Disembodied voices. The joy of shopping.

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We went shopping on Friday. At least, Margaret went shopping. I went to read the paper, sort out the world and drink coffee. I also had a nice bowl of soup and some more coffee. I like shopping because I rarely take the time to read the paper thoroughly. I offered her sound advice: ‘never listen to anything I say about clothes or style.’ It works. I read The Irish Times business section. Happily, I am unemployable. Have you noticed that, for all the top jobs, there is no pay? There is compensation. 150K, 250K. Kilometers? Nobody ever compensated me for getting out of bed on cold , wet mornings and going to work. I could have been at home reading the paper. What about some retrospective compensation?

The day started out of kilter. I went to the bank machine to get a few bob. ‘Are You Ready For SEPA?’ asked the machine. There was a cube shaped graphic, no doubt done by a computer. When Brother Francis taught us perspective drawing, he showed how to drop the far corner of a cube, or a box.  Otherwise it looks as if somebody gave it a whack or used unequal sides in the assembly. Ikea would never allow that. I’m not ready for SEPA. There was an article about SEPA in the Business Section, with another nifty graphic. I took the trouble to measure the letters. I knew it looked wonky. The letters looked bigger as they receded. Remember the poster for Ben Hur. You probably don’t. The letters looked as if they were graven from towering rocks, a masterpiece of perspective, an epic. Brother Francis would have approved. It was going to be a long day’s shopping.

A correspondent criticised the members of the ‘quasi-judicial Public Accounts Committee.’ He objected to the members coming out after every session to raise their profiles as ‘heavy hitters’. They speculated. They surmised. They anticipated what might emerge. I agreed with the correspondent. It remined me of the O.J. Simpson trial, where every juror and every lawyer, was interviewed on the courthouse steps. They were on television. They got book deals. There was further grim news in the paper, about wars and rumours of wars and talks about talks about peace talks. I looked for something light. I remembered why I have become a newspaper skimmer.

(Newspapers improve with age. I have a framed page from the Irish Times dated on my birthday. Mr Churchill was asked about  the case of Herr Hess.

Mr Churchill: ‘I have no statement to make.’ (Cheers.)  He added that if at any time, the Government thought a statement was necessary, or advantageous, it would be made.  None of that accountability and transparency there.

I have some old Irish Times, found under linoleum in Leo Flanagan’s house. The Japanese have landed in The Solomons. In the district court some traders have been fined for selling tea and cocoa to unauthorised persons. Phyllosan keeps you fit after forty. It stimulates all the physical and vital forces. I could do with some of that.)

There was an interview in my Friday paper,  between a journalist and a scientist, about a forthcoming film, Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix forms a relationship with his computer. The computer has developed a personality. Fortunately, the scientist was able to reassure me that computers are bits of plastic and wires and are incapable of developing independent intelligence or emotions. It relies entirely on human input. People develop a sort of attachment to old cars, or old boots, or boats, but there is no evidence that this feeling is reciprocated. That’s a relief. I wouldn’t like my computer’s feelings to be hurt when I swear at it. I did develop an attachment to a soft-spoken Chilean lady in an Hispano-American, Linguaphone cassette tape. ‘Her voice was ever gentle, low and soft, an excellent thing in woman.’ She spoke about trains and buses and restaurant menus. Unfortunately my cassette player is defunct and she has gone away to a sunnier clime. She was really only a series of magnetic impulses. I knew that all the time.

Good luck with Her, Joaquin. I saw him playing Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, on a long-haul flight. He was brilliant, but my earphones didn’t work. I had to imagine the dialogue. For the music, I remembered Johnny Cash. I detest Mrs Garmin, the back-seat driver. I hate the voices that say enter.your.code.now. when I try to pay a bill over the phone. I prefer to ‘interface’ with humans. I am even wary of puppets. They tend to be unsettling,  malevolent, alter egos of the puppeteer. There was a long-standing joke about the Irish having Irish dancing on the radio. Why not? You could still hear the music. Was it any more ridiculous than Peter Brough, the ventriloquist and Archie Andrews, his puppet, on BBC radio, in the 1950s? Ventriloquy on radio?  How could you tell? Did his lips move?

The paper reported that Paramount will no longer distribute film on celluloid.  The future will be digital. I thought of Jemmy Devlin pushing his bike up the Dublin Road, on his way to the station, with tin drums of films, Pathé  News and cartoons. It was easier for him on the way back, freewheeling downhill with all the latest releases. Jemmy used to collect the tickets at the door of the cinema. One night he was indisposed and the owner, Leo, took his place. He held out his hand for the tickets.  Suddenly, in the gloom, he found someone thrusting a bag of eggs into his hand. ‘There you are, Jemmy. I’ll have a few more for you next week.’  Jemmy shone a torch into many dark corners, when the audience became boisterous. A bit like the Public Accounts Committee, I suppose.

The shopping went well. We also bought some saucepans. Mustn’t get too attached to the old ones. They have to go.  On the way out, I bought a very fine monkey puppet. I could be big on radio, like Marcel Marceau. I have already mastered ‘gottle of geer’ and ‘gread and gutter.’  He likes to slob around, like I do. We could go far together.

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He went far. My little grandsons loved him so much that they spirited him away. I had to go back for another one, first thing on Sunday morning. There are more grandchildren arriving on Friday. Maybe I can impress them with my amazing skill. On my way out of the shop I had to pass through the half-acre of cosmetics counters. The young ladies never even saw me. I noticed a Brow Bar: raising eyebrows since 1975. I contemplated, for a moment,  getting a consultation for my new friend, but thought it wiser to keep going.

Sunday was a busy day. I decided to relax and watch television. I hoped that there was something other than political wrangling going on. Attenborough, perhaps?

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