Ios 10

“Good morning Adrian. This is Damien in Apple Tech support.  How can I help you?”
“Hi, thanks for calling back. I just bought a new iPhone 5SE and I’m having a few problems.”
“Let me just stop you there to say that calls may be recorded for training purposes and all that shit,  blah blah blah… But as it’s ‘fun Friday’ here in Cork, I’m going to switch that off. There. Right now, Adrian. You were saying…”
“Yes, you see I bought the phone and downloaded Ios 10”
“Yes I can see that. In the Wilton shopping centre branch of Eir. at 1.27pm. Took you a while to figure out how  to get in I see.  Forgot your iTunes password so many times you had to create a new one.  That’s been happening quite a lot to you recently, hasn’t it? You were sitting next to your old friend Chris.  Well, when I say ‘old’, it’s all relative.  She’s only 3822 days older than you, according to our files.”
“I’m sorry, but how can you tell that?”
“Well. Adrian, or do you prefer to be called ‘Toffee-nose’ – I see from your security questions that was your nickname at school – she has and iPhone too, and she’s a Friend of yours on Facebook I see, and of course we know her date of birth and yours and I have a nice little calculation app here…”
“Hang on.  You have access to my security questions? And you can see the location of my phone?”
“Of course.  Strange maiden name you mother had by the way.”
“Look, Damien…”
“Call me Beelzebub. That’s my nickname round here.”
“Jesus!”
“No, wrong location…”
“Look Damien or Beelzebub or whoever you are, I’ve got problems with Ios 10 and I need help.”
“Yes, I can see you were trying unsuccessfully to send email last night at 11.47, which is about 45 minutes after your normal bedtime. And Charlene was already in bed I see. Though she wasn’t asleep. In fact she was texting someone called Richard McCarthy, who’s registered as living in St Lukes in Cork, and he’s 39. Nice profile pic he has – rugged, if you know what I mean. She spends quite a lot of time next to on Tuesday afternoons most weeks – he’s also an iPhone user, Adrian.”
“Oh for God’s sake.  Look, Damien…”
“Call me Bee, please.”
“This is scaring the shit out of me!  I’m sitting here in my underwear, because the heating is way up. I was messing around with the new phone last night and by mistake I set up home controls and must’ve pressed the wrong setting, and I can’t turn it down because I also set up fingerprint security and I can’t remember which finger I used, and it only allows me three goes and I’ve used the wrong fingers and the phone has locked me out…”
“Oh dear, you are in the shit, aren’t you Adrian. Now, tell me about that nice girl you were sitting next to in the Black Pig last night between 9.23 and 10.15? Janice Maynard.  Her Facebook profile doesn’t give much away, but I see her DoB is 16.03.88, so she’s only 28, you naughty boy.  And your phones were up against one another outside the bar at 10.15 till 10.27… I wonder why.”
“Look B, could you stop browsing my personal history and please help me get back into my phone and turn down the heating, or at least switch off the home controls? And while we’re at it, I’ll be switching off location ID too.  Actually I thought I had refused the phone access to my location every time it asked, which was loads of times.”
“Oh come on, let’s not be naive about the settings you think you have control over… Let me just send a text from Richard McCarthy to his wife, Helen, about his affair with Charlene and while I’m about it, perhaps one from Charlene to Janice’s boyfriend, Andrew – always fun to mix it up a bit, don’t you think… ”
“Oh my God!”
“Not today, I’m afraid.  Oh dear, Toffee-nose, judging by Janice’s phone, which is moving up and down rhythmically, close to the location of Mick Murphy’s phone, I’d say you’ve got stiff competition there… Ah well, let’s move it on, now I’ve had my fun, Toffee-nose. Sure I can help you, but first let me just check something… Oh dear, I think we’ve got a problem.  I see your bank balance isn’t very healthy, and talking of ill-health, your heart-rate is very high right now and you should calm down. I can see you’ve been spending time in the cardiology department of CUH recently.  Not sure you’re much use to me.”
” Hang on. How did you get into my… Fuck it! The lights just started flashing on and off around the house, and it’s getting hotter.  Please Bee, stop fucking with my phone and help me bypass the fingerprint security?”
“OK. I guess it is fun Friday, and now I’ve emptied your bank account, you’re just not that much fun… gotta go, Bye.”
Adrian’s house phone goes dead as Damien moves on to another call.  He has a severe pain in his chest which runs down his left arm.  The house phone rings again.
“Hello Adrian, this is Apollyon at Apple Tech Support, but everyone calls me The Beast. You were just talking to my colleague, Damien.  I must apologise, it’s his last day and he’s been a bit unruly. No, how can I help?”
“Thank God… I…”
“Hold on there, Adrian. I’m just reading your blog, I won’t be a minute.”

