Monday, 14 May 2012

The day is saved

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The Apple outbreak amongst the readers made me laugh a lot. I had no idea that there was so much Mr Jobs love in these halls. And I’m afraid, at this stage, it prompts me to a most shameful admission. It is: I do not like the Apple Mac.

There, I’ve said it. There is the streaming relief of confession.

Not liking Apple is something one keeps very, very quiet about. Not just because the Apple devotees are so passionate, but also because not liking Apple marks you as an unimaginative plodder, a bourgeois moored in moribund tradition, a suit, a grouch and a staid. The groovy, creative people are Apple people; the PC people are just drones.

I don’t like Apple for some really odd reasons, too. I should stress here that I am not saying Apple is no good; it’s just not for me. My reasons are tiny, personal, and faintly pedantic.

The number one dealbreaker is that I do not like the operating font. I said this to someone once, and it was as if I were speaking Urdu. Alarmed incomprehension spread over their face; I had to make a joke and change the subject. I have not mentioned it again, until this morning, when I made the crazed admission to the World Traveller. She has seen me straight and seen me curly, and takes my idiosyncrasies in her elegant stride. Amazingly, she immediately understood. Oh, oh, I thought, perhaps I am not such a freak.

I would imagine that some people do not notice, or care about, fonts. I really, really do. I cannot write a document in anything but Georgia, or Times New Roman or Cambria. I have had computers which default to dull Courier or bland Ariel and it makes me nuts in the head. I don’t know what the Apple font is called, but I cannot be doing with it. It looks like the print equivalent of baby food; there is something unformed and juvenile about it.

The other thing, which is so stupidly small that I can hardly bear to tell you, is that Apple computers do not click. I imagine many people love this. There is just a smooth patch where you may tap your finger to indicate command. I like a proper button with a satisfying click to it, so I know I am doing something. I also like the right click function, where a full menu comes up, offering me lists of choice.

I suppose it’s a bit like a car. I’ve driven a stick shift all my life. I can see why people love automatics; I can see their merits; but I want proper gears, for roaring round corners and tackling hills. When I drive my stepfather’s automatic, I keep putting my hand out to change gear and stamping my left foot into vacancy where the clutch should be, the muscle memory is so strong. My muscle memory is not geared to Apple, for all its virtues.

Finally, people love their Macs because of all the wonderful creative things they can do. The Younger Niece is always making wonderful videos on hers. The Man in the Hat practically writes symphonies on his. But even though I am supposedly ‘a creative’, all I really use my computer for is tap tap tapping at the keys. I need to look things up on the internet, store photographs for the blog, write books, listen to music, and read a paper, and that’s pretty much it. My creation lies all in the mind, where I try to think of interesting ideas and ponder the human condition and dream up sentences that swing. The computer I need for that is a very basic tool indeed.

All of which is a very long way of saying, I got a lovely new Hewlett Packard. It was a piece of glorious serendipity. I’d looked all over the internet and decided a nice g6 would do me perfectly. (I’m never going back to Dell again.) I could not face going into the city, and an online order would take two days. Next day delivery, I discover, means: if you live south of Edinburgh. On a chance, I decided to see if the Tesco up the road might have something; they very occasionally stock the odd computer. There are no electronic shops in our local town, but the little supermarket there, built rather charmingly in the style of a Swedish holiday cabin, does a few televisions and a very occasional laptop.

Nothing there when I arrived, just rows of pointless flat screen televisions. I supposed it was too much to hope for. A smiling young fellow approached, seeing my bewildered face.

‘I don’t suppose,’ I said, diffidently, ‘you have any computers? I seem to remember you sometimes did in the past.’

He regarded the empty shelves without optimism, but he was a helpful man, and he said he would look in the back. I had very little hope.

Presently, he came back bearing a box. ‘This is the only one we have,’ he said. I peered at the uninformative cardboard. On the side, in very, very small print it said: Hewlett Packard Pavilion G6.

