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A Perfect Life #2

Outstarred, the sleepless rival waits
Immortals gaze out
Dead eyes on a TV screen
Ageless, unchanging, in digitized afterlife
Ask not if their physical body yet survives
Alive, they thrive every day

The writer had discovered that his 'novel' had a distressing tendency to veer off-subject into unplanned territory. The 'Perfect Life' concept tended to go up in smoke when his writing talent threw out an observation, such as a few disjointed thoughts inspired by watching a repeat of an ancient TV programme featuring a collection of actors who had all gone to their ultimate reward.
    'Once it's in, leave it in for the moment' was his philosophy. He knew that he might be able to integrate his snippets in to what passed for the novel's plot or that they might inspire a more coherent section. He also knew that he could cut them out and paste them into his 'ideas' file to lie dormant, perhaps forever.
    Get it all down now, polish it later. Get it saved before the Feck-Monster gets in range. Another day, another foxtrot through the fields of feck, another passage through protracted some bloody thing or other.

One problem among many to be addressed in my Perfect Period is where I shall live. There is a certain temptation to buy a property in some remote place - say, a ruined castle - and have it refurbished to standards of immodest comfort. And then move in and pull up the drawbridge.
    Provided there is a supermarket with a delivery service close by, or willing wage-slaves available for hire, I could enjoy an early retirement to a life of quiet contemplation. It would be the ideal opportunity to attempt to get some serious writing done.
    I seem to spend a lot of my free time writing, playing pointless computer games and watching the television. I calculate that eliminating the time normally wasted on travelling and working to earn the means to go on living should leave me with abundant writing time while letting me waste my usual quota of the day on games and televiewing.

Acting on impulse, the writer closed his personal file and switched to a work-related matter. He had some expenses to log and he was perfectly entitled to do that in the company's time. Sixth senses, he knew from reading spy-books, are to be acted upon promptly and without question.
   "Company business expenses - the art of the possible or an exercise in futility?" Pierson Day quoted, delivering the cliché in the manner of someone who had just come up with a brilliant new contribution to the language. "Jackie needs someone who can type. You're it for the rest of the morning."
   'The feck!' the author sighed at a barely audible level. "Right," he added at a conversational volume. "I'll get right on it."
   "Super!" said Day, letting the writer know that he was fooling no one.
   Jackie Sydenham was a bundle of relentless energy, who was charged with the thankless task of indexing the newspaper's archives, after converting them to electronic form, to make them instantly available to the work stations in the newsroom. Worse, the paper had acquired and closed a number of local rivals, and their material had to be included in the Grand Scheme of Things.
   The funding for the electronic access project had been authorized about five weeks before. There had been warnings that Jackie would need help once she had got the documentation work going. It was clear from the Feck-Monster's attitude that he looked upon the task of assisting in the archive as either an outright punishment or, at least, a way of reminding his charges in the newsroom who was the boss.
   The writer had spent two hours in the archive the previous week. He had found Jackie an attractive woman of about his own age - attractive in the sense of both looks and personality - and someone who was depressingly enthusiastic about her work.
   The writer knew that he was in for a period of sustained activity and that he would crawl off to lunch feeling as if he had put in a full day's work. Trying to keep up with Jackie's work-rate was a challenge which any red-blooded bloke felt obliged to take up - if only to avoid extreme embarrassment.

Returning from a solitary luncheon, the writer took his time about getting to his work station. One of the senior editors - this was going back a lot of years - had suffered a heart attack in his office one morning. There had been a lot of coming and going, and everyone watching the closed plastic shutters within the glass walls that defined the occupant's personal space.
    Eventually, there had been the spectacle of a still figure being wheeled out on a trolley thing on the way to an ambulance, a spell in hospital, a period of convalescence at home and then a triumphant return to the office.
    The Feck-Monster looked like a prime candidate for a heart attack. He had the bulk appropriate for a height of about seven foot six and he liked a drop of whisky; and brandy, and the odd G&T, and exotic Russian and Polish flavoured vodkas, liqueurs, wine, of course, and a pint or eight of beer. Healthy eating? Do me a favour! Spicy foods, fry-ups, anything with a good, strong flavour - the man was a prime example of living dangerously and, regretfully, getting away with it.
    As the deputy editor seemed unlikely to provide a floor show on that particular day, the writer pushed his mouse to stop the screen saver.

You Have 19 New Messages

The pop-up box imparted its information almost smugly.
    The writer looked upon You Have No New Messages when the screen saver stopped as a benediction, a sign that everything was squared away and his management of the external world was perfect. Anything else, even an announcement that he had a lousy one new message, was a condemnation of his loss of control. And when the pop-up box started to tell him that he had Unread messages, letting him know that they had been piling up while he had been ignoring them, then he became a disgrace to the electronic community.
    The writer flicked through the messages, giving them a WOT-rating automatically. His Waste Of Time scale had a binary range of 0 to 1 - is or isn't. As usual, the ones were heavily outnumbered by the zeros.

