18 May 2003
So it's Sunday, and I have this entirely happy day mapped out, I could practically write the diary entry first thing this morning: I would put the houseplants out into the backyard for their annual bath (I like to give them a day out in the rain, come springtime; it washes the dust off, drenches their roots, encourages fresh leafing and just thoroughly perks them up), I would watch Ferrari regain their rightful position at the top of Formula One (huge F1 fan, me, and even I can't understand it: I don't drive, I detest car culture generally, I come over all green & furious at the mention of petrochemicals - and yet, the sight and sound of twenty absurdly unecologically-friendly racing cars driving in circles for a couple of hundred miles can stir me to a passion, especially if by some mischance the two in front aren't wearing Ferrari red, which ought to be a law of nature) and I would work on and very possibly finish my M R James pastiche before I brought my soggy plants back indoors.
So what actually happens? I haul the plants outside - and they're getting remarkably heavy, some of 'em, and I have this knackered shoulder - and the rain resolutely doesn't do its job of falling. The more the teletext promises rain, the more the damn sun shines, so that in the end I have to go out there and hose 'em down myself, which is really not the idea; even Newcastle rain has got to be healthier than N'cle tapwater.
And Kimi Raikkonen does me the disservice of not crashing and not breaking down and not making some terrible error on the racetrack, so that he splits the Ferraris and comes in second, which means that he still leads the championship, although Michael Schumacher burst into flames in the pits and still won the race, which is the kind of, er, coolness under fire that we expect these days but which can still make us blink when it happens.
And when I nestled down into the ghost story, it was one of those 'hullo, didn't I change that? And actually I thought I'd taken it on a bit further than this; and damn, I know I put something new in there, and - oh, fuck, I don't believe it...' sessions, where I realise slowly that all of yesterday's work has disappeared. Or put it another way, rather, I had failed to save it. I used to be utterly reliable about this, in the Windows days when the system might crash without warning: the WP saved automatically every five minutes, I printed out every page as I completed it, and I copied everything onto a floppy at the end of every work-session, now matter how short or how unproductive.
But now I work in Linux, and the fear of crashing has fled my mind, and so I have become a little careless about back-ups and such, and I'm no longer so neurotic about hard copy, and I've chopped and changed so much between one word processor and another that I must have forgotten to set the auto-save feature on this one; and one of the disadvantages of using Linux is that because it's such a patchwork of separate packages, it won't double-check that you've saved everything in every running program before it shuts the system down. So because the thing is such a rare event, it becomes possible to lose work in Linux, where it was almost impossible in Windows because the risk of it was such a commonplace. I think that might be irony.
So I spent much of the day trying to recover what I'd lost, which is the worst job in the writing universe; and I will never love the story as I ought to, as I used to, because there will always be that thought in the back of my head, 'Ah, but you should have seen the original version, the lost version, that was so much better...'
And talking of things lost, Jean has sent me an e-mail claiming that the Poles have nine different words for the stages of cathood, ranked by cuteness; but the list she attaches details only eight. There is a lost age out there, which Misha thinks ought properly to be filled by middle-aged cats who still cling with all claws to an arthritic idiocy, a dream of kittenhood. And I think she's probably right.
© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.