(John Constable, Cloud Study: Tate)
The double entry bookkeeping has been a complicated affair just lately; calculating the current balance, that is to say. A madman rushing downstairs yelling ‘All my data’s disappeared!’ was, I suppose, the climax, of a sort. ‘Don’t give yourself a heart attack’, the Librarian advised, adding as an afterthought: ‘Don’t give anyone else one either.’ I suspect I may not be entirely sound on the matter of clouds (data storage rather than weather). I am slowly rebuilding or making visible again a small empire of letters (including Letters). Or so I believe.
Three weeks ago, my phone died; the Librarian set wheels in motion, juggled SIM cards and chargers and I now have, again, a mobile phone that would not be unfamiliar to a consumer around 2013. A few days after the phone death, the lefthand lens of my expensive new glasses fell out. I made it to the optician eventually, the delay due to a bout of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (yes) as well as rainfall of deranged frequency and evangelical fervour. When the vertigo receded, a semi-deafness remained, which has made the last few days challenging and sometimes frankly mysterious. Another winter project.
On the other hand – ah well. But wait, yes, on the other hand, the US midterms – after the molten hell of 2016 and the depressing fiasco of 2019, anyone even remotely on the side of the angels will take ‘not as bad as expected’ as something of a triumph.
My reading was also zigzagging with fiendish indecision and smouldering bad temper, until I settled on a run of Penguin Maigrets. Monsieur Georges Simenon for a coherent fictional world and for uplift—‘It was one of those bleak days when you wonder what you’re on earth for in the first place and why you’re going to so much trouble to stay here’—perhaps not always for uplift.
And after all, the weekend just gone: Somerset, good company, food and drink, the Librarian’s birthday, careful maintenance of a diplomatic distance between a young black Labrador and Harry the cat; fish and chips from Herbie’s at Lyme Regis, eaten on a bench on the Cobb. A cloudless day, dazzling blue, the harbour like a millpond – it all changed later but we’d had our visit by then and the sky and sea could do what they liked. Nothing else, in any case, could go wrong after the run of recent delights—except that I had an odd message thanking me for reporting my debit card stolen. Scam, obviously, a message to be immediately deleted. Then an email from someone with whom I have a direct debit arrangement, saying they’d been unable to collect payment. Information that I parked somewhere behind my left ear while we sat in the gardens above the front at Lyme Regis, drinking hot chocolate.
And now we are home, while the rain reliably descends and Harry the cat has no reason to throw up (not being on the back seat of a car) and my reading assumes its usual chaotic character. Finally picking up the phone to call about my lost card, which was not after all sitting on my desk as I’d confidently claimed, I learn that a new card has already been ordered and will be with me soon. The only narrative that makes sense is that I dropped the card on Friday when I was collecting the car, that someone picked it up and handed it in at the nearby branch of my bank rather than running up fantastic bills from online or contactless purchases. I was reminded of Ford’s writing, in The Good Soldier, ‘The instances of honesty that one comes across in this world are just as amazing as the instances of dishonesty.’
As for that data: the crucial files now seem to be in three or four places, cloudbound and deskbound. Are some of them just duplicates? Could one or more versions be safely deleted? Who knows? Will I be putting it to the test? Of course not. . .
 Georges Simenon, Maigret at Picrat’s (1951; translated by William Hobson, London: Penguin Books, 2016), 23.
 Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion (1915; edited by Max Saunders, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 34.