Do you ever have the feeling that life is just one big technical hitch? Large or small, important or banal, it is extraordinary how often our best laid plans are knocked sideways by a problem that we cannot possibly solve. We are now so reliant on technology that only a very few of us actually understand. Computers crash, viruses take hold of our software despite all our firewalls, and mobiles seem at times to have a life of their own. And we end up feeling stupid.
My current problem is that my trusty laptop, which I have had for six years – I hear you laughing hysterically at my owning such an antique item – has now decided that only 90% of the keys will actually work. So when I want to transport it, I have to bring along keyboard and mouse; as one of the keys that has stopped working is the space bar, myworkturnsintoastreamofconsciousnessthatnoonecanread.
And the problem is trying to find a time slot when I can manage without the computer while the trusty lads up the road sort it out.
The high spot of a recent visit to Rome was a trip to the opera; not the sort of thing we do on a regular basis and therefore eagerly anticipated. Excitedly, we took our seats in the auditorium and settled down. The lights went down and the orchestra launched into a thrilling overture.
Some fifteen minutes into the performance, the stage went dark, the house lights turned on to full, and the surtitles above the stage disappeared. All this in the middle of the heroine’s first major aria. Well, these guys were professional. The orchestra did not miss a beat, and the soprano continued to sing. After a few minutes the stage lights went back on, the house lights dimmed, the surtitles reappeared, we breathed a sigh of relief and settled back in our seats. Ten minutes later there was an action replay of the problem, which lasted for a few minutes as before, then normal service was resumed.
After the interval there was a brief announcement apologising for the technical fault and assuring us that this was due to circumstances beyond their control. The man next to me turned and said, shrugging his shoulders theatrically, ‘Well, we are in Rome!’ as if that explained everything.
Sadly, as we all know, you don’t have to go to Rome to encounter a technical hitch. And what about mechanical hitches? There seems to be an inexplicable connection in my life with bereavement and my car. Some years ago I drove up to visit my parents for a Bank Holiday weekend out of London. We then heard that my grandfather had suddenly died, so my parents needed to get back as fast as possible. They set off with me following behind. Suddenly a dreadful whine started coming from my car and the engine was overheating. The fan belt had broken, and I was going nowhere. I saw the blur of my father’s car disappear into the distance. Bank Holiday Monday and I’m stuck somewhere in Bedfordshire – and my grandpa’s dead. Miraculously, the second door I knocked at turned out to belong to a mechanic, who seeing my tear-stained face got his tools out and replaced the fan belt.
Then last year, on the way to my mother-in-law’s funeral, the sun roof on the car decided to get stuck in the open position. It made for an extremely blowy ride, but at least I got there.
One last hitch that caused embarrassment as well as inconvenience: I was at the wine warehouse buying the drink for a party when the salesman told me regretfully that my card had been declined. Leaping on to my high horse I challenged him as to whether he thought I was not sufficiently creditworthy, or perhaps he thought the card was not mine? At that moment I received a call informing me my card had been cloned. Was my face red..