Mark Love

A lady just laughed at me.

I’m not unused to this. I am, after all a man, a brother, a son, a husband, and a father of a daughter, so light derision with a side order of withering contempt is sort of the soundtrack to my life.

Occasionally I even manage to make women laugh on purpose.

I still earn a princely 15p every year or so from my 1 minute and 5 seconds contribution of sketch material to the double Emmy award winning TV series ‘Smack the Pony’. That was two sketches that actually got broadcast, and one that didn’t because the fake head that detached during vigorous lady stimulation didn’t look convincing enough in the edit. Even more occasionally, when the show gets translated into some even more exotic language than previously, I earn enough to buy an entire meal deal for one at M&S! If we still had an M&S…

But, today, this lady was not laughing at me for the simple error of owning an X and a Y chromosome or for anything wise, witty and monetizable that I had written. She was laughing at me because my trousers were having a swearing fit.

There was a time when if you saw someone walking down the street in ripped clothes, mad hair, a wild expression in their eyes and muttering to themselves that they had probably just missed some medication or had escaped from a community care centre. These days its far more likely to actually be the carer, probably on their second intravenous drip of Berocca laced grande mocha, and murmuring along to positive affirmations on Bluetooth earbuds.

(I had to check the spelling of Berocca on line, and, with one erroneous vowel, accidentally landed on a ‘Busty Bombshell’ who is also slightly orange, effervescent and might well give you back your b-b-b bounce. That’s my excuse anyway. But I digress…)

In this case I had been taking something to the recycling bin outside and hadn’t wanted to pause the Richard Herring podcast I was listening to on the phone. So, I simply slipped it into my pocket and carried on. The lady had just drawn level with me on the pavement when my trousers appeared to unleash a loud, shouty and physically improbable tirade of abuse.

The lady luckily clocked what was going on, laughed and walked on by. No harm done. It’s entirely possible in this great technological age of ours that she has been shouted at by an angry pair of trousers before.  I think it unlikely I will end up on any kind of register any time soon, but these are the kind of pickles that modern technology seems determined to get us into.

My wife, for example, can no longer indulge in secretive and clearly unhealthy fantasy clothes shopping after an episode of ‘The Amazing Mrs Maisel’ because our networked computer and tablets constantly dob her in. There I will be, attempting to make sense of an online recipe for cheese and toffee apple roulade when an advert will pop up suggesting that if I l enjoyed the pleat and lace padded plunge bra, then I’m going to absolutely ADORE the matching low-rise thong.  (They’re right of course, but I favour a plush, lemon, kidney coddler while I’m working.)

Never before have secrets been quite so public, and technology so needy. Yesterday Facebutt pinged to remind me that I’d been on holiday recently. I KNOW! It was a week ago! I hadn’t forgotten Mr Zuckerberk! Remind me what that girl’s name was back at college if you want to be really useful! The one with the thing and the doodahs. Also, if you could remind me what the doodahs were, that would be nice.

Of course, my constantly beckoning, prodding and poking machines might just be concerned, now I’m in my late fifties, that Alzheimer’s or dementia might be setting in. It’s possible. It was the worst double act  in entertainment history that ganged up on my Mother after all.

But it’s a more present infirmity that’s been bothering me lately. One of the unfortunate side-effects of working to a deadline again after so long has been that the typing has aggravated an old carpal tunnel injury. Attempting to work around this, I utilised the dictation speech to text facility on my American designed, Chinese built computer.

Only it’s a bit sh*t. When the machine had wilfully misheard and misspelt the word ‘window’ for the fourth consecutive time, I unleashed a fast and furious volley of swearing at it… which it accurately and faithfully reproduced without error or judgement.

So, there you are.  Angry British tourists had it right all the time.  If the dozy foreigner doesn’t understand what you’re saying, just shout and swear at it until it does. Progress huh?

Our son, not on our behalf, but purely under his own steam seems to be taking the fight back to the machines by routinely torturing tablets to death. He doesn’t do this in the expected way, by breaking their screens – though he has done that. Instead my son plays with their heads. He does this by fanatically opening and closing apps and downloading the entire internet until their puny brains are close to bursting, and they can barely function enough to open a flopsy bunny cartoon, and dribble unpleasantly throughout the process.

When the tablet has been tortured into such a state of stupidity that it can no longer remember if it is switched on or not, I reset it to its factory settings. The tablet bounces back, energetic, sprightly, enthusiastic and with no idea of the fresh horror that my son is about to unleash upon it. These days I can turn around the whole wipe and reboot ’healing’  in around ten minutes. And I always feel a little bit like a monster as I do. As though I’ve purged its personality – broken and confused as it might have been.

But at the same time, wouldn’t it be kind of cool if you could just forget all the bad stuff that clutters up your brain and start all over again?

I struggled with mental health issues for a long time after my son was diagnosed. And I watched my mum being inexorably consumed by Alzheimer’s over a period of years. I remember how she became obsessed with putting her precious things  – the rustic Polish egg cosy, and that plastic blue donkey I bought her in Weymouth – out of sight of the thirty-foot tall burglars who might have been able to see them while passing by our elevated front window. She even moved the mirror to prevent these priceless treasures being glimpsed in reflection from a passing bus.  

Tiny little glimpses of my mother as she must have been as a child began to pop up, and I remember thinking it would have been so tempting if you could have just wiped her head clean and started again.

But for now, that’s off the table, and technology is all about swearing pockets, spilled secrets and dodgy selfies.

Still a ways to go then…


*These are the words of Mark and not Carers in Bedfordshire