Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Broadband, memories of a weekend, a flame fairy and why we shouldn't worry.

Broadband. 
What is it? We take it for granted. We think we sort of know what it is. Do we?
A ... broad ...  band ... ?
Broad as in wide? As in encompassing a wide range of frequencies. The frequencies of multiple messages that, because the band is indeed wide, can be transmitted simultaneously.
Or not.
When it fails, picture a band that's so broad it frays and curls in on itself at the edges; rolling itself up into a tight constipated tube that no information - even information backing up like logs behind a beaver dam - is ever going to burst through. 
Broadband at its most basic is simply electrons bumping into each other. It inhabits the earth and the air in a variety of forms, a broadband spectrum of electron collisions, if you like.
In my imagined spectrum, there's SS broadband - the slow, stuttering but mostly working variety. 
This is almost but not quite as bad as FaFFF broadband - the type that falters after faultless fast functioning. Worst, however, by a mile - or several miles, plus many minutes filled with frustrated get-me-caffeine cups of coffee and rather too many hours of if-it's-still-not-working-after-I've-been-for-a-dog-walk I'll hit something - is ST broadband - that non-form type that despite government promises to rural communities, moves apparently at its own definition of slow time rather like a southern dwelling toad who's decided that siesta time is all the time and has to unfurl each limb from incipient rigor mortis in order to summon sufficient momentum to move forward anything approaching a measurable distance and does so with all the enthusiasm of a sloth who you've just invited to take a bath. It's taken two days for these photographs to load. The weekend is no longer the weekend. I guess I could move closer to a settlement with faster internet speeds. Speeds ... I dream of speeds; of never sitting in front of an annoying little circle with a dot or line or light going round and round and round and round and round ............ I HATE buffering! I could live without ever having to see buffering again. If I have muddled my broadband with my internet, and my download speed (currently 4.18Mb/s) with my band width, and my megabits with my ping (705ms) then I apologise - it's all goddledegook to me; a bit like expecting me to define a quark or explain fiscal strategy to you. All words that I recognise. Vaguely. But - although I could make a stab at the quark and have a wooly impression of what fiscal might mean - I couldn't stand up in a room and explain any of them convincingly to another person. So ... back to broadband or narrow, barely there, frequently broken band and last weekend - yes, that is correct - last weekend. The one before this last one. The one in these now week-and-a-half-old photographs.

It was a lovely weekend. The best that autumn in Southern England chucks at us.

Clear skies. Light winds. Dry. 




A frosty start




Time to think. To dream. To while away the hours.




To gaze through autumn leaves at the moon.




To take some pictures and while away more time turning them into something arty. Or nearly arty. Or as arty as you can get with an i-phone and limited knowledge of filters and photo-editing.








And a time to bounce.




To run. To live. And to see beautiful things.








To be honest, I'm not sure if Bertie Baggins bounced because of the beauty around him or because of the excitement of a two-legged friend being outside with him. 
Actually, I am sure. 
He's a dog.
He likes the company.

Even when the company does odd things with the brown stuff that's fallen all over the ground; raking the slippery, rustling, mushroomy-smelling mess into piles of slippery, rustling, mushroomy-smelling mess. 




And picking the piles up.




And using them to build an even bigger pile. Before poking the bigger pile and making a lot of noise to wake up something called the hedgehog. And after ensuring that the hedgehog has gone out for tea or decided to sleep somewhere less noisy and less populated with dogs,  turning the big pile into something warm, that made an odd sort of growling sound, like the noise lots of twigs would make if you stood on them all at once - clearly the bonfire thing was not a very brave animal. Even if it did turn out to have a secret weapon - lots of smoke that hurts eyes and made Four-legged-friend sneeze. A lot. So much and so violently that he bumped his chin on the ground mid-sneeze, which was a great surprise to him. And no doubt quite painful. He ran off and found some long, damp grass to plunge his nose into and comfort himself.




This was him later. Guarding. Or asking, aren't we done now? I'm not sure which.




It was probably the 'aren't we done now' question because pretty soon he was here.




And not helping any more.

Which perhaps explains the heart  - the bonfire beast with the suspect growl was lonely




and was setting its fairies free




I can't be the only writer who worries about my grammar. I know I'm not. I while away many an hour procrastinating, choosing words that sound right, finding all sorts of reasons not to write - like constructing a bonfire.  But do I while away or wile away? A quick internet search reveals that they are not interchangeable. Whiling away the hours means filling them with idle pursuits (I hope that's not an oxymoron - can you idly pursue, doesn't pursuit imply activity and thus a lack of idleness? Does it matter if it is an oxymoron?) Wiling away the hours or specifically wiling means employing cunning and craftiness and deceit or trickery or generally behaving like the fox of fairytales and nursery stories. Arguably, procrastinating could be the procrastinators way of wiling away many an ultimately wasted hour.

I procrastinate too much.

