Posted by Tania Kindersley.
My computer starts braying at me, like a maddened donkey. Then everything flashes. Then everything freezes. If I were not such an anti-cliché vamp, I should say my blood ran cold. (Actually, one does feel a sort of physical chilling effect in moments of panic; and anyway, there are clichés and clichés.)
A furious sign appears. Disc full alert, it says, or something equally terrifying. Apparently, I have only 113mb of space left. For those who do not speak computer, i.e. My Mother, this is absolutely nothing. If my computer were an acre, I would have one square foot of room left in which to move.
I do not understand. There are many things about machines I do not understand. Specifically, I did a big clear-out only last week. I was so proud of myself. I threw out a whole forty gigs of junk. Suddenly, my poor old contraption had a bit of room to breathe. In under eight days, all that had been mysteriously filled up.
The thing has gone rogue, I think. I have downloaded nothing in that time. I have taken a few pictures, that is all. Slightly shaky, I go to the pictures file, to have a rummage. It turns out that I have 7,345 photographs. How does that even happen?
Even more alarming, they appear to exist in three locations, which means in effect I have over 22,000 pictures files. There are things I knew I deleted, but the computer has said no, and squirreled them away in secret cellars and dungeons, scattered about my hard disc. I find endless duplicates. Each one has to be individually removed, with an infuriating ARE YOU SURE notice after each. Yes, yes, bugger off, of course I am sure. I start to grow crazed with the machine. Is it questioning whether I know my own mind?
I waste at least two hours of valuable work time doing what is euphemistically called ‘housekeeping’. None of it makes any sense. There are files where there should not be files. At one moment, there is no disc space left at all; after a reboot, there are, bizarrely, sixty gigs, which is much, much more than the amount of nonsense I have just deleted. I think: are there gremlins in the thing, secretly reproducing in the night? Have I lost control of my own implement? This is supposed to be my slave, not my mistress.
Eventually, things rock back to some kind of normality. Disaster seems to be averted, although I have deep technological questions to which I can find no answers. (Why are there suddenly 179 photographs in a Temp file, which was not there five minutes ago?) I wish, mournfully, that The Man in the Hat were here, because this is ABC to him. For me, it is like trying to have a conversation about sovereign debt in Italian, when all I can actually say in Italian is please and thank you and goodness the Campo de Fiori is beautiful.
It makes me think about impotence. I’ve been having sudden moments of cresting fury, small random rages, in the last few days. I am not good with anger. I do not know where to put it. (I asked The Brother this, yesterday. Take it outside and shout it into the wind, was his advice.) My crossness is a delayed reaction to one specific thing, in which a person has done me egregious wrong, and there is little chance for redress. It is one of those things where you have to let it go, and you persuade yourself you have let it go, because otherwise it will eat you up from the inside, and then you find yourself yelling at an inanimate object. At which point, it becomes clear that the letting go is not working so very well.
I realised that this specific rage, about this one event (too dull to tell you all about), had been steadily leaking out into unrelated areas of life. It could be big things: my bloody father bloody dying. It could be tiny things: the fact that I can never find my mobile telephone, and, if I do find it, it turns out I have always forgotten to charge it.
I can get violently cross about intractable political matters, and pointless tribalisms, and the stupid bankers with their stupid salaries. Mr Hester, I think, enraged, suddenly taking it very personally: do you really need your £35 million in three years? Thirty-five million quid. That is how much we, the taxpayers, have paid the fellow in order to sack people and watch the share price of RBS go down, down, down.
Then, back to the very small again, and I find myself hideously affronted that a complete stranger will ring me up, in the evening, and ask if I want some double glazing. How dare you encroach on my privacy, I think, in stupid rage.
The computer crossness runs over all this like a palimpsest. It’s a combination of not quite knowing what I am doing, the machine refusing to do what I am certain I have told it to do, and the denial of agency. I damn well pressed that button; I got rid of that file; I made space. And now there the bloody thing still is, in some inexplicable other location, as if the computer is defying me, and spends its free time hiding stuff from me, for a joke. I think the fatal thing about machines is they make us dependent on them, so that when they suddenly do not work we know not what to do. It's like when there is a power cut, and I realise I can do nothing, not boil an egg, have a cup of coffee, keep warm, turn on a light.
There is a sense of wider grumpiness, in the population at large. The Grumpy Old Men and Grumpy Old Women have their very own television franchise, where they get to grumble about everything from school to Christmas. It takes hardly anything to send the Twitterati into incandescence. Columnists traffic in rage, against any perceived slight, politically correct idiocy, ministerial initiative.
I wonder if the computer feeling is not a tiny, telling exemplar of a broader malaise. There are many areas of life which seem beyond our human control: the climate, racing technology, the tectonic plates of geo-politics, the secretive workings of the masters of the universe (very few mistresses, even now) as they rig the financial world for their own enrichment, intractable political problems, the mysterious bureaucracies of Brussels.
Only this morning, people were shouting about the NHS. No one can agree. The government bill is brilliant, and the only thing to save the health service; the government bill is disastrous, and the NHS shall die. Doctors want it, doctors don’t want it; the nurses are furious; the commentators are split. The citizen can only sit back and watch, and hope that someone, somewhere, knows what they are doing. The future of the dear old NHS, the thing of which we are so proud, despite the national sport of grumbling about it, hangs in a balance about which I can do nothing.
All of which is rather a long way of saying that perhaps it is not surprising that sometimes I get cross. I wonder if I am living in world rigged for crossness. I am inclined to think of anger as something bad, something which must be fixed. Perhaps it’s just a perfectly reasonable response to an unreasonable world.
I am not certain. It’s a fledgling theory and I am still working on it.
The main thing is the computer and I are friends again. I bless it each day; its miraculous chips and wiring and widgets allow me to do my work and read the internet and go on Twitter for fun. It is a thing I do not take for granted. I do not enjoy staring at the flashing screen bellowing What the fuck??? (You know when I start using three question marks things are very dire.) Let us hope the whirling disc gremlins do not come again in the night, and all shall stay calm, and I can think serene thoughts and make green soup and breathe.
Pictures are not quite of the day. As I went through the ancient, clogged photograph files, ruthlessly pruning and chucking, I found there were some old ones I could not quite throw out. (The excess if not just due to computer malfunction and defiance, but also because I find it almost impossible to delete anything of The Pigeon, even if it is slightly out of focus.) Here are a few darlings from the last six months that I could not quite kill. I am afraid they are rather dog-heavy, surprise surprise. Although there is also a pig, a robin, a Younger Niece, and some random grass:
And here is a quick snapshot of what today looked like. Afternoon light: