So today I went on a shopping expedition to the big town along on the Sunshine Coast. I bought me a couple of books, some trousers and an oven timer. This is the consumer revolution taking place before your very eyes, and who knows where it will all end or even what it’s all about? The books. Two on computers and software. Dull but vital. The other, an Eric Newby, On the Shores of the Mediterranean. Marvellous.
This is my first entry that I’ve written on my new machine. The old computer died, so I had to get a new one last week. It’s very fast and the keyboard is a bit smaller and much more sensitive than the old one so I keep getting little red wavy lines appearing under words. I’ve spent most evenings last week rebuilding all my shop accounts spreadsheets on the wonderful new Excel 2013, with the originals displayed beside me on my daughter’s laptop. I almost became Kevin Smith in Die Hard 4. Except I haven’t got a generator in the basement and my mum’s dead.
I bumped into Kathy, an old friend who reads people. We had a little chat about places we’ve been, places we’d like to go, and the fact that she’s going to Spain next week to visit her son. That was where the conversation started, to be honest. There was a busker playing nearby, doing a rather virile version of Hoochie Coochie Man with a slide guitar, a pre-recorded backing track and a voice soaked in gravel. Oh, and a tambourine as well. Let us not forget the tambourine. How different would the history of the world be without the unassuming tambourine? There would be one less Bob Dylan song around, for a start.
Anyway, Kathy’s dear friend Ruth came along and interrupted our happy little chat.
“Who’s this?” she asked, sneering at me.
“Graham,” said Kathy. “I’ve known him for years. We’ve got stuff in common.”
“Oh,” said Ruth. “So you both think of each other when you’re fondling yourselves? See you in the cafe.” At which she glared at me and stalked off towards a cafe.
“Nice friend. What did I say?” said I. She said it was a long story and see you later.
If you were to see me of a morning, wending my way along the drove road to work in my little shop, you would possibly notice that I am usually carrying a large Next carrier bag. It contains bits of paper, unopened mail and other bits of randomly assorted crap. I call it my briefcase. It’s handy in the summer when I don’t wear a jacket or a coat, as it serves to carry my ridiculously large bunch of keys and my wallet, which also seems to be stuffed with completely unnecessary scraps of paper with utterly indecipherable reminders scribbled on them. Hence things like ‘Mand. Thurs am/pm? N/h ******’ Did it even mean anything when I wrote it? If I could remember writing it, I might be on the start of the long journey of discovery which would lead me to the answer to that question. Maybe I should just bin it. But that would leave another huge mystery hanging over me. And what if it was really important for some future date? What would you do??
The other morning I noticed that Tim the veggie, a tediously regular customer in the shop also carries a similar briefcase. His is a Sainsburys bag for life, a concept which has always caused me much disquiet. Do they mean that the bag will be replaced for the remainder of your life, or does it mean that when the bag dies, you go too? I wouldn’t touch one. It would be far too much of an existential quandary in which to place myself. There would be the tyranny of unexpected karmic determinism to deal with, and I don’t think that I’m really ready to deal with that concept and all that it entails just at this stage of my life, such as it is.
So I asked Tim, “What do you think Tim? Why do middle aged men such as ourselves carry rather tatty old High Street store branded carrier bags around with us every working day, when we could buy ourselves somewhat more stylish rucksacks, tote bags or even real genuine briefcases? Why Tim? Why?”
He looked in my general direction with one eye. The other he refused to take off the admittedly delicious looking brie, coleslaw, onion and salad baguette what I’d just made him.
“I hadn’t actually thought about it Graham. But since you ask, I’d have to say that it’s because we have both come to that happy stage in our lives where we realise and understand the utter impermanence of everything. Everything with which we surround ourselves is ephemeral. Nothing is solid, nothing is permanent. Look at Dooley here,” he said indicating his girlfriend, who had suddenly stopped smiling. I don’t know why he said that about her, for Dooley is, if she is nothing else, solid. A lovely girl, whose only fault is a rather irritating giggle and an almost permanent smile on her face. But solid, oh yes.
I was tempted to buy a bag today. A proper one. To carry my work stuff in. But it’s the impermanence thing, you see. It worries me.