Food. A knotty problem. I am something of a wizard in the kitchen when I make the effort but I prefer to grab something quick most of the time. In my state of wealth, I should be able to seek out a balance between nutrition, taste and expense.

"Before you get too involved, the weekend travel feature is getting too woolly." The Feck-Meister had tried, and failed, to sneak up on the writer while he was doing something unauthorized. Reading his e-messages was a dull, permitted chore. "Pull and polish."
   "Right!" The writer kept his apparent enthusiasm for his work at a high and clearly totally bogus level.
   Not impressed, the Feck-Monster moved away to harass someone else.

Perfection has its own agenda and achieving it will involve many upheavals, not the least of whicj

"The feck's this supposed to be saying, Sally?"
    The writer closed his ears to the explanation. He was not interested in it. In fact, he was not interested in anything going on in his vicinity. He was a literary expert and he was polishing the Saturday Travel Feature. In fact, he was doing such a brilliant job of it that he was having to fight against an almost irresistible impulse to log on to the world wide web and book that particular tour for himself. It was a brilliant place to visit and the catalogue of its perfections was totally compelling.
    "And you, you feckan waste of space! Pull and polish, I said. What I saw reads like the tripe you'd get on a Channel Four documentary."
    The voice was saying nothing that the writer wanted to hear. He had just submitted the latest version of the piece to Bil (with one l} Viktor, the travel editor and he was awaiting a yea or nay from a much higher authority than the Feck-Monster.

Perfection mzy have its own agenda but it tends mot to be a universally recognized or appreciated commodoity.

You Have 1 New Message

The writer scanned his latest communication. One of his acquaintances was circulating a description of a passionate encounter with a female person of his acquaintance. What he had done was to substitute nonsense words for bodily parts and sexual processes. On one level, the document could be viewed as humour. On another, it was a condemnation of the company's policy of scanning e-messages for filth of the sort that he was describing without using the usual terminology.

The wonders of solitude; interrupted, perhaps, by the occasional visiting tiger? A female person in charge of blowing the windfall on must-have designer junk as fast as possible in womanly inventive ways. [Sounds dodgy, expand on this theme if time and inspiration permit?]
    TV on demand down the phone would be a better idea. Life always runs much more smoothly when there is no obligation to adjust to the biological imperatives of a second person.
    Eat, sleep, write, watch TV at my own whim, divorced from the constraints imposed by others. If I want to watch the 10 p.m. movie this afternoon, so be it. If I want yesterday's programmes today, or the day-after-tomorrow's, then they should be on my wide-screen TV at the touch of a button on the remote control.

You Have 1 New Message

The writer clicked on the OK button to accept the message.

Saturday article OK.
Ed. Trav.

When he attempted to access his recent work, the writer got an on-screen pop-up message saying: This file has been locked by the Travel Editor. He wondered briefly whether the policy of identifying senior editors by their position rather than their name was a reflection of the transience of staff in the newspaper industry.

An alternative is to stay where I am. The advantage of that is that everyone knows where to find me, including people who wish to send me vital correspondence. Conversely, the disadvantage is that everyone knows where I am, including inconvenient callers and people who wish to sell me things over the telephone, such as replacement windows and doors, holidays and, more recently, the chance to claim compensation for an accident which I have had in the last 3 years.
    Obtaining peace will involve a measure of dislocation, I fear. The only issue to be resolved is the 'where' rather than an 'either/or' aspect. Near or far. Moving to the next town could provide a break as clean as dislocation to a refurbished castle. And it could be achieved much more quickly.
    In fact, in my state of grace-through-conspicuous-wealth, I could afford to move out, leaving my existing home bare and empty, wait for a bunch of squatters to move in, burn the place down about their ears and collect the insurance money after an appropriate period of investigation and stalling.
    Having options is what being seriously rich is all about.

For once, the writer happened to catch a relevant travel-news flash for the Chedney area on the morning TV programme. For once, he had the opportunity to take an alternative route to work. Arriving at a set of traffic lights, he resumed his contemplation of unfamiliar surroundings. He was stuck in a crawling section, which passed slugs of vehicles from one set of traffic lights to the next.
    White letters spelling out FUNERAL DIRECTOR attracted his attention. They adorned the front of a building at the top of the road that led to a hospital's main entrance. And right next door was the premises of a rival firm. And worse, the building at the head of the opposite side of the hospital's approach road was another funeral parlour. Three of them right outside the hospital!
    Not calculated to give the patients much confidence in a successful outcome to their treatment, the writer thought as he moved with his slug to the next set of lights.