I worry too much. About everything.

As Newt Scamander brilliantly says in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, "Don't worry! Worrying means you suffer twice." He was facing annihilation and maybe had more reason to avoid suffering twice; I face only wasted hours and fretting about which are the best words and a suspicion that I write only for my own entertainment, so worrying is wasted on me. But it is good advice for life. Don't worry. Don't indulge in suffering twice.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

New York state of mind

My goodness, jet lag does funny things to your head. One minute you're functioning fine: you can hold a conversation; remember people's names; have a pretty good idea what time it is, even correctly guess the day; begin to understand the enormity of the political landscape in the country you are visiting; read a book, and (almost) manage to navigate without causing a major fall-out. The next (and it can literally be the next) minute you are unable to decide what to wear and realise you have been staring blankly at the suitcase for ten minutes; you have no idea if you told your host a particular anecdote earlier; you stand in front of a written description of a painting at a gallery and realise that on the third reading you have still failed to process any of the words, and you come over all my goodness using words that you normally only observe spoken by the very young. 

And you start taking photographs of buildings and pavements and paintings and wonder if that's normal. And then realise that it is. For you. And then post them to a blog - very slowly ... owing to the dilemma of word and photo selection and only intermittent access to an internet connection. And take three days trying to assemble the paragraphs into a good order ... any order! ... in order to construct an actual posting. And realise that you have spent five-lines-and-counting describing what you do usually, by way of the word-picture-procrasti-ramble that normally appears here. Six lines. So you may as well instruct your jet-lag-addled brain that is now procrasti-looping to get on with it. Eight lines. And make that six days. 

No, seven days. 

And now, eight ...

Time to get going again -

Day 1 (last week...!) in New York and a walk from the Upper West side, across Central Park to this




The Guggenheim and a lesson in modern art and purpose-positive architecture and mistiming 




The building was both stunning in a I-look-like-a-small-concrete-car-park-from-the-outside-but-am-much-prettier and clever in a I-am-really-a-roller-skate-helter-skelter-with-art-gallery-imposter-syndrome-that-provides-shelter-in-my-spirals-for-paintings-while-providing-a-pleasant-and-gentle-uphill-stroll-which-is-much-suited-to-the-jet-lag-enfeebled-and-generally-fatigued-of-mind.

Mis-timing as in challenging. The Agnes Martins on show are hard to appreciate if modern art isn't your thing. Quite hard even if it is. 

Though I did like this one




Because it whispered Rothko at me.

We were tired.

Our somnambulant discombobulation was slightly ameliorated by the sleepy demeanour of the gallery staff. I agonised about including this picture of the staff member at the top of the spiral because I don't have his permission. But you can't see his face. So I hope it's okay. I'm sorry if it's not. But his crumpled appearance and relaxed, easy pose unwittingly turned him - in my head - into a work of art. Every bit as poetic as the Agnes Martins. I'd entitle it 'Watching the Watchers, New York 2016.'




From the Guggenheim, we wandered down the east side of Central Park, snacking outside the Metropolitan museum and sleep-walked into 5th Avenue.




Where we found some pretty buildings.

I have been called a pretty building myself (by one of my daughters; not very long ago. I wasn't sure at the time how to respond, but the name stuck. And I've grown to like it. It evokes the spirit of something solid (!), lasting, and homely perhaps. I hope it does. There could be worse similes. And my building hasn't fallen down yet. Hopefully, its foundations will last a few more years, even if the thatch on top is thinning.)

New York appears to be full of both pretty and pretty ugly buildings.

New Yorkers like their buildings tiered and decorated at the top. Walls of glass reflect like sheer water the rush of clouds past sentinel towers.




Multiple towers and millions of windows and worker ants rushing about and looking out everywhere.




At street level, Halloween window shopping




and fantasy shopping.




I have no idea if fairy princesses inhabit New York. Clearly, D&G think they do. And that they want pompom shoes with crystals. Maybe, their hope is to distract from the clamour outside the building next door.

Whose owner must have an enormous ego, judging by the size of his ... well, I could get rude here but I will not descend to his level of abuse-speak. It's a big building. He has several in New York. All big. All perhaps, trying to compensate ... no, again, I will stop myself. He's a ... you can fill in the blanks yourself.









Yup! The name in gold confirms whose tower it is. Immense ego confirmed.
The pay (bribe ...?) he reputedly gives the supporters who turn up every day, outside his tower and shout and whistle - a lot! - confirms the throw-money-at-it-until-all-your-troubles-turn-to-dust-or-are-permanently-tied-up-in-legal-tape, squeaky-clean, screaming-with-misappropriated-rightious mire that his ego is balancing upon.




This ego is a gift to cartoonists - with his little shouty mouth and lips that look like they've just licked a parrot's arse - I'd nominate him for frontrunner in a gurning competition. But not the Presidency.

Surely, please, not the Presidency.