There is light at the end of the tunnel: a new ThinkPad is supplied, courtesy of Toby, computer guru to the stars, and the Aged P has finally left hospital. He was taken down to the ambulance on a stretcher and I noticed in the lift that he’d been strapped in at the ankles as well as the waist. “Blimey,” I said, “it’s like Hannibal Lecter.”
We were all fairly jolly as we drove along up the hill to East Finchley, but the world looks very different when you’re looking at it through an ambulance window, and not just because passengers sit in chairs that face sideways. Everything else looks very unimportant, even when you’re just transferring, at a gentle pace, a recovering but fragile person from A to B.
I remembered the last time I’d had a ride in an ambulance. Then, I’d thought I was dying, but the ambulance people had seen it all before and assured me that I wasn’t. And here I still am, touch wood, so what do I know? Apart from that, I come close to death every time an ambulance roars out of the depot down the road and starts its siren right underneath my window. The noise is apocalyptic and one has no warning, so one jumps out of one’s skin every time it happens. Ah, the joys of living in central London.
At least there are still ambulances. I foresee a time about two years from now when the government will try to phase them out and simply make Uber drivers carry a bottle of oxygen in the car. Tell me this goes against the grain of current Conservative thinking. You can’t, can you? Well, I thought of it first, so if it gets taken up I shall insist on my seat in the Lords, right next to the person who pumices Samantha Cameron’s feet.
Anyway, Father is reinstalled in the family home, a new hospital bed having replaced the table in the dining room. Staircases are out. Zimmer frames gather in the corners and chat amiably together. We seem to have acquired a surprising number of these frames. If there is a shortage of them elsewhere, I apologise, but this is not deliberate theft, it’s more like migration. Father has insisted on turning on the central heating and maybe, like swallows, they prefer the warmth. Funny how one’s attitude to people using them changes according to their kinship to you. It’s like having children. One’s own are super brave handsome dashing brainy etc, whereas other people’s are an annoyance at best; similarly, as one waits behind the wheel while some old wreck takes a week to cross the zebra, you think they’re just doing it to wind you up, but when it’s one of your own parents you are full of tender solicitude, and the prayer that they don’t fall over and break something again runs on a perpetual loop. Meanwhile, there begins the period of adjustment as the house is reconfigured to take someone in who is fast approaching the X-axis on the inverted parabola of life. However, as we have noted before, he still has his marbles and also, as my daughter noted, it’s only his kidneys that are really screwed, not his lungs or his liver.
So I get back home and fire up my new computer and then, while I am still reeling from the novelty of having a computer that not only doesn’t take six hours to boot up but also has a fully working screen, Jesus Christ, I see that Google has redesigned its logo.
At first I wonder if I have gone mad. Then I wonder if this is not the original logo and they’ve decided to celebrate the 17th anniversary of their incorporation as a privately held company by reverting to it for a day – so I hover the cursor over the name, but all that appears is “Google”, so I have to assume that the sans-serif logo is new and here to stay. Why they should want to mess with our heads like this, I don’t know, but one imagines that the abilities of 47,000-plus employees sitting around on beanbags and drinking really good coffee could have been put to better use.
“Change and decay in all around I see” are not only words from “Abide With Me” but also the opening line from my favourite novel. Yet I never thought, when I first read these words, that they would invade my consciousness so much that they would be a permanent part of it, always in view and obtruding on the quotidian prospect, like those strips bearing the names of a couple that used to adorn the windshields of cars.
Well, carry on, Google, and everyone else: Tories, time, gravity, the lot. Do your worst. Actually, no, on second thoughts, don’t.
This article appears in the 09 Sep 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Syria: the world order crumbles