‘What are you, a sorcerer? / Only at home. In company I drink out of the cup.’
– Take it from Here, BBC radio comedy with Frank Muir and Dennis Norden
The radio has been very handy this year, a good source of news, gossip, and podcasts. Some light entertainment to offset dark pandemic statistics. Sixty years ago, Take It from Here was wrapped-up by the BBC after twelve years. Not that I ever heard it but this and other jokes were part of my family’s repertoire and will outlast us. I rediscovered the magic of this joke in The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations, published when we all thought 1971 was very modern.
As is typed among the introductory end papers of the Dictionary, ‘It’s a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations’. That self-serving quote was taken from Winston Churchill’s My Early Life, seemingly penned in a time before women.
Abnormal is pandemic-normal at the moment. But when normal used to mean predictable, shopping was mostly mundane. Not today.
Thinking of the whole of Dublin spending Christmas vouchers between lockdowns, we determined to get out early and get some things done before the madness. We’d parked in the Dundrum shopping mall at 0845 and had coffee and chocolate while waiting for the CompuB shop to open. By 0915 we’d arranged an exchange of Apple pencils, had a second conversation with a masked stranger and availed of a second hand sanitiser. Apple pencils are amazingly useful and by the way, not all iPad Pros are the same when it comes to the second version of the pencil. So we traded Pencil (2nd gen) for Pencil because surprise, 9 inches is too small. Only 11 inches or more will enable the new pencil to satisfy a Pro.
We were back in the car by 0930. We’d had another chat with a masked assistant while in Boots, enjoyed another hand wash, bought a blue mascara but failed to find Fitbit wristbands. There are two Charge 2 Fitbits in this house and we’re on a third replacement of the useless silicone straps that crack, break and risk jettisoning the device for discovery by a new user.
There came another peripheral joy to add to the macchiatos and the gratification of the first impulse purchase in many months: the parking was free until 1030.
Emboldened by the absence of people in the mall, the lack of traffic anywhere, we stopped into the Carrickmines Mall on the way home. By 1000 we were in possession of 1080p camera for video conferencing. That Apple put crap 780p cameras in their laptops really annoys me. If you are zooming around the world to discerning audiences on matters of importance, crap video undermines the message.
On those Fitbit straps, I should say that our search is only happening because the companies that supplied previous replacements are declining to deliver to our address. We haven’t left Europe so what gives? Do Chinese manufacturers clear everything through the UK?
We’d been efficient in the car, arranging to collect a refill prescription from the vet in Dun Laoghaire for Gus who has heart problems. He’s a 15 year old male and we’re trying to make the end of his life as pleasant as possible. This despite his testing us with a daily battle to get tablets into him. He’s taught us to wrap the pills in bits of cheddar cheese but we once used Wensleydale in a pinch. It’s mad but he won’t eat the damn pills in anything other than Wensleydale any more. Dog as cheese snob but we keep Wensleydale on hand to stuff into dates as accompaniment for mid-morning teas. Dog as lucky cheese snob.
And while on the phone for more reasons to feed Gus with Wensleydale, we booked him for a review next week of his recurring mouth infections and a newly observed condition whereby he falls on his side and twitches.
These things in mind, enslaved to an elderly dog, we pulled up at Tesco solely to restock his food. He’d become quite fussy until we realised that our fight was with his teeth and not his taste nor appetite. Small and soft is more edible but of course, the small and soft dog foods are specialised for puppies or seniors. And so feeding him would cost a lot more if it wasn’t balanced by an age reduced appetite. It’s a shame we can’t find similarly satisfying, offsetting justifications for the vet bills but you know these things when you take on a pet.
So that was four encounters with hand sanitisers and lots of random conversations in just two hours. Heady stuff.
I’d also called Conn’s Cameras from the car and said I’d be in to see them shortly. I went home to collect a camera and drove into the city. There was no traffic and I was only stopped by the Gardai once and that was on Baggot Street where I exchanged waves with them, friendly once they’d confirmed the car was taxed and insured.
Parking near Conns would have been easier if the on-street parking hadn’t been removed in the ten months since I was last on these streets. Coffee shops and cafes were all open but the streets were empty. Pavements have been pandemically widened, the amount of double yellow line paint is almost blinding and lest there be doubt about the future of the urban car, there are more metal posts to prevent pavement mounting or car door opening.
It’s been a morning of technology challenges. The pencil, the straps, the video camera. It was about to get tougher to bear.
On Sunday, we sat at the kitchen table amidst an array of camera sensor cleaning devices. A daughter brought a Canon 5D and we set about having a sensor cleaning event. We first cleaned the 5D with a new Eyelead sensor sticking bar kit that I got for Christmas. We had to stop when the camera battery ran out and we couldn’t keep the mirror up. Next, we did a Fuji X-T3 which is easier because it’s mirrorless. Then we moved onto the 1-DX which was really dirty. Note to self: never change lenses by the sea on a foggy day. Then we were finished and I was left to worry about one stubborn spot.
So I had another go. But the camera battery died and the mirror came down while I was dabbing at the dust with the sticky bar. I got such a fright while working on the single lens reflex sensor that my single arm reflex pulled the stick out. But the sticky bar at the end is actually a block of sticky material mounted on a plastic plate. The block caught on something and the leaves of the shutter were somehow touched by the sticky tip and dragged across the sensor. All this probably only took 1/100th of a second.
So there I was in Conns and a staff group discussion brought up an awkward issue. I knew the camera would have to go to Canon UK for repair but what if the age of the camera means they no longer stock the appropriate spare parts? Could it be that I’ve not so much damaged as killed my 1D-X? Will that 1/100th of a second last forever? Aaaarghhhhhh.
I paid a deposit, left the camera and unconsciously used the hand sanitiser for a second time as I left. Somehow, I felt almost as deflated as when I skidded on hailstones and wrote off a favourite car after a radiotherapy session some six years ago.
I stopped to collect the dog’s pills on the way home and found myself standing on the dog scales while waiting in the vet’s surgery. WTF? 94 Kg? Fortunately, I lost seven kilos by weighing myself at home though my Fitbit still reads 78 because that’s what it was in February on the same scales.
It’s time to walk somewhere far, very far away.