‘I can’t believe it,’ I said, in rising excitement. ‘That’s the exact one I wanted. It’s a sign.’

He smiled, a little baffled.

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘You have saved me the long trek to Aberdeen, I can’t thank you enough. There are not enough words to express how happy you have made me. I need new words for happy.’

He looked faintly startled, but then he seemed to realise that he had really added something to the sum total of human happiness that day, and the thought appeared to please him.

‘You are very, very kind indeed,’ I said.

It was a shade under three hundred pounds. On the internet, these machines are over five hundred. I don’t know how my tiny Tesco up the road does it; sometimes I have dark suspicions that they get them off the back of a lorry. Still, I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth, and this is a very shiny, prancy show pony of a gift.

As I went to the car, I suddenly realised that, in my exuberance, I had not even checked the specs. Oh well, I thought, as long as it has 320GB of memory, that will do. I peered at the tiny print. SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY. I laughed out loud, frightening a shopper who was getting out of a car nearby. To get an Apple with that much juice I would have had to shell out over two and half grand. Even if Frankel wins every single one of his races this season, I can’t pay for that with my William Hill account.

There was one final glitch, too dull to go into, but it involved a call to the Hewlett Packard help centre. There, I found the other kindest man in Britain, a man called David from Newcastle. Usually, when I ask about a problem, I am braced for refusal. ‘Oh,’ he said, a smile in his voice, when I explained my glitch, ‘that’s really, really...’

Oh no, I thought, he’s going to say impossible, disastrous, beyond the wit of man.

‘Easy,’ he said.

‘I don’t believe it,’ I shouted. ‘You have made my day.’

I showered him with thanks and compliments, and we parted on terms of high amity. If Hewlett Packard has more operatives like David from Newcastle, they can have my business for ever. Until the next black screen of death, I suppose.

I am typing this now on my lovely new machine. I may again work and blog and look up obscure things on the Google. The keyboard is delightfully springy, and my fingers appreciate it keenly. It also has a robust delete button, unlike my last one, which was on a hair trigger and drove me mad. I resolve to install the strongest anti-virus known to woman and never to pour water all over the keyboard, which was how I killed the computer before last. And, I am certainly taking the Dear Readers’ advice to take the poor old machine to some young computer whizz and see if the photographs may be retrieved from the black screen of death.

But all two hundred and sixty something of my word files are safe, and that is all I care about now.


As I was sorting everything out and downloading all the programmes I like, I came upon some photographs of the garden from this time last year:

14 May 1

14 May 2

14 May 5


14 May 7

14 May 8

And there was the dear old Duchess, looking grander and more beautiful than any dog has a right to. Goodness, I do miss her still:

14 May 7-001

And from the garden today:

14 May 8-001

14 May 9

14 May 9-001

14 May 10

14 May 11

14 May 11-001

14 May 12

14 May 13

14 May 14

Red, from a couple of days ago:

14 May 18

She was especially lovely today, when I went up for her lessons. I am teaching her quite a lot of new things, and she is a very quick and docile study. She also is much happier after her training than before it. I think that it reassures her. Even by very gently getting her to do quite small things, I establish myself as the lead horse and that makes her feel safe. Being the lead mare is a rotten job, and quite tiring if you are an actual horse; it’s lovely for them if someone else takes up the gauntlet. So she ducks her head and blows gently through her nostrils and blinks in dozy joy as I scratch her sweet spots, knowing that I have her back.

Pigeon putting on her questing face:

14 May 19

Look at those eyes, filled with sky.

Hill, in the spring rain:

14 May 20


  1. Ha! Your posts never fail to entertain. So happy for your new purchase. We did break down and get a Mac a couple years ago, and it was definitely a transition. I have learned to love it, for the things I do at home. Photos, videos, music, internet. We then caved and got iPhones and an iPad.

    At work, however...I am totally with you. I need clicks, I need that right-click, I need the short-cuts and the formatting options. I need better integration with spreadsheets and other non-fun programs. I could never do my work properly on a Mac.