Thirteen million pounds will be the amount of my lottery rollover jackpot; sufficient unto my needs and sufficient to justify the inevitable disruption. As to the form of the payment, it would be diverting to fill a cellar of my castle retreat with bags of pound coins. Or several cellar rooms.
    Whenever I needed to buy something, I would just grab a few bags of coins, or load up a wheelbarrow. The disincentive to extravagance would be enormous. In addition, attaching my wealth would be a severe problem for criminals. If the police failed to arrive by the time they had penetrated my defences, then loading and transporting my coin of the realm would be a lengthy and strenuous business.
    A cellar full of pounds coins gathers no interest but a man of such wealth does not need to concern himself with obtaining more. A man of capital could have a capital time and contrive to expire gracefully just before he had emptied his cellar. Moreover

You Have 1 New Message

The writer dipped into his left-hand trouser pocket for a coin. The 2p piece came down 'heads'. He clicked on the OK button.

J.B. Rules OK!
Death to everyone else!

The writer waited patiently, knowing that the author of his non-message, sports correspondent Jeff Boon, had clicked the wrong button and sent off his signature file sans additional text.

You Have 1 New Message

The writer clicked on the OK button again.

Thje F#ck will be late in this morning. I have it on good authority that he's stuck in a traffic jam at some road workds, fuming into his mobile.
J.B. Rules OK!
Death to everyone else!

Flouting convention, the writer rotated his ergonomic swivelling chair about thirty degrees to the left and looked across the newsroom. When Jeff Boon looked in his direction, he raised a thumb. It was much less messy and much more efficient than sending an e-message of acknowledgement.

On reflection, there is a lot to be said for cellar-cold hard cash. No cheque fraud, no cloned credit cards, no soon-to-be-disputed charges appearing on bills for purchases made half-way round the world from the card-holder's location. None of the hassle of persuading suspicious banks and credit-card organizations that the fraud is real and that the card-holder was not the architect of it.

You Have 1 New Message

Feeling charitable, the writer clicked on the OK button.

Is your German still fluent?
Alison p.p. Pierson Day

The writer responded with a cautious affirmative. Traffic-jammed or not, the Feck-Monster was still yanking the writer's chain - and that of his PA, Alison Farthing, who was always too busy to leave at least a blank line between a message and her name, and much too busy either to add her undecimalized surname or compose a signature file.

You Have 1 New Message

The OK button received further attention.

We have some German visitors today. You're tasked with showing one of them around. Eta 10:30.
Alison p.p. Pierson Day

The writer knew that he had been given this job for two reasons. Number One: Pierson Day was xenophobic - well, no, he didn't fear foreigners, he was just deeply suspicious of everyone from beyond his immediate horizon. And Number Two: the visitor was either not female or female but unattractive.
    The writer devoted his full attention to his work station and his assignments, knowing that however long he spent showing the visitor around, he would be expected to make up the lost time before the end of the day. Despite distractions, the presses had to roll or no bugger would get paid.

Herr Proxus turned out to be much the same age as the writer - mid rather than early thirties - and his size and shape were also similar. He was no Helmut Kohl-impersonator; not without being rolled up in a duvet as padding. Proxus was there as a ticket-booker and bag-toter for his boss. He needed something to do which would keep him out of mischief while his boss did important boss-things with the bosses at the Sentinel & Advertiser.
   Naturally, letting him wander off on his own for a while, unsupervised, was totally out of the question. The writer gave Proxus the three-dollar tour of the newsroom and the pressroom.
   "Have you been to Germany recently?" Proxus asked when the writer began to struggle for things to say and places to show to a visitor.
   The writer knew that if he ventured into the realm of Sentinel TV, which shared the massive building with its business partner the Sentinel & Advertiser, he ran the risk of becoming embarrassingly lost.
   "Not for ages," the writer admitted. "Why, has my German gone off?"
   "No, your German is excellent. It's just that you don't speak Denglisch."
   "Is that really as bad as Franglais, these days? You see a lot of English words in German-language papers and literature, but at a conversational level?"
   "Some people say they might as well print the other half of the newspapers in English. And they might as well drop German language classes from the schools and just teach everyone English. A lot of people blame the Internet."
    "What, all the best porn sites are in English?"
    "Something like that," laughed the German. "My grandmother would love to speak to you. She reckons it's almost impossible to find someone of our generation who can still speak proper German."
    The writer shuddered at the thought of the Feck-Monster being able to run riot in a German newsroom without having to go on a language course. "Of course, a lot of it's really Damerikanisch rather than actual Denglisch."
    The German nodded. "This is, in fact, true."
    The writer sensed that Herr Proxus had uttered a quotation which had become a cliché but he had no idea as to the source. An opportune message on his pager told him to return his charge to the custody of the German boss and consigned the writer back to his work station.

Gebranntes Kind scheut das Feuer. But sometimes, the kid doesn't wait around to get burned. Sometimes, it makes a lot of sense to be far distant when the fire is started.
    And that concludes my Philosophy For Today message.

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