Wednesday, 28 September 2011

I can hear you, but you can’t hear me; or, the vagaries of Skype

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Huge work day. I do 1061 words. There is another long and serious editing conference. The Co-Writer is stern and brusque. ‘I am being brusque,’ she says, at one point.

‘Yes, yes,’ I say. ‘Quite right. Better that way.’

‘Ow, ow,’ I shout, as five paragraphs are ruthlessly cut. ‘Bloody hell. That hurts.’

‘I’m a professional,’ I say. ‘I can take this.’

‘Oh,’ I say, with a dying fall. ‘I really liked the joke about the beachy waves.’

‘That can stay,’ says the Co-Writer.

‘Now,’ she says. ‘About these horse metaphors.’

‘You don’t like my pony of received opinion galloping off over the unbroken prairies?’ I say, forlornly.

‘It’s just,’ she says, tactful and delicate, ‘that I think we have had quite a lot of hoof beats.’

I wonder if all this equine idiom comes from having been brought up in a stable. I’m not a horse person any more. I ride rarely; I only very occasionally go to the races. But it was the familiar pond in which I swam for fifteen years of my young life. I suppose you can’t rub that out altogether. There is a strange ineradicable thing that comes from that start. Whenever I get on a horse now, even if it is one I have never met before, I feel as if I have come home.

But before all this, there is a call from The Younger Brother. He has disappeared off to the south, and now the bing-bong, plink-plonk of the Skype signal goes, and there he is.

‘Hello,’ he says.

‘Hello,’ I say.

‘Hello, hello,’ he says.

‘Yes, I’m here,’ I say.

‘HELLO???’ he yells.

I have only just set up Skype on this computer. I suddenly realise that my machine may not actually have a microphone. I search around fruitlessly for a possible button. All the while the Brother and I are yelling HELLO HELLO at each other, to no avail.

Finally, I make a sensible executive decision, and type CAN HEAR YOU BUT YOU CAN’T HEAR ME into the dialogue box.

‘Can’t find microphone,’ I type.

Then he starts typing back. I can hear him speaking, slowly, and then typing the words.

‘Stop typing,’ I write. ‘I can hear you.’

‘Oh, oh,’ he says. ‘You can hear me. I see.’

‘Keep speaking,’ I type. ‘And I’ll write.’

Then we have a very mad conversation where he tells me all about his antic adventures in London and I type back my replies and reactions. There is a slight lag, so he will be in the middle of the next story before my response to the first comes through. Then he pauses, reads it, and says, ‘Oh, ha, yes, that’s funny, see what you mean.’ Or similar.

At one point our wires get so crossed that we both become incapacitated with laughter, even though some of the story he is telling me is quite sad.

I write:

‘What were you doing in Shepherd’s Market?’




‘Bloody lucky I can type so fast.’

Then it descends into some kind of deconstructed haiku:

‘What form did the messiness take?’


‘Better out than in.’

‘Yeah, sod the old patterns.’

‘Three hundred pints is quite a lot.’


‘I need that story.’

‘Ah, ah, cliffhanger.’


‘Not the poor Indians and the betting.’

‘No, just a bit mad.’


‘Crying with laughter now.’

‘Pigeon looking a bit surprised.’

‘Difficult to see the screen through the laughing tears.’

‘Everything a bit blurry now.’

‘Oh, oh, Co-Writer calling about book. Got to go.’


What were we talking about? Why was it so funny? Absolutely no idea. There is a thing I like about families which is that you don’t have to make a quip or a gag; you don’t have to be quick and witty. There is so much ancient word association, banked history, shared memory, that all you need is a pause, a twitched eyebrow, a certain emphasis, and there is helpless hilarity. It’s a bit like the thing of being got.

The final echoing yell of The Brother, into the Skype void, was: ‘You must put this on the blog’.

So I did.


