Internet Service Resumes (for a limited time only)

I was doing so well at blogging, until I left my parents’ house and went back to the boat. I live on a rented narrowboat, sharing with a friend. It’s on the River Lea, in an unexpected green space hidden behind the inhuman desert of the North Circular. Boat life is fun, and has definitely made me more healthy. However, there is no internet, and any time you want electricity, it has to come from the generator. With both my phone and my laptop being old and knackered with terrible battery life, I’ve basically stopped bothering. It’s no fun being tied to a chugging generator, desperately trying to angle a dying phone into that one magic place where it will allow tethering.

It’s amazing, being offline. And because my phone is dead half the time as well, usually I’m unreachable. If anyone wants me to do anything, well, they’ll have to find me. And good luck with that, I’m hiding.

All that irresponsible avoidance is great fun, until I go visit somewhere with internet. Which seems to be happening a lot lately, what with family parties and therapy appointments and sporting events. (Yes, I am doing a Sport Thing. This improbable turn of events will be explained in my next post.) I came up to my parents’ place on the train today, and have sat down in the luxurious surroundings, reveling in the squashy faux-leather swivel chair and multiple, always-on plug sockets, connected to the internet for the first time in about a fortnight.

My email inbox is up to 3,400 unread, and that’s just in the main folder. Activist discussions and alerts pile on top of unanswered eBay questions and graduate job alerts for positions that I never apply for. Something I sold on eBay got mysteriously returned to me by Royal Mail, and the buyer is wondering where the hell it is. Evictions have been resisted, meetings held, books launched, all without my knowing.

Instead of blogging, I’ve gone back to scrawling in a notebook while I’m on the boat. But every time I visit civilization, I bring my laptop with me. It’s heavy as hell, but I’ve carried this machine up and down the country probably hundreds of times, not to mention to India and back. I don’t generally get emotionally attached to machines, but this one has been with me a long time. It’s nice to be sat typing this.

Punk laptop decorated with stickers including 'No Gods No Masters' 'Punk - not dead yet...' and a diplodocus
And it’s so beautifully decorated.

I don’t think I’m cut out for the off-network life. Time to get a wireless dongle that actually works? I know I can’t live well in the modern world, or do the best at my writing, without the internet and electricity. I need to make myself at least drag myself to pub or cafe with wifi a couple of times a week. But my bike broke, and computers are heavy! Not to mention the bulky cooling fan mat I have to take with it, because even when it isn’t 36 degrees like it was today, this thing has a tendency to melt itself.

Eventually, I’m going to have to get money together somehow, and spend it on technology instead of drugs. Much as it pains me to to do so, the investment will be worthwhile if it lets me draw a balance between idyllic off-grid boat life and the social life and writing impetus I get online.

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Internet Service Resumes (for a limited time only)

Books

I fucking love books. I did my degree in them, I want to write one, I like to smell them.

But physical books cost money and also, when you have more than about five, are extremely heavy and inconvenient to carry up and down the country. So I got a Kobo e-reader. Plenty of book snobs will now look down on me. Fuck them. I just downloaded 50 books, for free. Yes, I’m stealing books. It’s the only way. The average novel takes me only a day or two to finish. Retailing at £8 each (assuming I only read paperbacks), it would cost me £1460 to keep in books for a year. Although that does assume I read one book every two days for the whole time, with no breaks for adventures in the real world. Still, even one book per week would be £416. My only income is disability benefits, (ESA, employment and support allowance) so that is still pretty hefty.

I can afford second hand books. And I do buy them. I think the secondhand bookshop is my favourite retail experience. I could spend weeks in a single store, especially those beautiful, overstocked, crooked little shops that take up a whole shop and the house above it, and are filled with hidden rooms and corners all stacked to the ceiling with books. However, I don’t think any of the money they make (in the unlikely event of them turning a profit) goes to the authors. Same with cheap secondhand, or even new, books on Amazon. Amazon is an evil company which contributes nothing but misery along with its easy access to consumer goods. I don’t think my occasional purchases there are really helping the publishing industry either.

Shit, I didn’t think this post was going to end up as such an ethical indictment against me. I’m destroying the thing I love because I can’t help but steal. Although you can’t say I haven’t accrued a pretty impressive book collection over my life.

Photo of my bookshelf, filled with books
3 metres of literature

This is the bookshelf in my old bedroom at my parents’ house. There are also a few books in boxes, in the attic, under my desk… Indeed, I may be something of a book hoarder. It causes me great pain to part with a book. And I get deeply attached to specific books. That Naked Lunch in the middle of the top shelf? That’s been with me for a good few years now. It’s respectably battered and interestingly stained. It still smells faintly of damp and cigarettes, the scent of paper overlaid with the scent of an old flat, a flat we’ll never see again. I love that book. Somehow, by accident, I got another, newer, shinier copy of Naked Lunch. It’s in a storage crate somewhere because I never got around to selling it or giving it away. I want to get rid of it. It feels disloyal, traitorous, waiting in the wings to replace my faithful old copy with a shiny new version. The new book stays in the box so I don’t have to look at it.

I come from a bookish family. I don’t feel at home in houses without bookshelves. But now, I have no bookshelf. Or at least, I have a tiny cubbyhole on the boat, with about four books along with leaflets and paperwork. It’s not enough books, so I cling to my Kobo and fill it with literature. The wonders of technology, eh? I’ve got enough books to last me at least a year, all stored in the space of the slimmest little paperback. It might leave the reading experience strangely transient, divorced from all physical permanence, but at least I’m reading. I’m reading so, so much, and I love it.

 

Books