“…From time to time I would calculate the cost and see that I was expending about one fifth of my annual income on my habit, and not even going to bed drunk.”
A creature of habit
Psychologists commit a grave category error if they believe that habits, unless corrected, are formed for life. Your Uncle Bogler’s, for example, come and go. They are none the less eccentric for that.
For several years, I have been obsessed with the idea of finding a perfectly round pebble on the local beach. I have bogld about this in the past.
It is a beach that, as the tides wash inexorably up and down, makes its own pebbles from the soft alluvial shale cliffs further down the coast. Most are ‘dinosaur eggs’ – flattened ovoids, about five inches in length. But many come close to being pointless – in that they are almost, but never quite, round.
In six years of beachcombing with Hunzi, we have not found a perfectly round one, that would fit in every degree inside a circle drawn with pencil and compass. There is always some deformation: a point (no pun intended for once) upon which I have speculated how Nature abhors human ideas of perfection.
I have however found a few that, on a loose definition of round, come close.
And thus forgivingly taken, for reasons unknown even to myself, to placing precisely three small, almost perfectly round stones I found, in a pile on top of the circular chrome-steel flush mechanism on the lid of my toilet cistern.
In order to justify this admittedly odd behavior, I have defined it as sculpture worthy of entitling, and have christened it: ‘The Importance of Ritual’. (Especially in view of the necessity to maintain the order in which they are placed, the palest-coloured in the middle.)
My son in his derisory fashion, when he visits, insists on removing the pebbles to flush and then pointedly leaves them on the windowsill, much as he insists on turning on the central heating and leaving lights blazing in rooms he has just vacated, as if to say, okay, you crazy old man, but I am your future, not to be dictated to by the conventions of the fathers, most of all in this.
After he departs, with a sigh of relief I rearrange my little pile of stones on the cistern, my heart a little lighter. But it is not my only abiding fault.
Beginning at six o’clock, for the past few years I have also insisted on drinking a bottle of wine every evening.
Not half a bottle, two bottles or – pish-tush, and pshaw! – a single glass or two (In point of fact, the size of my wine glasses, two would easily be half a bottle.)
No, precisely one bottle.
Sometimes it is a struggle. You can tire of anything, even making money – or, in my case, spending it. There have been evenings when I found myself forcing down the last glassful, the resinous tannins sticking in my craw. But I have been determined to drain that damned container to the dregs, to put out another empty for the binman, and would go to bed constricting my oesophagus against the acid reflux, wary of stomach cancer, determined to buy a more expensively drinkable wine next time.
Except the binman won’t take glass, for health and safety reasons I suppose. So once the store of empties under my desk had grown to embarrassing proportions, leaving no room for my feet, I would bag them in old carrier bags kept for the purpose; and once the bags were full to the point where they were self-standing and no more could be squeezed in, they would be taken across from this, muh special shed, stored in the kitchen, until the store had grown to such embarrassing proportions people were falling over them, so that some could be put out in the front garden for passers-by to see and marvel at, from whence they would eventually I suppose on a three-month cycle (92 bottles, approximately) be carted off to the bottle bank.
From time to time I would calculate the cost and see that I was expending about one fifth of my annual income on my habit, and not even going to bed drunk. I kept hoping I might just stop, vowing every day to abandon the futility of it; and then would come five o’clock, half-past five, and I would recall that I had forgotten to buy dog food or coffee and rush back to the supermarket, where my inner alcoholic would find his way unerringly to the wine section.
It was last April 1st, All Fools’ Day, when Morrison’s store removed their handy neighbourhood bottle bank owing to thoughtless bastards littering the place up with broken bottles and splitting carrier bags spilling their contents over the ground, the noise and fights and motorists parking carelessly causing obstructions, nearby residents continually moaning about noise, when it first occurred to me that I could stop all this madness.
The nearest bottle bank was now more than a mile and a half in the opposite direction, out of town, in the domestic recycling part of the municipal waste management complex on the edge of the industrial park. The jobsworths who operate the site are public-sector, not ones for zero-hours (i.e. unlimited working) contracts: eagle-eyes are kept out for what householders put in which bins, vehicular entrance is tightly monitored and controlled, anything of value sold on, the whole operation confined to those unsociable daytime, non-holiday hours when anyone can be bothered to go to work.
They don’t cater to borderline alcoholics.
Now, I have patented and trademarked a simple, one-step programme for combating addictions: it’s called the ‘Just stop doing it!’ programme. Its advertising slogan is: ‘Don’t go whining at the Day Centre all evening, get a grip!’