Today, in photographs, the sunshine. It is so hot we are all wandering about in shirtsleeves:

28 Sept 1

28 Sept 2

28 Sept 3

28 Sept 4

28 Sept 4.ORF

28 Sept 6.ORF

28 Sept 7

28 Sept 8

The newest tree, planted yesterday, which is a lovely prunus, glowing impossible red in the sun:

28 Sept 9

The light muddling over the tangle of geraniums, hydrangeas and cyclamen:

28 Sept 10

Then I went into the shade and snapped a sober lavender:

28 Sept 12

Then I made the Pigeon pose on a bed of leaves to get the full autumn effect. She put up with it with very good grace, until she got bored, rose from her elegant bower, walked over, and gave me a slightly reproachful lick on the nose, which is what she does when she wishes to signal that enough really is enough:

28 Sept 16

28 Sept 17.ORF

28 Sept 18

28 Sept 18-1

28 Sept 19

I know that last one has slightly the wrong focus (how sometimes I yearn to achieve Depth of Field) but I could not resist it, because of that face. It’s the quizzical what are you doing face, and it gets me every time.

You may have noticed that there is an exponential increase in Pigeon pictures lately. This is partly because I am too bonkers with the last minute dash to deadline to exert any self-control. All my discipline gets eaten up by my working day. It is partly because I am conscious of time. She is thirteen after all. And, in my crazed dog brain I think: there must be a record, of all that loveliness.

The hill, misty in the brightness:

28 Sept 22


Housekeeping note, and slight plea for opinion and advice. I have set up a Tumblr account. For a long time, I have wanted to have something on the web that I could use as a kind of scrapbook, to put interesting things I find on the internets or just a single picture or a quote. For some odd reason I don’t want to do it here. I like the form this blog has found, of my words and my pictures; I like the rhythm and look of the daily post. So, rather irrationally, I want another place for the other stuff.

I tried Posterous, but did not get on with it at all. Then I tried a separate Blogger account, but let it lapse. So now there is the Tumblr experiment. I’m not sure if it will last or not.

It’s quite annoying, in that it is not nearly as straightforward as it thinks it is, and it gives you very little information about how it works. It has a tendency to freeze, and it is maddeningly slow to download pictures. It does not allow comments, which I think is sad.

On the other hand, it has a lovely clean look, which I like a lot, and I think it may end up working quite well as the virtual commonplace book which I envisage.

If any of you have experience of it, I would love your thoughts. And if you want to go and have a look at its shaky beginnings, it is here.


  1. What a lovely post. I had a similar experience recently on Skype with a video conference. Lots of yelling before resorting to the telephone.

    Families are wonderful, as were the pictures as always.

    I know nothing about tumbler. But wish you luck with it.

  2. P.S Ice Cube -

  3. I apparently can't comment on Tumblr unless I join. And I'm reluctant to sign on for yet another online thing since I already spend a ridiculous amount of time on the internet (and my art work -- of lack thereof -- is cruel testimony to this!).
    That said, however, re: coffee and Alzheimer's, I have also heard/ read this, as well as the "fact" that 2-3 cups of coffee per day also helps prevent heart disease. That article was quite pointed about not drinking too much as doubling or trebling your "recommended" coffee intake evidently doesn't accordingly up the benefits.

  4. OR lack of...I don't even proof stuff anymore! Arrrrgh!

  5. I'm not sure it's entirely fair to city dwellers to post these beautiful pictures depicting your gorgeous countryside basking in autumnal sunshine (All that the sunshine is doing to my skank corner of London is making the bins smell even worse than usual). Please refrain...

  6. Siobhan - lovely comment, thank you. And the Ice Cube thing is hysterical. I really must brush up on my popular culture. Sometimes I feel like one of those old high court judges who used to say: Who ARE these Beatles?'

    Pat - the Tumblr thing may yet drive me mad. And I so agree about the endless signing up and then the time wastage.

    Reluctant Launderer - what a great screen name. So sorry about the countryside porn. Although you should know that sometimes I get keen city envy. I miss: the theatre, Chinese food, being able to walk into the National Gallery just to see my favourite Stubbs horse, the second-hand bookshops of the Charing Cross road, Bar Italia, red buses, and the street theatre of Soho early on a sunny morning, before the crowds have arrived. But I do admit I love my hill. :)

  7. I LOVE the Skype story. It made me laugh greatly. And Pigeon-in-the-autumn-leaves is simply divine.

    Will come to the other (non-Tumblr) blog, too. Thank you for spoiling us.

  8. Cassie - always love your comments. The thing I keep thinking about the Skype, is why did one of us just not pick up a landline? And you are kind to think of other blog as spoiling rather than just madly demanding MORE AND MORE of your time. (Sorry for caps; book madness in full bore.)


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