my fingers, and the small clicking noise they make when I hit them. All this must be right. So I kept testing and pondering and asking plaintively, like Greta Garbo, if I could be left alone.
There was a model I liked, but it was over my price range. 'Could you knock fifty quid off?' I asked one of the pale, sunless people. 'No,' he said. 'But I could throw in Norton for a discounted price.' Didn't he know I was in cold turkey? 'I hate Norton,' I said. I was rude; I am never rude. 'I would pay not to have Norton.' More incomprehending staring followed. 'There is a recession on,' I said to absolutely no effect. So then I went and looked at a bigger, cheaper model. I picked it up to check how heavy it was and set off the burglar alarm. 'I have to pick it up,' I said, as all the pale people came running over.
I finally decided. An hour, how could it have taken a whole hour of my life that I shall never get back? Then there was a lot of faffing around with guarantees and is this the correct address and shall we set up a direct debit for aftercare. 'Can't I just pay?' I cried, desperate. 'I don't want to give you my full address, I just want to pay and go.' At this point, the manager was called.
In the end, I escaped, with my beautiful, red, slightly too big Dell in its crisp brown box. My addiction was fed; I could type again. The semi-colon was restored to me. I hit the open road, and started smiling all over my face. I realised that even though it was insane to be compelled to drive all the way to Aberdeen on the sunniest day of the year, if I had not I would not have seen the country in all its pomp. The grass was the green of emeralds and the mountains were a distant blue and I passed gangs of pretty sheep and a clutch of Highland coos (as I now call cows, in deference to my adopted land) gazing out from under their long fringes with that slightly quizzical look that they all carry. I thought: people come from miles away to make this drive, it is one of the great trips of the world. And to make it even sweeter, I have a pristine new computer on my back seat, with a socking great 250 GB of memory and an L key that works.