Notes From The Asylum

On Friday my computer and I made a flow chart. 'Commodities' were shaded in grey. 'Resources' were plain white. 'Liabilities' were cross-hatched.

It looked very neat, tidy and informative. I set the printer to print it out.

'Liquor', which I had intended to be a resource, was shaded in grey.

I returned to the screen, and, sure enough, on the screen, it was white.

I printed it out again.

It printed in grey.

I returned to my screen, and went back into the 'change shading of flow chart in order to look official and organised' menu, and made sure the little button was set to 'plain white.'

It was.

I printed it out.

It printed in grey.

If you let computers smell fear on your breath, you are done for. You must thrust your fist out in front of their little noses in order to show them who is boss. Then, try to second guess them: adopt their clever alien non-linear thought processes.

In short, cheat.

I deleted the box marked 'liquor', and started again. I created a little box using the 'create little box tool', and inserted the word 'liquor' into it using the 'Insert word liquor' sub-menu, and set the colour to white using the 'set colour to white' menu.

It printed in grey.

When the acolyte asked his guru what the nature of the Buddha was, his master replied 'five ounces of flax.' For years, this was the only answer that he would give. And somewhere along the way, the student was able to enter into the master joke, or madness, or wisdom, or whatever it was, and realised that the Buddha's nature was indeed 'five ounces of flax'. At that moment, he was enlightened. Because it is the nature of Enlightenment that it transcends logical categories and forces you to believe and do things which would not make sense in normal life.

I copied the box marked 'currency', which was white, over to the other side of the screen.

I printed it out. It printed in white.

I deleted the grey box marked 'liquor' and move the white box marked 'currency' over to its place.

I printed it out. It printed in white.

I deleted the word 'currency' and inserted the word 'liquor'. Having thus solved my problem, I set it to print, and indulge my new-found freedom and innocence in a cup of espressochoc from the machine.

I was still on the caffeine high when someone handed me a 'bit of my printing that I'd left in the printer.'

The box marked 'liquor' had printed in grey.

I explained this to the programmer who sits next to me.

'Oh, it'll be a bug,' he said.

I decided that it would be simpler to re-write the project so that 'liquor' was a commodity instead of a resource.

On Saturday I was walking under Clifton suspension bridge, wondering whether lunch at the Footbridge and Firkin was worth the steep climb up the corkscrew footpath, when my eye lighted upon a small, pink piece of plastic on the path beneath me.

Leaning idly over to pick it up, I noticed several other pieces of plastic of a similar colour. The largest was curved, and, as I picked it up, I noticed that it had four or five plastic teeth attached to it.

I looked up at Brunel's masterpiece. There were various people leaning over, admiring the Bristol skyline on the first day of summer since the tennis started.

I looked up, and waved, weakly.

On Sunday, I stood outside the paper shop with a 36p mouthful of cardboard covered orange juice in my hand. I tore at the plastic wrapper of the worm like bendy straw, but it didn't. I tore it from the other end, but it remained resolutely whole. I tried to prize the two sides apart, but they didn't. I resorted to attacking it with my, er, teeth. Six or seven mouthfuls of cellophane later, I got at the straw, and stuck it gently into the silver aperture. Fountains of orange juice poured down my shirt and over my copy of the Guardian.

On Monday, I took a bath. Not in itself, very unusual. I left the light off and the door open. Rachmaninov, which, having seen 'Shine', I of course refer to as 'Rach 2' was playing in the background. I reached that desultory, meditative state that one reaches under those circumstances. Oh, all right, I dropped off.

I woke up, suddenly, feeling clean and clear headed. Through the door of the bathroom I could see the door of my flat. My eyes came into focus on the letter box. There is something attached to the inside of it. "Aha," I think "That must be where I left my keys. "

I suddenly remember that I have not lost my keys.

Instead, I put on my dressing gown and walk out to hall. The offending object is, in fact, a strip of paper. A quarter inch wide; like the sort of thing you find in a cracker. At one end there is a tiny piece of blue-tack, as if it has been attached to something. The other end is ragged; it has clearly been torn in half.

There is neat typing on it.

It says:

"...king into this flat

.....motherf**ker. You dig?"

The ****ing asterisks were in the original. It appeared that someone had sent me half a threatening note, but censored the swearing so as not to shock me.

Walking into this flat? Looking into this flat? Breaking into this flat? Any explanation seems only to had to the enigma. Perhaps someone had stuck a rude message to my door, and one of my neighbours (I live on an upstairs corridor protected from the fierce outside world by an entry phone) had put it through my door—after first keeping half as a souvenir. Perhaps the Stokes Croft Mafia send their protection demands out in instalments, and when I get the second half, a horses head will be bound to follow. Perhaps I had been out walking, and a threat intended for someone else had attached itself to my jacket and I had, in a thoughtless fashion, torn it in half and pinned it to my letterbox when I came in. If I live to be a hundred, I shall never know from whence it came. I will carry the mystery with my to my grave, and generations unborn will not believe that it really happened.

I ask you, is this any sort of world to bring children into?