A peaceful day in Lewes interrupted by technology but inspired by a drug-crazed genius.

I don’t think I am more neurotic than the next man but others may disagree. Mostly I am quite calm about things or so I like to think. Maybe I am wrong. So I don’t want to go on about this for too long but, as you can see in the photograph, I work at a perfectly adequate desk with a spankiing new and totally wonderful iMac computer and I am just fine as long as I have a cup of strong black coffee to hand.

There is excellent light from the window here at the top of the house with a view over my little Lewes courtyard garden and a prehistoric, greenery covered, earth fortification, Brack Mound, from my window.

If I am lucky one of the local blackbirds will sing and my personal wren usually adds some reassuring twitterings. It is a fine place to work and I look forward to coming up here every morning after some tranquil if demanding kungfu and taichi in the garden before breakfast….

…and even the rather damp English weather hasn’t put me off my stride. I haven’t been flustered by the odd piece of accidental barefoot snail crushing either. Take yesterday, for instance – a day like any other when I came up here to my room a bit damp from the rain but happy. My morning routine of writing this blog for you guys was completed and I started work on a new poem with more than usual ease.  Often I start a poem on my writing pad using a pencil because I like the immediacy and the highly physical act of scribbling over errors and writing in improvements with a very visible flourish of enthusiasm. Yesterday, for some reason I decided to write straight onto the computer, my wonderful new one. Everything was fine until the dreaded thing happened……

… the phone rang. It was a well-meaning relative asking if I was alright but unwittingly her call sparked off the fault in my broadband connection and my computer crashed taking that poem into cyber oblivion.  “I am fine, thanks,” I answered through my teeth, “How are you?” “Fine thank you” came the answer and that was about it. Fortunately I have a pretty good memory so I picked up my pencil and rushed through the echoes of my morning’s work and got it, or most of it, down onto the pad where I should have written it in the first place. Why does knowing would you should have done after something goes wrong always make it feel worse? Don’t give me the answer because I already know.

This fault has been with me for some time, no, I don’t mean my impatience or my dread of technology, this fault between the telephone and the internet. Some of you may find computer technology fascinating but this is not the place for a nerd discussion and, before you tell me, I did go, last week, to buy a new broadband filter with surge protection and a small police blue flashing light thinking that this would sort the problem. It sits at my feet under my desk and for a while gave me a false sense of security.

I know what I have to do and that is the real problem. I have to ring my broadband supplier, in this case a company called BT, and, after some waiting on the phone, talking to someone who will tell me to check my filter and then to unplug the system and wait for a few moments before plugging it in again.

I have one all this not becaue I thought it would make any difference but so that I could tell the engineer that I do not need to do it all over again. Then I will spend several hours whilst he will try to fix it at his end – or her end, sorry.

Meanwhile, my brain will fizz just like it did when my poem disappeared.  I know I should make this call but I keep putting it off until I have nothing better to do than sit all day on the phone listening to someone telling me things that I don’t understand. I just want my fairy godmother really. She could pick up that crushed snail, wave her wand over it and turn it into an unbreakable and constantly up to speed broadband hub and, even more wonderfully, she will disappear without saying anything.

I am sure that my poem is never going to change the world and I hesitate to compare myself to the great romantic poet Coleridge but in the midst of my cyber rage I remembered his story of “the person from Porlock” about how he was interrupted by this person on a matter of business when he writing what remains of his wonderful, maybe drug-fueled poem Kubla Khan. Sadly, when he returned to his room he couldn’t remember the rest of his inspiration.

Sometimes I wonder what the completed poem would have been like but the fragment that Coleridge left has been an inspiration to me ever since some reckless but happily remembered days as a university student studying English Literature. I know, instead of ringing BT, I will dig out a book of Coleridge’s poetry.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

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