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Forget about it

Yesterday morning, after very few hours’ sleep, I took the dog out early, and saw the sun rise over Charles Fort, and a strange elephant’s eye in the sky, watching me.  The day was the last of four in which I hosted the 23 American potters who attended workshops, and I also had to teach my weekly Thursday class, prepare the lunch room and wash everything up , pack away the furniture, prepare for and host a drinks reception in Cork City and glaze and fire two kilns full of their work.  Today is the quiet aftermath day.  Wash the glasses from the party, finish cleaning up, start to wrap and pack ceramics for delivery to the Bantry venue, have a massage, go to the gym and chill.  It all went well. Everyone enjoyed themselves and with few mishaps.

I had a strange dream last night, in which we were on holiday in a foreign city, possibly in Germany or northern Europe, and we’d take a metro to the stop close to our hotel.  The dream began in the hotel, which wasn’t smart, but full of corridors and unused rooms – a repetitive sequence for me – and then I chose to go out for a walk in the busy streets.  I walked through historic areas and modern areas, including a department store like Harrods, thronged with customers, and thought I was walking in a wide circle to come back to the hotel.  Needless to say, I became lost.  I arrived at a different metro station, which was crowded. I thought I must be only one stop from the station close to the hotel, but I couldn’t remember the name of the local station.  Although the people waiting were helpful, and one even gave me a map of the metro, it was hopeless. I couldn’t remember the name of the station, and I’d left my mobile at the hotel.  Nobody understood or recognised my description of the department store or the hotel, and I ended up sitting alone on the kerbside, late at night, knowing that I would not find my way back.  The dream was vivid and stressful and for a second night, I woke at 3.30am and read Knausgaard for an hour before trying to sleep again, without success.

It’s not a dream that means a lot.  There has been so much to organise and remember, and the lack of sleep has built up.  It isn’t some premonition of Alzheimers, or a desertion complex.  It’s a dream. But the morning now has a flavour of that dream and is backed up by the exhaustion which builds over the days.  This isn’t an unpleasant state.  It reminds me of a hangover without the headache, But I do wonder about the elephant’s eye…

My Friday morning silence.

The office is now a therapy room and meditation space and the hallway is an office. The desk has been butchered to fit, and there’s a new view.  There were no phone calls, or toilet flushes.  The dog didn’t decide to skit around in the kitchen with her new toy.  The coffee grinder was not used and the kettle had already boiled.  The only sound was the gentle clicking of the Apple keyboard, and my breathing and an occasional morning cough.  The new solid pine doors separated us and our respective mornings, but your mindfulness was interrupted by the consciousness of another being in the house, and mine by the knowledge that you’re now working at home too.  The sounds of traffic and distant bells, or Cork’s buzz, such as it is on a Friday morning, were removed, and the residual silence screamed. It will take us both time to adjust.

