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18 July 2017

My laptop’s memory is full and its functions impaired – I know how it feels

I mean, seriously, what is the point? 

By Nicholas Lezard

My laptop has developed a new and mildly annoying tendency. Every ten minutes or so, up pops a box saying it is very low on memory and it needs to delete some temporary files. “Knock yourself out,” I say aloud, and click the button indicating assent.

It then says words to the effect of: “I’ve done it but frankly there’s still so little memory left that we are going to have to go through this whole tiresome business again, sooner rather than later.”

And so the long day goes on. Every so often things get so bad that it says it doesn’t even have enough space to save what I’m working on, ie the “Down and Out” column for the New Statesman. (It’s just done that now.) Then I do something too boring to tell you, which solves the problem for a bit, but this time, later rather than sooner, ça recommence à zéro.

I’ve worked out what’s going on. There’s no pornography or other video stored on this machine, so it’s not like moving images are taking up space. It’s simply that the Lenovo has acquired too many memories. And, believe me,  I know how it feels. One of the side-effects of expulsion from the family home has been a sudden and sustained accretion of experience: all sorts of things have happened to me that would never have happened otherwise. This is to be welcomed, although the price has been heavy. And the problem is that once a certain amount of space has been filled up, the operation of everyday functions becomes harder. Gosh, this analogy is working rather well, isn’t it?

Let us take the matter of what we shall loosely call romance. Over the past ten years I have had relations of a sexual as well as emotional nature with – well, I had better not say how many women. It would give the wrong impression. But three of these relationships have been serious, and two of them broke my heart. That’s twice more than you want your heart broken, let me tell you. However, for the past year, as those who have been paying attention to this column will be able to confirm, nada. Bupkas.

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Or nothing much beyond a sort of tentative fluttering of the heart, or the excitement when a reader popped up for immoral purposes. She has since gone back to her doomed and toxic romance with a man even older than me, who first made his name with a comedy song in the late 1970s, and if I told you the name of that song, you would see the irony of the situation at once and laugh so long and hard you’d probably have to be thumped on the back to stop yourself from choking.

And then there is a sort of system crash – I’m not talking about impotence, by the way – and I find I have to delete some memory before I can resume. Only you can’t delete your own memories, which is why the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had such an intriguing premise. I can no longer think of X without thinking of A, B, and C – and there are enough memories, and those potent enough, of A, B and C to seriously gum up the works when it comes to X.

And here the analogy breaks down, because in the case of my laptop I can always call my great friend Toby and get him to come round and remove some of the sludge from my computer. I cannot get him to do the same to my memory. Which is why I spend my days sitting alone in the Hovel, avoiding human contact, and waiting for my own system to crash irreparably. My central processing unit has had enough, and the prospects are bleak enough as it is.

My friend S— has recently been vexed by the fact that due to an organisational cock-up, she cannot attend this year’s Oxford gaudy at her old college. It is pronounced “gowdy” and means “reunion”.

The college I attended has a similar institution and although they tried to keep it from me, my spies reported it back to me. In the end I decided not to attend on the grounds that a) I no longer have any success about which to boast, b) I’m not going to rent a sodding dinner jacket and the rest, and c) the last thing I want to do is reawaken any old memories of the place, especially considering that one of the women named above (A, B, or C) also lived in that town, and going up there again would be more than I can take. The memory banks would burst, drowning everything.

Meanwhile the summer progresses; the nights have already started drawing in. And what is the point of a summer without having someone to share it with? I mean, seriously, what is the point? 

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This article appears in the 12 Jul 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Maybot malfunctions