EVERYTHING I do is a mistake. You chew lazily on your vegan veal and say: “Well, don’t do anything then.” Oh, I try not to do anything. For that is the way of the Tao.

Over-influenced by 1970s TV series Kung Fu, I try following the Tao. But, if you’re familiar with Chinese fortune cookie philosophy, you’ll know that to follow the Tao would be doing something. So, to follow the Tao, do not follow the Tao. It’s worse than Christianity, with its turn the other cheek or we’ll kill you.

The Tao says all is change. Trick is to go with the flow. But I wish the flow would stop. I’d rather be in a puddle, soaking contentedly in what I know.

Something I knew was my old mobile phone. How I wish I hadn’t changed it. Shouldn’t have done anything. But it was getting on my wick. Swiping up the screen to answer a call rarely worked. The screen kept switching off, and the setting to change this never took hold. If it wasn’t 100% charged, I could hear the other person on a call but they couldn’t hear me. Load of nonsense.

Thus, after so many years, I thought I’d see what swanky stuff was around now, forgetting that everything old is better than anything new.

So I found what seemed a decent effort for just another £3 a month on the bill, which would complement nicely the £9.99 for forgetting to cancel Apple Music and the £2 BT landline fee for my landline-free BT contract.

Also, this new one supposedly takes good pictures, and I was fed up getting outbid on eBay for used cameras. You’ll recall too recent bombshell revelations that you weren’t down with the kids if you owned a camera rather than just using your phone.

So, the new phone arrived. I managed to switch it on with only a few minor injuries. It was all downhill after that. First, the charger seemed designed for a foreign country. Only after a week did I discover you’d to lift up the top prong of the plug to make it fit. Why not tell us that?

I’ll tell you why: we live in the Age of Minimal Instructions. You’re expected to go on YouTube for everything from building your own nuclear weapon to curing your syphilis with herbal poultices.

Next thing was to transfer my apps and contacts wirelessly. Twenty-seven times I tried. Nothing. So I used the supplied cable. It didn’t fit my old phone. So I sent off on Amazon for another one. Didn’t fit. Another one from Amazon. Fitted but didn’t work.

Then, when I gave up and ticked “don’t transfer contacts”, it transferred contacts. Changing things – the clock, the ringtone – works at first but then just reverts. And don’t get me started on fingerprint ruddy ID. I’d be as well trying to switch it on with my nose.

The swiping up is worse than on the old one, so I still have to ring callers back. Sometimes, unbeknownst to me, it has swiped, and the caller can hear me shouting: “Swipe, you ****! For f***’s sake, just f****** swipe!”

Like most people, I like taking close-up pictures of flowers and bees. It soothes the troubled soul. But I haven’t tried the new phone camera yet. It won’t work. I shot some film on the lonely shore and, as usual, it came out darker than the winsome reality.

Right, in the meantime, I’m away to sit in a puddle before writing this next bit, which I suppose will count as doing something and contravene the ruddy Tao.

The ex-files

HERE’S an interesting part of my life: I have a filing cabinet. I don’t know why I keep it, particularly as it’s been a pain to lug about in my endless search for a place to call home. But there it is: metallic, grey, outmoded. Some exclusive revelations from the alphabetical contents: Bank, Hoose, Inland Revenue, Syphilis, Veterinary.

Much of it’s redundant now. Some always was. Threats from my bank now come online or in piles of manure left at the gate. I’ve never had syphilis; it was just an aspiration. Neither do I have a pet or farmyard animal on the premises.

Still, the filing cabinet reminds me of happier, more solid times when the world was orderly and alphabetical. Imagine my horror, then, to read that John Lewis, a barometer of western civilisation, will no longer stock filing cabinets.

It doesn’t say here why demand has fallen – presumably the catastrophe that is the internet – though it does tell us demand for tents has risen. The pandemic has made people pine for fresh air.

Such a lot of nonsense. I’ve a tent and a sleeping bag in the attic, and am proud to say I’ve never used either. They were purchased as a plan B at the time I was in dispute with a building society over my mortgage (they wanted money or something). Some evenings, I like to reminisce with a glass of champagne or Tennent’s about that, sifting in tearful nostalgia through documents from a file marked Squabbles.

Quote unquote

THAT’S me joined Netflix again. Third time. Each for the same reason. First time: to watch Ricky Gervais’ After Life season one. Second time: to watch Ricky Gervais’ After Life season two. Third time: to watch Ricky Gervais’ After Life seasons one and two again.

I dare say that, when season three is out, I’ll sign up again. I always cancel it once I’m done with Ricky. Can never find anything else to watch. All the films are ancient. I’m surprised when I find anything that’s a talkie.

As for After Life, I cry about 30 times an episode and often have to switch it off. I get particularly upset when the local journalist doesn’t write down some of the great quotes from nutters – “We’re not Nazis. It’s just a bit of fun” (parents who made their baby look like Hitler) – or fails to get excited when a local resident shows him a wall of his house with a mould stain that looks like Kenneth Branagh.

Careers in this business have been built on less. But, for God’s sake, don’t quote me on that.

Square chips

I PINE for a decent fish supper. There are two chippies in a village half an hour’s drive away but both present the fish in batter that detaches from the fish. It’s disgraceful. The external batter should be integrated with the piscine interior. It’s a matter of principle.

A place in another village used to do great fish suppers, but changed hands, went all posh, serving baked tatties with ruddy salad, and despising anyone who asks for a fish supper. Once, when I requested mushy peas, they called the police.

There’s also a community joint that offers takeaway fish suppers on a Friday but, believe it or not, the chips are square. It’s upsetting. As ever, I blame God Who Hates Rab for this taunting.

Stan (Satan in some translations): “You go too far with this fish supper business.” God: “Me? What about you? Making him a Hibs supporter. And a journalist.” Stan: “At least I didn’t give him that nose.” God: “Naw, you just gave him the bouffant hair.” Stan: “Aw, come on. At least let the boy have a decent fish supper.” God: “Naw. End of.”

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.


Subscribe to The Herald and don't miss a single word from your favourite writers by clicking here