Monday, 3 September 2007

Obsolescence. Arvon, magic knickers and Hugo Williams

I have engaged in some retail therapy with a good friend who has recently lost her mother. By lost I mean in the ‘died’ sense rather than the misplaced. I am the one who tended to err on the misplacement side in the past when my mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s,shuffled off at a rate of knots in Motorway Services or Garden Centres. She was once brought back by a neighbour several doors away having nearly made it as far as the petrol station on the corner and I hadn’t even missed her. My friend would not mind me writing this, as humour, we have both long known, is our way to deal with some things. So retail therapy involved magic knickers for the funeral for her as the little black dress was a bit tight now. We laughed when we discussed that the feeling of being supported is quite important on such occasions.
My retail experience involved trying to get my digital camera fixed. Cambridge abounds with geeky camera shops, I’m not talking run of the mill Dixon’s here. I produced my digital camera, just over a year old so just out of warranty and they leapt back as if I had placed a large turd on their counter. No-one wanted to even pick it up, it was a rubble glove job to them…a Praktica..I could see that they couldn’t even bring themselves to mouth the word. Praktica, the scum camera manufacturer of the earth I tended to read on their horrified faces.
It’s not worth mending; no-one will do it for less than the money you paid for it. £90 I know is cheap but over this amount to have a power button work seems a bit steep. In built obsolescence murmured one shop assistant. It’s not designed to last much longer than the warranty. I presume there is some internal clock that ticks away the countdown to its own obsolescence. 364 days, 365, 366 bingo, I am out of here, dead, non-functional, an ex-camera much like the Python parrot.
I scooped my turdish camera gingerly back into my bag and tried the next camera shop, same story. They all said the same, some tried to disguise their sneer better than others, some tried to sell me a better camera, full marks to the young lad who told me that I’d done well to get a years worth of crap unfocused, pixel challenged photos out of it. One man seemed to need to inform me about the whole economics of the camera industry, Praktica don’t actually make cameras at all they hire factories in the third world and masquerade as camera manufacturers.
I had to resort to buying a packet of seven pants for a fiver in Marks and Sparks to cheer myself up. No doubt someone will tell me down the line that they have been made by non pukka pant manufacturers in a sweat shop in Cambodia and I will again sink under a wave of guilt at my incompetent politically incorrect shopping plus afore mentioned pants will probably disintegrate after the second wash, when their in-built obsolescence alarm clock starts to ring, I just hope I'm not wearing them when the bell goes.
I note they had a new reality type programme on Channel Four last night, this time a green reality…people who applied thought they were probably going to a rain forest to help out the stressed planet but no they have put them on a British landfill dump site for four weeks and told them to survive on what they can scavenge. The tattooed joiner who is part of the group thought building a shelter out of waste timber was a doddle, perhaps he could try building a small bijoux dump side apartment out of obsolete Praktica cameras?

Of course, dear reader, observant as you are, you will have noticed I haven’t mentioned my Arvon Course. I will sum up; inspiring and challenging tutors,people in the group full of laughter and also interesting talented writers of all hues, ages and situations. Having received boundless encouragement and enthusiastic feedback from the tutors about the novel I have set to work on it yet again with re-newed vigour. The question came up on the course that often the first novel you write is your learning experience that you put away under the bed and move on from. Having now been told that this was not the case with mine and that it had very strong little legs indeed it behoves me to try and ensure the legs at least get a chance to totter down some public highway at some point.
The poetry, also much positive encouragement and feedback again but importantly I reminded myself how much real private joy writing and crafting a poem can give you.
Off to the Peterloo Festival down in Devon to read this week-end, will alas, be unable to bring back atmospheric photographs of Dartmoor and Hugo Williams but don’t get me stated on that again. I leave you with this poem by him, that always makes me think of my mother off down the road on her strange shuffling travels with her zimmer. One of her favourite phrases as the Alzheimer's began to take over was that she was 'past her sell by date' perhaps she instinctively knew about the bodies in-built odsolescence.

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