Your peace, albeit interrupted, was counterbalanced by my apprehension, as thoughts about the final preparations for Monday trundled through my mind.  The coffee is strong and fresh at least.  23 American potters will be here for four days, perhaps sharing over 900 years of combined experience, and they will be taught, or not, fed and watered, entertained, for the week.  This will need to be military in its planning, but not in its presentation.  Why are they here?  They’ve paid well for a two week tour of Ireland, concentrating on visits to craft shops, to galleries and castles, museums and attractions, but they’ve chosen the trip for the workshops. They want to learn from their Irish colleagues, and to see some new techniques, but they’re also here to soak up the atmosphere, partake of the craic, feel the love we have of our craft.  Yes, it is, again, a performance as much as a series of workshops. They want a relationship with the tutors and the place, its history seeping into them.  Last year, the group of 16, when surveyed about their trip, commented on the cleanliness, or lack of it, here.  My first reaction was irritation: it’s a working pottery for God’s sake!  But that criticism had its effect, and the whole place has been cleaned, the table tops replaced, the toilets polished… And now it’s the small things – the food allergy notified, the projector focused, the potters’ knives washed, the fridge stocked with ‘sodas’, and the weather watched for the outdoor day.

And why am I doing it?  Well, I could be crass about the money it makes, or I could make up something about engaging with like-minded people from across the pond, but in fact, it is part of the steam engine that shunts up and down a track, whose boiler was stoked several years ago and still has a head of steam, collecting and delivering loads. It is an extension of the overpowering summer during which, in three months, 550 people took classes and courses here.  And it is another welcome distraction from the looming editing task for the novel, and the winter ahead.  It’s is a function.  It centres me to know I have my year punctuated with jobs that must be done.  It fills the silence of my Friday morning.

Waking up to autumn

It’s humid and warm, and the thick cloud spills showers throughout the morning. There’s a wind and scudding across my window. The new view, from the new study in the hallway, includes a section of white wall, which is now covered in slugs. They seem to be facing downhill, as though they arrived in the night from the sky and have managed to land, but realise they must make the long trek south to find land. The old study had only a roof light and the temptation to look up was not so strong. We probably carry genes to encourage horizontal rather than vertical vigilance.

It’s the end of a long summer, characterized by continuous work in the pottery and little else. Certainly no thought of writing. The routine was therapeutic. The schedule demanded and the demands were met, and the reward was simple and material. And then. And then.   There’s a novel to edit, with a need for some surgery, which will be tricky. Not that the body is cancerous, but there are blockages for sure, and perhaps the joints are stiff. My relationship with this novel is not simple. Perhaps every writer would say that about every book. When was it ever simple, true love. Is this my child? Not at all. Was it something I needed to wash off – no. Wasn’t it more like something I had to get into, like the gym? Something healthy and positive and practical.   It wasn’t a personal journey or an exorcism. It isn’t erudite or subtle. It was a process of jogging and then running.

And editing is a whole new process to develop. After seven years running a technical publishing company which generated about 10,000 pages of analytical text a year, I was used to a certain sort of editing which involved dissecting the work of others and trying to find the best in it, without undermining the confidence of the writer, but guiding them to expand on or replace elements. So, much the same as far as that goes. Fulfilling the brief, covering all the relevant elements of the topic, delivering satisfaction to the reader in terms of a rounded story, a complete picture… But what is the added element? A realization that this is what the story is really about, this is it’s point. Its raison d’etre. Sometimes that seemingly whole and well made thing is missing an element which isn’t apparent. Perhaps he is a mundane and unimaginative being without that creative spark, or that engaging emotional honesty. Sometimes he is ill-informed and myopic, but usually he is lazy. He hasn’t stretched himself. He hasn’t come out fighting, or perhaps he’s run a race and never noticed that he forgot to put on his running shoes. I’ve got to stop, go back and walk the route, to examine every inch of it, rather than feeling the wind in my legs and the finishing line ahead,. This will take a different mindset.

Then there are stories to write, another attempt at the family history perhaps. There’s a long winter in the offing, and inside, in the dust-filled bowl, there has to be something in which to germinate new plants.