Modern equivalent of “get a life”, I suppose, although I am old enough to remember when it was still a novelty to have “Facebook friends” without even knowing them. [Younger readers: “friends” used to be people close to you; to “like” them would require a self-generated and typically involuntary emotional response.] I do feel that I like (old-style) some of my Facebook friends in remote corners of the USA and other countries, but I do also realise that “remote corners” is just my way of saying that I’ve no idea where any of them are. The USA is rectangular, isn’t it, with blue and red squares drawn on it? Remote corners, not so much.
There’s a caucus, whatever that is, and the trees are hanging with chads. There’s a South, although nobody seems to mention the North. I did once (more than once) answer a question on Quora, asked by an American person about some detail of British life, but I’ve learned my lesson from that experience. I’m a southerner too, apparently, and therefore I don’t know anything. I did once look up the physical address of a US Facebook friend (who gave it on a personal website) on Google Maps, and the houses are different too. [Older readers: idle curiosity and stalking are different things, thank you very much.]
So yes, I’ve snoozed everybody. [Beep! Story idea.] It’s possible that I’m even having a “digital detox” today, given that I’m writing this with a pen on paper, but that’s just newspeak for what used to be called an average day. Sun’s up (actually, it’s cloudy), sea’s calm (flurries of wind in the trees and on the water), the bluebells are up and so is the cow parsley (genuine news). The scaffolding-and-roadworks season is over, and the car parks are open for visitors. A cruise ship came in earlier, so the trade in beads and trinkets with FALMOUTH written on them will be brisk today. Oh, and I have things to do.
I remember a trip to London once, a long time ago – a very long time; I don’t go to London much – and walking up the ramp past the taxis into the daylight. I remember being struck by the billboard advertising: so much “noise” forcing its way into my attention. I was used to looking at trees back then, and fields with sheep in them. Not that staring at a tree’s worth of leaves and listening to the noise of the wind is necessarily “better”, in whatever sense you’d like to stipulate, than listening to traffic noise and being told to buy Aptamil follow-on milk*, but, well. Mostly I drink goat’s milk these days.
I’m going to have a day featuring daylight and air and work and tidying up and imagining things (I’ve been working on my interior monologue) and probably gardening as well. I might buy an actual physical newspaper, not for the news as it was yesterday but for the tactile association with the past, and I might go take another look at all the typewriters for sale in the antique shops. Even people who never owned typewriters seem to miss typewriters, going by how often they're used online to represent writing. Perhaps I should...
But that would be a step too far. Too noisy. I might grab a sandwich or a baked potato at the newly-open-for-the-season Castle Beach Café, and if my walk back home takes me past Gyllyngvase Beach, I will definitely think about swimming (see below the picture). “Grab” – funny how verbs attach themselves to actions. I will order and pay for and sit down and wait to be brought a sandwich or a baked potato at the Castle Beach Café. “Grab” – I suppose our collective self-image these days is grabbing and rushing and always being excitingly busy and engaged.
As opposed to staring at our screens while sea levels rise around us. The next big idea is going to be the world we can enter fully via our minds, and I suppose we’re nearly there with our games and virtual reality. The next big idea will be the virtual world that we can enter to get away from real reality, I mean. Take ourselves away from all the disaster. If you see an ostrich in a cartoon, it’s sticking its head in the sand to avoid catastrophe. [Actually, spellcheck, it’s and its; I’m pretty sure that’s correct. Sorry to confuse you.] If you see a not-quite-young person in a cartoon, er, there’ll be a smartphone, and, er, no, I’m not suggesting anything. Just, you know, like to mention ostriches every now and then.
That was close. Perhaps I should Harness The Power Of Technology to stay out of trouble with my youngers. [“Respect your elders!” I was told, a long time ago. But I’m running out of those.] There’s probably an app for it. But no. I like this day. I’ll stick with it. Time enough later to open up a screen and retrieve my passionate interest in the big remote issues that fill our collectivised attention. [I’m sure there was a life-or-death struggle over something beginning with B, but we all seem to have dropped that. How easily we're herded into caring, right? How easily we forget when we're not being told what to think.] As I say, I like this day. The sun’s out properly now, and there’s a whole outside world out there. Sun, and wind, and seagulls, and the soon-to-be-enormous gunnera in Queen Mary Gardens. That cruise ship. Life, the neighbourhood, and all the rest of it.
Facebook’s advice is good, after all. I’ll go out and find my friends. I wonder where they are.
*I think I got that one off the TV.
I’d have to lose weight, I suppose, or at least be negatively buoyant in some way, and the whole breathing-under-water thing would have some kind of a ramification for my on-land respiration. Perhaps people who wear scarves all the time are concealing gills. Or perhaps that’s why so many people carry bottles of water all the time. It’s not hydration; it’s breathing. I’d have to invest in a wetsuit, I suppose, or perhaps I would adapt. The man was pointed out to me – this is last time I was at the Gylly Beach Café; try one of the salted caramel chocolate brownies – who swims every day of the year.
In fact, I can’t go near the beach without somebody being pointed out to me who swims every day of the year. Or early in the morning. Or by actually getting into the water rather than by sitting down and thinking about it over a hot chocolate and a – yes, one of those. Aid to the concentration, you understand. Swimming is wonderful exercise, and just for the record, I did go swimming for the first time this year on Saturday 30th March. Then again – I was Not Alone this second time; we had a picnic breakfast on the sand afterwards – on the Sunday.
But I can’t go into the water now, I find, without one of the other swimmers whispering, “There’s the man who…” and phrases come to me across the surf – “salted caramel” … “in the café” … “eats” … “every day of the year” … and perhaps it’s just that my other superpower is to hear what everybody’s thinking and (but) mix it up with my own guilty conscience. No, I don’t own a wetsuit, which is something. Yes, the water is cold, and no, I don’t eat brownies that often. All the other swimmers, at the times I go into the water, seem to be strong-looking women who swim for miles in the time it takes for me to get my feet off the bottom without sinking.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have so much trouble after all if I did switch my superpower to the one where I go walkabout under water. I don’t think I’d go far, or look for anything in particular, but I’m just curious, that’s all. If you follow the same nature documentaries as I do, you’ll know that fishes are colourful little things, synchronised-swimming in shoals and occasionally being grabbed by things that conceal themselves in the ocean floor. I’d have to watch where I put my feet, and perhaps wetsuit shoes would be an investment, but I think there’s potential here for a variation on my usual walk.
Does plastic sink eventually, do you suppose, or would I have to take an enormous butterfly net and wave it above my head? And what about all the discarded fishing nets and lines and all the snagged hooks? Are there stories, sometimes, of nuclear waste and other pollutants being dumped far out at sea? Dangerous business, being a fish. On second thoughts…
Hot chocolate, please, yes, with marshmallows, and another of those…