You need to let the idea that you could just not be doing the thing that annoys everyone including you, is destroying your family, your workmates, your health and your bank balance, simmer for a while. It may take a month, two months or more. But once the idea has formed in your brain and fermented long enough, you will find yourself waking up one bleary-eyed morning thinking to yourself, ‘hey, I really don’t need to be doing that anymore!’ and just stop.
The monkey is off your back.
I know ‘Just stop doing it!’ works, because I used to be a 60-a-day man – none of your namby-pamby, niminy-pimminy low-tar efforts, I’m speaking French: Gitanes sans filtres – growing increasingly tired of it, until one day I woke up to find I had stopped smoking – that was thirty-seven years ago, and after one false restart for a couple of weeks when I saw a colleague smoking a birthday cigar, stupidly begged a puff and found myself on 20 cigars a day within a week, I’ve not been tempted since.
I’ve kept going by telling myself that when I’m sixty, sixty-five, seventy, I shall take up smoking again because I enjoyed it, actuarially it no longer presents much of a cancer threat and as a member of the species I’m no longer interested in or even capable of disseminating my genetic material, especially if it’s going to disarrange my pebbles like that.
So as I stare down my 68th birthday in two weeks time I have put smoking again on my list of ‘Things to do’, knowing that thereby I shall never get round to doing it. Basically I’m just a waste of precious oxygen; but more to the point, have you seen the price of a packet of fags lately? Blimey, they’re about 50 pence each!
And then, just this morning, I realized I am in the grip of another habit as deadly as morphine.
I like to have some chopped fruit and yoghurt sprinkled on top of my breakfast cereal. To this end I acquire from Morrison’s from day to day some blueberries or raspberries (still £2 for about 20 in a plastic tray!), and three bananas.
The bananas in supermarkets are never fully ripe, as we know, you have to put them on the windowsill for a couple of days before peeling one. And you know what?
Bananas in my view need to be especially arranged, in a certain way, just-so, three stacked on top of one another, all facing inwards…
On top of the radio.
‘What am I like?’, as the rhetorical saying goes.
What am I like?
“On reading the world’s press as it genuflects to the latest miraculous revelation … one is struck by the thought that the most innovative feature of the new Christ-child is its bumsqueezing price.”
“In the UK, the 256GB iPhone X costs £1,149; across the Eurozone it’s even more, €1,319 (£1,186). In the US, meanwhile, it costs just $1,149 (£869.33) – a saving of almost £280. With Iceland’s WOWair offering return flights from London Gatwick to Newark for £278, it looks like you can pay for the cost of travel to New York with the savings on the iPhone.” – Guardian, 15 September.
So, not including the cost of a couple of nights’ Airb&b on your stayover between flights, the fares to and from Gatwick, transit between New Jersey and New York City, iMeals and the lost wages from your zero-hours contract, assuming they’ll take you back after your four days’ ‘sick leave’, you can save an entire £2 off the price of your iPhone X, AND get clobbered by Customs for £173 VAT on your return!
But by golly, it’s worth it just to say you own a shiny pocket-size device with enough computing power to run a spaceflight mission to Mars, that sometimes recognizes your face (you could save £1,143 and buy a pocket-mirror?), on which if you live where I do you might be lucky enough to make or receive an actual phone call while standing outside in the road. (Not that you bought the phone for any purpose so mundane as making calls.)
On reading the world’s press as it genuflects to the latest miraculous revelation (doesn’t Apple put those apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the shade!) from Ensenora, one is struck by the thought that the most innovative feature of the new Christ-child is its bumsqueezing price.
One may easily imagine the Apple marketing department meeting on their floating clouds in the Blue Skies suite, acknowledging airily that while Tech have run out of any more marketable developments, the Faithful will undoubtedly go for a thousand-dollar price tag as the latest must-have extra.
Luckily there’s a new app available from the Apple store. It’s called Home Psychiatrist.
(Sent from my Android phone)
Stormy weather, with Granny Weatherwax
And it’s all change…
Is climate change making its presence increasingly felt, do you think, or is it just that the media is taking more notice of extreme weather events around the world? After all, floods and heatwaves are just as bad last year, and in 2015, 2012, 2005…. Just sayin’.
Pacific: Tropical Depression Norma has formed off the west coast of Mexico and is heading northwards, developing as a Cat 1 Typhoon aiming at the Baja peninsula by Monday. Tropical Storm 15E which started in the same place four days ago is stuck in the middle of the ocean, miles from anywhere, and going round in circles. TS Max, unreported until now on Weather Underground maps, seems to have sprung up out of nowhere and made landfall at Acapulco in Mexico, briefly strengthening within only a day to a Cat 1 hurricane before petering out again.
