Thursday 2 April 2020

A secretive computer

Last week my computer decided it wasn't going to start any more. It had been taking longer and longer to open and I spent a long time each day staring impatiently at that photograph taken from inside a cave looking onto the sea and some rocks, while a small circle went round and round and a message told me I was 'welcome'. How I long now to see that view again and to be told that I'm welcome to use my own computer!

The computer knows there's something up with it. Another - very slightly larger - circle goes round and round for ages when I try to turn it on now. After a while it works out that it can't switch itself on and tells me it going to work out what's wrong with itself. It, encouraged by me, tried various ways of doing this but none of them worked.

This is when you recall the number of times you told yourself to make copies of files, to back things up, to send things to the 'cloud'. Miraculously I had done quite a bit of that... but not as much as I could have done. Maybe I shouldn't but I like to get a lot of use out of my computers, this one had been with me for several years... evidently too many years... and it's remarkable how much material I realise in now locked away in my apparently impenetrable device. There were many files I created long before the 'cloud' was floating around... or at least before I worked out how to send information heavenwards!

Of course in normal times I would now be searching for the whereabouts of a computer geek who could take my laptop to bits and hopefully find out why it has decided to so stubbornly to keep itself to itself. However these are not normal times and although the unexpected inaccessibility of so much of my work is incredibly annoying the challenges and suffering so many are experiencing at the moment has helped put my problem into perspective. Not only that it has made me realise how lucky I am and so many of us are. Perhaps in time my computer will be repaired. If not I may have some rewriting to do. Big deal. if this is my Amy's put the book in the fire moment so be it.

Linked with this is a sense of gratitude that the pandemic didn't strike a few years ago, as it could quite easily have done. Certainly the world has been fairly interconnected for a while now but not to the extent that it is today. What has made life bearable for many, including me, has been the chance to stay in touch with friends and family, to work safely at home, to enjoy the creativity that confinement is inspiring in many.

It's also a time when I hope many will appreciate the benefits writers bring to this world by creating their multitudinous worlds that their readers can escape into as a relief from our concerns about the corona virus. A world a little different from the one when a few years ago I proudly showed my first children's book to the mother of a boy I'd been asked to tutor for his GCSE English exam. (I note that at the age of 16 'Of Mice and Men' which I read with him was probably the only decent novel - in fact one of the few books - that he'd ever read in his life. This should probably be taken into account regarding his mother's reaction to my book.)

The book had been published by Ginn, at the time a well respected educational publisher and despite being only 32 pages long had taken no small amount of work to complete on my part and that of my editor and every page had been really well illustrated by an established illustrator. I can't remember the exact price of the book when it was published but I guess it would be about £5 or £6 now. 'So how much are they charging for this?' she asked, turning it over in her hands as though she were examining the quality of a piece of material. 'How on earth do they justify that?' she demanded, thoroughly shocked, when I told her. It was clear that all she saw was a glossy cover holding in 32 pieces of paper. Of course it took my shattered ego a while to realise this!

Several years later, having got chatting with a guy who was plastering our kitchen I showed him a copy of the book. 'How much did you have to pay them to print that then?' he asked. I still don't think he really believed my when I explained that the publishers had paid me actual money.

At the time I found these comments upsetting but now, like me, I hope you'll find them amusing... and perhaps, who knows... by the time this is over even my two critics will appreciate the benefit of the writing that we all do!

Please stay safe and well.x


Susan Price said...

Good blog, Steve! It reminds me of my grandmother, sitting in our house one Christmas, glumly looking at our floor to ceiling bookcases on either side of the fireplace, stuffed and over-flowing with books of all kinds. After a few minutes, she said, "All them books! What a waste of money."

Sue Purkiss said...

My dad loved reading, but he, too thought buying books was a waste of money. Mind you, he thought buying most things was a waste of money - he loved acquiring things that other people had thrown away, and restoring or repurposing things. I'm not sure where his reading matter came from, but he always managed to have some.

Hope you get your laptop fixed, Steve, or at least manage to retrieve your files!

Steve Way said...

Dear Susan and Sue (we're all Ss!)thank you for your comments, they made me smile! You also reminded me about a bookseller I came across. He ran a small bookshop in a town near where we lived and although he sold contemporary books his passion was for collecting and selling rare second hand books. He once disdainfully told me that he thought that once a paperback book had been read that it should be thrown away! Whilst I understood his love of antiquated books it made me think that he was seeing their value as a form of ornament as being greater than the creative wonder of the work within! Et tu Brutae!?!...