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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Power Up

I was given a tablet for Christmas. This was not simply a way of getting me to shut up and be quiet it was in fact an Android tablet. An ipad but not an ipad. We are now in a quite deeply committed relationship. Despite working in an industry where I know how to work a reasonable amount of fancy pants equipment (although my Dad still doesn’t trust me with their sky+) computers and I have never really got along. I bought my first lap top about seven years ago from PC world. I got the well known brand Lenovo– yep you heard me. I got it home, turned it on and nothing happened. It would not come to life. I charged it for a couple of years. Still it wouldn’t turn on. I returned to PC world and explained, half laughing, that the computer I had bought for them the previous day didn’t even turn on. They told me it was not their problem and I would have to take it up with the manufacturer and gave me a help line to call. I asked if I could use their phone. No.

I rung the help line, they told me to return it to the shop. I said I couldn’t. They said they’d call me back, they did, I explained it to 15 people. I cried. A Swedish man told me ‘ I think you need to have a cup of tea, I’ll call you back in ten minutes’. I did, he did. The upshot of it was they sent a man to my house to replace the entire motherboard and I developed a great hatred on PC world. The computer was…OK. I could type on it which was all I really wanted to do. I got used to turning it on a couple of days before I wanted to use it so it had times to come to terms with it. I never asked it to upload photos or anything complicated which would cause it to just shut down. Then one day I accidently upended a cup of tea in to the keyboard. The computer locked itself and the keys refused to work. I dried it out with a hairdryer and by sitting it next to the oven. Half the keys still refused to work. Sadly the half which made up the password to unlock the computer.

Over time I could get in. The delete still refused to work so I got used to highlighting and overwriting. The space bar only works if you slam it, so I stopped working in the library. I would type hundreds of words and look up to see that I had been typing on only three keys and I had written in some kind of experimental vowel only language. I borrowed a computer and finished the novel. I now have some weird superstition that until it’s sold I shouldn’t buy a new laptop. So I may be some time.

But now I have the tablet. And we have a deep bond going on. I was always fairly anti kindles – I didn’t think you could beat a real book. I still think that. But when you’re on the commute home and you finish your book isn’t it a lot easier to have a device where there are hundreds there waiting for you? When you’re lying in bed and you’re suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to read Mallory Towers isn’t it great that you don’t have to wait for the library to open or trawl second hand book shops. When you are reading a Lesley Pierce or an Emma Blair isn’t it great that no one can see the cover and assume you are illiterate but rather keen on the poverty and bizarre incestuous lifestyles of 1930s Britain?

I have also cut down on my paper recycling by downloading the papers on to my tablet. Haven’t quite worked out how to do the crossword yet but I’m sure I’ll crack it sooner or later.
And best of all – the flipping thing turns on

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Please don't leave me

Sleep. When your surname is Sleep you get used to the jokes. Every September when you’d get a new teacher you’d brace yourself for the read through the register and the inevitable ‘Sleep? Not in my lesson you don’t’. As a result of years of getting letters addressed to Sheep, Slep, Sleet and worse it’s become an instinct for all my family to give their name as ‘Sleep, S, L, double E, P, as in go to bed’. Which works quite well until you get a perv (I don’t wish to generalise but it’s normally estate agents) who says ‘is that an invitation?’ You learn to live with these things you remind yourself it could be worse, you could be called Bumgardener or something. Especially as there are people who never ever call me by my Christian name and only call me Sleep or Sleeps or Sleepymonster or (my favourite) Sleep Doggy Dog. Someone once questioned why I had signed a birthday card with my given name. Well it’s because it’s my name and people who refer to themselves as their nicknames are normally (I am desperately trying to think of an exception but I can’t) dicks.

I have also always been extremely good at sleeping. At my peak I could hit around 16 hours a day (I’d like to claim this was when I was a baby, I was probably about 20 at the time). My mum would always say that I was the last of her children to sleep through the night. I would feel bad until it was cleared up and established that I slept through the night at six weeks old. Since then I’ve never really stopped. I’ve powered on sleeping nine hours a night and then at weekends topping up with a nap. I could sleep through storms, riots, people shouting at me, in parks, outside museums and once memorably in a karaoke bar. Sleep serves me well. And then it stopped.

Without warning I suddenly dropped to three hours sleep a night. This was last August. I would go to sleep as usual around midnight, I would fall in to a lovely deep sleep. Then bang on 3am I would wake up. And that was it. Occasionally I would fall back asleep at around 7-30 only for the alarm to go off half an hour later. There would be a moment of disbelief and then you’d realise you had very little choice in the matter and you had to get up. Some nights I’d lay there, some nights I’d watch tv, some nights I’d go to Sainsburys. Every night I’d go to bed in the hope that this would be the night that I would sleep through. It never was. I began to put myself to bed like a baby, warm bath, milky drink, calm atmosphere. I stank like an old lady due to the vast amounts of lavender I chucked around. Still nothing. I began to hate my bed. I had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Funhouse episodes (it’s on at 4am on the Challenge channel).