Asia: After killing four people in the Philippines and causing chest-deep flooding in Atimanon and Manila on Luzon island, Typhoon Doksuri (Marin) is tracking with heavy rainfall across central Vietnam towards Laos and has killed three more. Over 100,000 evacuated. With 140 mph winds, Category 4 Typhoon Talim has battered the southern archipelago, half-a-metre (52cm) of rainfall flooding the Okinawan capital Miyokajima, the worst storm in 50 years, and is heading northwards along the length of the main islands of Japan, where the higher ground will slow it to a Tropical Storm still bringing significant rainfall to cities in its path like Kyoto, Tokyo and Hiroshima.
Japan: Independently, Naru on the main island was flooded by a heavy rainstorm on the 12th. My Japanese isn’t good but it looks from the TV caption like they had 56cm of rain in 72 hours.
Atlantic: You tend not to hear a word about those Asian Pacific storms as long as the wind is blowing in the USA, but that’s geopolitics for you. Hurricane Harvey is still erratically looping-the-loop south of Bermuda but may head for New England as a weaker Tropical Storm after the weekend, pushing storm surges and a 24-foot swell up the coast ahead of it, from N. Carolina up to Nova Scotia; Tropical Depression 14 is forming off the African coast, near the Cape Verde islands, heading westwards but not now expected to become Hurricane Lee; more threatening is 96L, that might become TS, then possibly Hurricane Maria, the next Atlantic storm to hit the northern Caribbean and, possibly, Florida at the end of next week.
USA: What looks like the final death toll from Hurricane Irma: 69. In Hollywood, Florida, local and state officials are trying to understand how eight seniors ranging in ages from 71 to 99 died in stifling heat Wednesday at a nursing home, but power outage is thought to be the main reason: no aircon, no ventilators. Record flooding too in upstate Florida in the wake of H. Irma; powerful storm surge for Jacksonville, and up into Charleston, S. Carolina. Two dead in Georgia. Devastated Florida keys barred for a time to returning householders.
USA: Up in Oregon, where Portland had record temperatures until recently and the 50k-acre Eagle Creek fire is still burning, at altitude there’s a frost warning out for a minus 6C (20F) wintery snap, and a winter storm warning out too for neighboring Montana and Nebraska, with ‘significant amounts of snow’… 40 THOUSAND lightning bolts recorded in still broiling S. California in 48 hours, starting more fires; but little rain. Relief from heatwave expected soon.
Canada: in Alberta the ‘out-of-control’ Kenow Mountain wildfire has burned 33k acres, hundreds evacuated. State of emergency declared. State governor says ‘We’re not out of the woods yet’. (No, seriously, he said that!)
Cuba: 10 confirmed dead in Hurricane Irma. North part of the island devastated. Parts of Havana still without power and running water.
Argentina: 10 MILLION hectares of agricultural land underwater in La Pampa and Buenos Aires regions after record rainfall. Thousands of rural villagers cut off.
Guatemala: hundreds affected by chest-deep floods in parts of the country. Severe flash flooding in Huehuetenango. Dimwits still trying to drive cars through 3ft of water.
Venezuela: Puerto Cabello; massive thunderstorm causes flash floods and river overflows.
Australia: New South Wales already experiencing 30 deg. C (high-80sF) -plus ‘early Spring’ heatwave.
Nigeria: Thousands of desperate villagers are fleeing floods in Kogi state as the Niger and other rivers burst their banks – capital Lokoji underwater – governor declares ‘dire’ humanitarian emergency.
Europe: With the Balkans across to Turkey still affected by severe high temperatures, there are thunderstorm warnings out for all of northern France and parts of Italy, with more heavy rain forecast and unspecified ‘coastal events’ warnings in the Balearic islands. Floods persisting around Livorno, Tuscany. It’s still raining here in western Britain in the wake of Atlantic Storm Aileen.
Arctic: Well, if you fancy a holiday that’s not too cold, Akureyri in the north of Iceland is still in the mid-60s F (18C). Most of the Arctic region is settling towards +5 deg. C, except northern Greenland where it’s already minus 15 to minus 20 deg. C. Bands of rain are shown drifting through the region, but no snow as yet. Smoke from Canadian wildfires is depositing alarming quanties of heat-absorbing soot over the icefields.
“The weight of the torrential rains brought by Hurricane Harvey caused Houston to sink by 2 centimeters. Water weighs about a ton per cubic meter and the flooding was so widespread that it “flexed Earth’s crust”, NASA scientist Chris Milliner said.” – Arctic News, 8 Sept.
Wundergound/ Travel Alert/ Firstpost/ Climate and Extreme Weather News citing various sources: Accuweather, Al Jazeera, locals/ Arctic News.