  2. Macs can be customised to any font you like of course, and the mouse can also be set to have a right click function. But each to their own, of course. Best to have a computer you're comfortable with.

  3. It's the absence of right-click that bothers me the most. And I need to know What's Going On. I love my iPad and my iPhone, wouldn't be without them; but I get my PC.

    It's like reading the Famous Five or the Secret Seven: once you were hooked on one, the other one was never quite right.

    I take it you have got that online backup sorted out?? (Sorry to keep banging on about it, but it's (a) so easy and (b) so important... and the offer to help on that front definitely stands.

    Oh, and I have to have stick shift as opposed to automatic, too. Maybe it's just a Control Freak thing.

  4. LOL, I so hear you. My biggest complaint against Gmail is that its default font is unacceptable. So I change it to something else, but time and again, I see that my messages do not arrive in their new guise (nice, graceful Garamond). Small, harmless irritant, but dammit . . . they're my words and I want 'em to look a certain way.


    PS Must laugh at your thought of paying for a computer with Frankel winnings, since he'll have the shortest odds on the face of the planet from now until he retires.

  5. I can completely relate to your IT rollercoaster journey; I had a similar episode a few months ago which had me gnawing my own arms off with the sheer frustration of it all. I, too, was blessed with a David-of-Newcastle moment and it was as much as I could do to stop myself telling the young man how much I LOVED him as my heart was bursting with such joy. All was well. Sigh.

    Glad you ended up with an HP G6. And so cheap, as well. Very well done, Tania!

  6. Actually I think you DO get clicks on a Mac ... but my husband says that PC/Mac allegiances are like religious differences and you just have to be tolerant in both directions.

  7. Bugger, sorry, I missed your Lady of Shallot moment yesterday - the doom has come upon me (and my PC)!
    We are a NON-Mac family...for some reason I was sure you were a Mac-gurl. Forgive me for liking you even more now I know you are not :) Great work with the HP, happy clicking!
    PS-Dear beautiful

  8. Nothing better than a piece of technology that can be loved. Forgive the impertenance, but who pulls the weeds in your lovely gardens. There never are impertenant grasses sticking up.

  9. What a treat, seeing the Darling Duchess this morning. Thank you x

    Very pleased you got your HP and David-from-Newcastle. But not pleased that the Mac does not do Times New Roman or click. I very much need both. *sigh* I'll have to think about this again after coffee.

  10. This clearly isn't the place for Mac/PC wars to break out, being a haven of civility and thoughtfulness. Nevertheless, I am moved to point out that really, really caring about fonts is a major trend among Mac users!

  11. Do agree re for driving an automatic car! When we got our latest (four years old) car the sales manager shook my hand and said congratulations - I love selling cars with gears and I hardly ever do any more - hard to believe but there you are.

  12. So pleased you are back up and running. And on the apple thing: each to their own. I have done both and both are equally as good and with interest! I love what you say about fonts - I too am obsessed with fonts. Times new roman is for gravitas so I understand why you would want to write books in that font! Lou x

  13. I agree with your PC vs. Mac statements, although I think I'm addicted to different fonts than you are. But it does make a difference. I can't imagine paying that much for a machine that doesn't let the user choose whatever font they want to be looking at.

    As for automatic vs. straight drive, I'm sure I'd agree with you if I was living in Scotland. However, living on Long Island, with barely 200 feet of open space between red lights, I can't really see the point of driving a stick. No mountains, no curves to speak of, no open roads much here.

    When I owned a Harley, now, that was fun. Taking off on a motorcycle and running it through its gears takes less space, and the sound and feel of it is amazing. I miss that bike!

  14. Oh boy, happy computer news - that practically never happens. I know what you mean about the lack of clicking on the Mac, but for me the little wastepaper basket icon cancels this out. I am easily pleased. Having lived in Newcastle, can I just say that it is full of great people like David, who will help you out even when you are completely certain all is lost. Happy PCing.


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