Monday, 31 December 2012


Writing isn’t always about writing. Sometimes reading strays across your plans. Then there’s maintenance to consider. I’d just filled in a form for the tax. This parchment was due under penalty of penalty.
   The scroll was destined for delivery and receipt before Hallowe’en. Why? Tax is so complex that the relevant department is literally arcane. Yes. Run by supernatural beings. Let us ponder the fiction of Mark Twain.
   Now he went back to his treasure-house, and carefully placed himself just as he had been standing when he tossed the marble away; then he took another marble from his pocket, and tossed it in the same way, saying:
   “Brother, go find your brother!”
   Tom Sawyer wishes to find a lost marble by means supernatural and arcane. He throws one bauble after the other. How absurd. Really? Not in the least. My work was interrupted by the need for maintenance. I will now relate that tale of woe.
   Things used every day tend to work just fine. Leave them be and they may fall apart while you aren’t looking. I use my computer daily. It’s a rare day that doesn’t see the machine switched on. Sleep aside, if I am away from my desk the break is never long.
   It is important to take breaks.
   I was on holiday. Returning, I found the house still stood. Gremlins walked all over the equipment in my absence. The computer monitor tired itself while I clambered over a foreign landscape looking for story material. Broken? The damned thing took ten minutes to wake.
   Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care. Ah, just one more quirky piece of equipment. The printer that insists on chewing every third envelope. I endure the quirk. Why? I run a near-paperless office. A few times each year, I’ll have to print an actual letter. There’s little point in upgrading to a new printer just to avoid a torn envelope.
   An office without quirks is a sterile place.
   One of my DVD drives refuses to open on the first use of the ejector. A second stab at the button does the trick. My shredder developed the tendency to gather most of my shredded material in its jaws and hoard the wedge for reasons best known to itself. This only becomes a problem when I attempt to empty the beast. Suddenly, the shredded flakes decide liberty has come. They seek the carpet. The carpet is welcoming.
   Quirks. Petty annoyances. You put up with them, until you don’t. After the second incident of sleepy monitor sickness, I’d had enough. I bought a cable to connect my television to the computer, and unplugged many many things.
   My computer sat in my office. I moved the machine to my library. For various reasons of the plot, the television isn’t moving from the room full of books. I tried the new arrangement. Sitting on the floor in front of the TV wasn’t a great solution.
   I decided to improvise. Why don’t I hunt that old PC monitor out of storage and try that? A temporary fix. Can’t do any harm. I moved many many things back to my office and plugged those things into other things. The ancient monitor was retrieved from storage.
   Cold storage. The garden hut, to be exact. After a spot of mountaineering inside the hut, I scrambled and clambered to my goal: a tired old monitor that had weathered a good and bad seven winters. In my office, an awkward cable was plugged into an awkward receptacle. Click. Fizz. Buzz. Zap.
   Everything worked. The monitor was darker. That was my only problem. I had difficulty gauging the state of my cover art on a darkened machine. My best option was to buy a small computer desk and shift everything back to the library. There, I’d use my TV as a monitor again.
   I braved the elements. This is a Scottish cliché meaning I went outdoors. Many a mile I trudged in search of self-assembly office equipment. The day was dry, and I had no fear of raindrops. More to the point, the cardboard box containing the desk had no fear of raindrops.
   At the edge of reason, and my library door, I assembled the creature. “It’s ali-ive!” This creation was a simple metal desk with a shelf beneath for the computer keyboard. I plugged many many things in and fixed them around the new desk.
   My library was now my office. The office was now somehow empty. My old computer desk had nothing to do but support a tired old monitor from the Dark Ages. In my library, a folding chair – interposed between PC desk and comfy TV chair – saw the job done.
   Word reached me that I’d be offered a new computer. Great. I could put that where the old machine once sat. My office’d be an office once more. All was right with the world. And so things went. My new computer, a free horse, was not examined in the mouth.
   Let me turn to this afternoon. I’d finished inscribing the illuminated manuscript with runes. The tax was fixed. Seated in my library, at my old computer, my world exploded. The new computer desk, with its sturdy construction, survived the explosion. My problem lay within the handy sliding shelf that held the keyboard.
   That shelf shattered on the left. I was showered with shotgun pellets. Tiny ball-bearings. They flew everywhere. I caught the free end of the shelf, and did my best to stop the keyboard from flying off. In this, I was unsuccessful. The keyboard gradually slid away and clattered onto some TV equipment stationed below.
   What went wrong? The shelf’s runner failed. I saw a tiny clip which still contained ball-bearings. Other, more rebellious, shiny pellets were scattered. I secured the shelf and gathered ball-bearings. Count those.
   Twelve spaces in the clip. That didn’t mean there were twelve steel trophies to be had. If twelve were packed in there initially, then yes. I couldn’t be certain of that. So I danced on the floor. Whirled and swirled like a dervish. My hands scoured the carpet for these missing steel spheres.
