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Blog Number 35 [1st July 2020]

Last night I woke up with a searing pain stretching from my lower back down my left leg, what used to be called sciatica, but is doubtless called something else now by doctors. That’s the way of modern medicine; the docs change the names of everything so they can keep one step ahead of us lot, we who used to be called patients but are now called customers or service users. Normally, I am a stoic in these circumstances. But the pain was difficult to ignore. I must have woken up M when I got up and did a few star jumps.

‘What time is it?’ 

This is always M’s first question, which irritates me because she has a perfectly visible clock on her bedside table.

‘I don’t know. Early. Three fifteen maybe.’

‘Why are you doing exercises in the middle of the night? No, don’t answer. Go and do them somewhere else for God’s sake.’

‘I have got this pain down my back and leg again.’

‘I am very, very sorry to hear that,’ she says very, very slowly, and then even more slowly, and slightly more loudly, ‘GO DOWNSTAIRS, OR OUTSIDE, OR ANYWHERE.’

‘Don’t worry about me,’ I say in the martyred tone long married couples have perfected, as I get back into bed. ‘I’ll just lie here. I’ll be okay.’

M’s only response to this is to yank the duvet and mutter something about being freezing cold when I know she gets too hot at night for she has been sleeping mostly out of the covers. She denies this. A few nights ago I took a photo and showed it to her in the morning. For some reason this made her cross. 

“If you take any more photos of me in the middle of night,’ she said, ‘I will divorce you.”

“Promises, promises,” I said. 

“I am serious, John” she said. “It constitutes domestic abuse. It’s a violation of my constitutional rights.”

Now that is simply not true for in this world beating country of ours we don’t have a constitution. And taking a photo of your wife cannot be domestic abuse unless she’s stark naked and you post it on the internet with some jokey emojis and I had no intention of doing that. Still, I recognised from her saying the cue word, ‘John,’ that it would be better to put the spade down and climb out of the hole. 

Trump has bought up all the supplies of the drug remdesivir from Gilead which is the sort of grandiose Biblical name a pharmaceutical company gives itself. That’s half a million doses. His MAGA wearing supporters will cheer to the rafters without realising it’s only for himself, his family, Putin and close associates, and the Trump hotel chain where along with the Gideon Bible and Trump’s ghost written book, The Art of the Deal, it will be offered at a special knock-down price to all his loyal customers. Go Trump! I mean it literally.

Yesterday we had to reboot the internet, which is always a scary prospect for it usually ends in existential despair. We waited with bated breath as our router archly flashed its red and green lights for several minutes at us. Finally, it settled down to a steady light and the internet was back. Phew! But then I discovered my SONOS app would not work. Whatever I did, it remained a light grey screen that shuddered as though in terrible pain. After futilely switching it off and on and even risking the router’s wrath by rebooting it again, I was stumped. I had to ring the SONOS help line. Eventually, a lilting Scandinavian voice answered that was somehow instantly calming. 

‘How can I help, John?’ Sven said after we had done our oh so friendly exchange of names..

I explained. Sven then took me by the hand and led me through a series of baby steps, which included a request to do another reboot of the router.

‘Are you sure?’ I said. ‘It won’t like it.’

He paused for a second. ‘No worries, John. It’s not actually alive, you know.’

‘I’m not so sure about that. It can be temperamental.’

Another pause. ‘Of course. Trust me. It will be fine.’

It was then that I noticed that the ethernet cable connecting the router to the SONOS speaker had somehow been detached. It was déjà vu all over again for the last time I had contacted the SONOS helpline, that had been the problem. In fact, I had made a careful note to myself to check the cable if the app didn’t work only [a] I had no idea that I had done this and [b] I had no idea where I had left the note. I confessed all to Sven who was not at all fazed, no doubt coming across this sort of stupidity several times a day. Once all had been re-established, we said our sad goodbyes.

‘Just one thing, Sven, before you go.’

‘Of course, John.’

‘Do you by any chance do marital counselling?’

He chuckled. ‘Goodbye, John. Take care and check those cables.’

He must have thought I was joking.

Do you have a growing realisation when you are reading a book that you have actually read it before? As I reached Chapter 24 of The Luminaries, after 20 hours of listening, it dawned on me that this was all too familiar. Maybe I had just read that particular chapter before for occasionally one of the review papers features a specific chapter. But no. I began to remember how it all played out and, even worse, that I had been disappointed with the ending. Up to now I was enjoying it hugely with its cast of larger than life characters and its tales of the South Island gold fields in the 1860s. I consulted M. 

‘This isn’t it, is it?’ I asked. ‘The beginning of the long, slow decline into dementia and death? Tell me, please.’


‘That’s not the right answer. Try again.’

‘You men are such babies. We are all losing our marbles. I forgot to take the bread out this morning.’

‘That’s different.’


‘It’s not as though you forgot we were making bread or what the breadmaker is for.’

‘And you didn’t forget what a book is for. You just forgot you’d read this one before. Look on the bright side.’

‘There’s a bright side.’

‘You don’t have to buy another book. You can just go on reading The Luminaries. That will save us loads of money especially as you don’t finish most of the books you buy.’

‘Not helpful. I’m going to call Sven.’

‘Whose Sven?’

‘The SONOS guy.’

‘I thought the SONOS was working.’

‘It is. But he has such a calming voice. I’d just like to hear it again.’

Antidote 35

Lovely, smooth modern jazz, the trio Możdżer Danielsson and Fresco in 2016. Even my old pal, Adrian, who claims that jazz is an offence to the ears, might enjoy this. 

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