Saturday, March 19, 2016

From O. Reader


I am writing this while we are on holiday, or as most readers here might term it, vacation - two whole weeks, when our daughter and son in law care for my mother, and we can get away.

But nothing seems to go completely smoothly in Occasional-land. For a start, as soon as we reached our destination my laptop sort of half turned up its toes and refused to accept the existence of the internet. Now I have had this machine for nearly eight years, one of the first with Vista, and it has been hammered during that time. Four of the letter keys have completely worn away, making it impossible for most others to use it. The battery has died, and to get the official version to replace it will cost more than a decent netbook. Yes - IT IS TIME.

But that didn’t help me on this trip. So I have been reduced to using a Mickey Mouse tablet. Mrs O uses her tablet all the time, but mine was kept mainly for videos. Well, forced into it, I have learned a lot. I trained as a touch typist a million years ago, with a view to getting part-time work to support myself while working for a charity. I was a lad of 16 at the time, in a class full of girls, which was rather nice really. The result was that I can think of a word or sentence, and it is already there on the page. Great! But a tablet! Here I was, pecking away like a demented chicken at keys with fat fingers - I’d mislaid the stylus of course - at about five words a minute - misspelling something chronic. It sort of reminded me vaguely of someone else. So the massive emails I usually send to less than long-suffering correspondents were reduced to an impersonation of Twitter. Which probably was an improvement, but changing the habits of a lifetime was hard. I come from the penny a line school. That was the name for journalists of yesterday who were paid by the line, so it paid to be as verbose as possible. Their motto was always to use two words when even one was superfluous.

So, now I am back (even if momentarily) on a conventional keyboard - our hols. What a dispiriting title. It reminds one of all those times when people invited you round to show you their holiday movies. Even though 8mm film was quite expensive, people used to shoot reels of out of focus movies of families embarrassing themselves. And when video came in and the cost of cameras came down it was even worse.

But - you don’t have to read this do you! You can skip it and read posts about dragons and young pixies and stuff instead.

We went to North Wales, because Mrs O wanted to learn to swim. Properly. There was this course she’d wanted to do for about ten years. The hotel supplied the pool, instruction every morning, while Occasional could crash out in the bedroom and curse at both his laptop and tablet. It worked. She learned. She is ecstatic. She wants me to join her in the pool every day. I am NOT ecstatic.

But every afternoon we did the tourist bit. We visited the Roman town of Chester, and what a well kept place it is. The main streets - dating back to Victorian times - have two tiers of shops, one above the other - all kept in pristine condition. And a canal. Belonging to a canal trust back home, I am a sucker for canals. We will go back again. And we went to Liverpool, and behaving like real tourists, saw the Beatles experience. Quite nicely done, and the reconstruction of the Cavern reminded me of places I used to visit in another life when in London.

The only problem with visiting Liverpool was the toll system for the tunnels under the Mersey. Back in Wales, I am used to traveling over the two Severn Bridges to reach England - where you either have a tag on your vehicle, or someone swipes your card or gives you old-fashioned change at the booth. Here, they wanted the exact money and they wanted it thrown into a strange kind of bucket. Mrs O hastily counted out the fee - unfortunately all in very small change - as we queued and I threw it into the bucket - and missed. Don’t ask me how I missed. Mrs O is still asking me, but I don’t know. But I was out of the car grovelling on the ground trying to retrieve the small coins, while juggernauts with impatient drivers leaned on their horns behind me. Mrs O says I should stay calm and not get flustered. Flustered? Moi? It is easier said than done. I REALLY felt like a tourist.

The only other mishap (well, so far) was when we first got to North Wales. The day before we left we’d both visited the dentist and were given a clean bill of health. But my dentist - my daughter’s age - gave me a little lecture and suggested I might like to retire my trusty toothbrush. Mrs O has used a rechargeable thing for years, but I have resisted. So - I succumbed. How do you use this thing? Well (said in a world-weary patient voice with only a trace of a sigh) you put the toothpaste on the little brush - see? - And then you press the button. Simple. I have been told that the ring of toothpaste on my sweater will wash out, but there is still some concern about the hotel wallpaper.

Our second week we travelled to the Holiday Village of Centerparcs, and here to-night - oh joy, oh rapture - the internet has come back, even if only temporarily. So I am bashing this out before it all goes pear shaped again. And I am hoping to catch up on all the research I promised to do for various ones last week.

As usual, I expect we’re going to need a holiday/vacation to get over this one


  1. "Their motto was always to use two words when even one was superfluous." What a wonderful philosophy for life.

    i wish my holidays were as interesting as yours. or I could write about them as well.

  2. An occasional reader2:19 PM

    Thanks for kind words.

  3. Your words ""Their motto was always to use two words when even one was superfluous" are sensational. Now they are in my WhatsApp profile, and the author is "Occasional Reader". Great!!!