   I had to look. The basic components were all intact. Nothing sheared off. The shelf was fixable. Therefore, I had to look. The main body of the desk was perforated with circular holes. Those circles lay just shy of the size of each sphere. I found two bearings nestled on the desk in these circles.
   My swirling dance continued. I applied Cosmic Law. The spheres pinged all over the place. Most would be on the desk or lying in the carpet. Some may have popped and pinged into the nearby bin. A few could’ve loitered in the desk’s superstructure to the rear. I’d check.
   Where did I look? Everywhere, of course. I uncovered ten spheres and two tiny chunks of rock. Then I found an odd piece of plastic from nothing in particular. Under my chair I detected a crumb of fossilised food. Ew.
   One piece of twine later, I finished my search. Nothing more to see. The metallic glints in the carpet weren’t helping. I’d never considered the carpet to have a metallic pattern. Until I went hunting ball-bearings.
   Cosmic Law dictates that the impossible direction is the one in which hardened seekers must travel. I found myself behind the computer desk, swirling my hands on the floor in that strange low-level dance of mine. Cable after cable, I checked.
   Where were the two missing bearings? Patience is its own reward. Luckily, patience also rewarded me with the eleventh ball-bearing. I had marked one. Could I mark twain? Now all I had to do was uncover Judas. This twelfth apostle lay hidden. I turned my attention to deconstruction and reconstruction of the shelf.
   Bomb-disposal. I had to be careful. The old TV stand, glass, was now to the right and served as my printer stand. I definitely didn’t want to knock anything over onto that. Oops, seconds later, there flew the keyboard.
   Ah, toughened glass. Glad to see that level of design in an otherwise fragile object. Be more careful. I’ll be much more careful than that. Clatter. Oops. Okay. Calm down. The design of the shelf is tricky. I’ll remove the shelf to get at the runners.
   This was achieved with minimal dropping and fumbling of bits I removed as I went along. (Believe me when I say a radical revision of the word minimal occurred in the previous sentence.) Finally, I had the eleven ball-bearings to hand. They could not be assembled in place. Resignedly, I knew I’d have to remove the left runner, flip that on its side, and apply the ball-bearings with great care.
   Situation. I’m one down. Judas has escaped me. What will I do anent that? I’ll try to fit the loose bearings inside the clip. Clatter. I drop a bearing. The metal globe rolls under the desk and settles on one of those small circular holes down there.
   “Brother, go find your brother!”
   The words come unbidden. I look right, to the nearest bookshelf. There sits Mark Twain’s story. Come on. Seriously? Am I going to follow in Tom Sawyer’s footsteps? The one place I haven’t looked is on the right of the floor-level bottom shelf. My tiny computer desk has no more secrets to relinquish.
   I haven’t looked on the right as the right side is taken up by the computer itself. There is no way that a ball-bearing could have ricocheted under there. As soon as this is put to me, I realise Cosmic Law dictates that the impossible direction is the one in which hardened seekers must travel.
   So it proves. Judas ricocheted under the rectangular computer. The twelfth apostle wormed its metallic way into hiding. Tom Sawyer helped me find the missing piece of that puzzle. I assembled everything with great skill and panache. (That is a lie.)
   After clumsily fumbling for eternity, I reassembled the whole runner. Bolted the tricky piece to the frame. Then watched in horror as the entire assembly pinged out again. Three bearings escaped. They clustered around the same dim part of my desk.
   I began again. With some cajoling, the job was done. I fixed the shelf into its awkward spot. There’s a tidy solution. Be wary when using the desk. That’s all. Yes, a flawed design was responsible. It’s possible to extend the shelf in full. Doing so on both sides extends the right side a shade further than the left. Leading to a twisting of the parts on the left. Twisting and popping of ball-bearings.
   The same is true in the other direction, when sliding the shelf away. There’s a slight uneven quality to an otherwise smooth operation. Why am I telling you this? Maintenance disrupted my writing routine. The least I could do was fashion a blog post out of the disruption.
   As for the circular black plastic clip that fell out of something, I’m sure I’ll learn where that came from. The item sits on my desk, mocking me. I am certain I dislodged the clip from one of many many things in my office/library.
   Pulling an item apart is followed by assembling that item and declaring it fixed. If you don’t have any spare parts at the end of the process, Cosmic Law dictates that you are doing something wrong. I considered throwing the clip away, to see if the thing might find its brother…
   In the time it took to write this blog post, I discovered another two black plastic clips. I can’t throw one away to locate more. If I do that, I may be swamped. Nothing appears broken or wobbly for a lack of three black circular clips. If the last you hear of me is that I was felled by an unsecured bookcase, consider the mystery solved.


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