You cope. You live with the constant nausea, the constantly being close to tears, the inability to make a cup of tea without screwing it up (milk in the cupboard, pouring the tea down the sink and stand there holding an empty cup, knowing that something’s not quite right but you’re not sure what). Every conversation you have normally involves you at some point rocking and saying ‘I’m so tired, I just need to sleep’. Then suddenly you’ll get five hours or something and it will revitalise you and you think it’s broken and then you sink back to three hours. It’s all you can think about. Occasionally I would hallucinate, that was actually fairly enjoyable and did take my mind off things. Every morning I would get the tube to work and fantasise about flinging myself in front on it. Just so I would be unconscious (and I know dead, but I was more concerned with sleeping). I refined my plans slightly to thinking about putting my arm in front of the tube, so I’d get a hospital stay, drugs and sleep. I told a woman at work my plan and she gave me a look of horror and informed me the tube would take my arm off. It’s possibly another symptom of insomnia – inappropriateness. There are certain conversation starters that just don’t work.

It’s also a desperately competitive business not sleeping. Everyone is having less than you. People with children, people who are stressed – if you were to listen to everybody you’d believe that we are a twenty four hour society. No one sleeps. Everyone has got it worse. But with the best will in the world, I didn’t care. I just wanted to sleep.

And then miraculously I did. Christmas night I slept for ten hours and I’ve not stopped since. Bed has once again become one of my favourite places. I look forward to getting in knowing that I’ll be unconscious and won’t be laying there staring at the clock crying because I’m so tired but can’t switch off. I can nap! I don’t know what changed. I don’t care what changed. My best friend is back and I never want him to go away again.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Coming Soon....

I have joined the modern age. Oldest television in the world has died and I have been forced to buy a new one. Oldest television in the world was probably twenty or so years old and had lived with a variety of families before coming to stay with me. He was unique in many ways. Firstly he was obese. I had him plonked on a chest full of all dvds etc the day I moved and he’s stayed there ever since as he was too heavy to move. Four years my Royal Family board game has been trapped in that chest. Four long years. He was also a little bit of a tyrant. If he didn’t like what you were watching he would simply change channels. He particularly liked to change himself on to the AV setting which wasn’t very enjoyable for anyone. But I loved him, even as he got deafer and deafer and would randomly turn the volume up to compensate for his lack of hearing. It was when he turned in to the widest, deepest, heaviest radio that I decided we really needed to part ways. Having no picture at all does somewhat limit your televisual enjoyment.

I chose a new television. A television that was HD, wasn’t a metre or so deep and had all the channels I required already in the television (just in time too as they turn the analogue off this year). I took advantage of having a party round at mine and asked strapping lads to carry oldest television to the bin area outside the flats where it could collected by the council. Even in death oldest television was only thinking of others. Rather than make me pay the twenty pounds the council wanted to collect him he arranged for himself to be stolen from the bin area the night before they arrived. The thieves have got themselves a good thing there. Or an ancient non working television that was left out in the snow for three days so is probably liable to electrocute them.

But most excitingly of all new television is connected to the internet. I can watch things on I-player, you tube and through the wonders of technology I can stream love film direct to the television. I have been a member of love film for years. I am on the lowest plan there is. Partly because I am rubbish at making time to watch films but mainly because I kept losing the flipping discs so really only got through two or three a year. But now the possibilities are endless. I have already watched one! But what to watch? Unlimited access to films gives me the same problem as I-tunes. The possibilities are endless – but I don’t know what I want! I am overwhelmed by choice. I think this is where trailers come in.

But the trailers seem to have been made by people who haven’t seen the film. ‘The Help’ a hard hitting film about the civil rights movement in 1960s America was made to look like a flimsy rom com in the trailer. I did actually go and see it and was astonished to find the film was really good and true to the spirit of the book. The trailer however was rubbish. Happily though when I went to see ‘The Help’ I was privileged enough to see the best trailer I have ever seen (for a film I have no intention of seeing). It was ‘War Horse’. Now thanks to stage play and various reviews I know that War Horse is a stirring and moving film about the role of horses in warfare. From the trailer it looked like the film was about the forbidden love of a boy and his horse. Their intense sexual love spans countries and time. Even when he is apart he carries a photo of the horse with him. He dreams of him.

Now thankfully the people who will pay to see the film are far more intelligent and know what the film is about and may have circumnavigated the trailer. If the cinema relied on selling tickets only to the people who had seen the trailer the theatre would be filled entirely of clammy individuals feverishly stroking their My Little Ponies and whispering ‘this is our story Toffeeapple. Our love will be recognised’.

I suppose it’s one way of dodging the usual trailer problem. Putting the entire plot and all the jokes in to the preview. This is normally because the film is a dud and the only way you could be convinced to part with money to see the full length thing is to be convinced that it looks half way decent. I have seen many, many appalling films this way. Films so awful I would rather watch horse love. I was about to say that at least with new telly I don’t have to go to the cinema to watch these things but that casts me in bad light and makes the whole thing rather unsavoury.