Monday, March 02, 2009

When you can't tell the Loonies from the Bluetoothies

Welcome to the month of March and it's started well so far. The sun is out, the sky is blue (in between the clouds anyway) and walking the dogs today was a pleasure instead of something I have to do. I didn't even need my wellies as we've not had much rain and the ground was firm and not the quagmire (giggity) that I've had to negotiate for the past few weeks.
As usual, as I waddled my way over the fields, I was thinking about writing. Walking the dogs is always a good excuse for an hour away from the distractions of home life and, as I'm writing a new book, it's a great opportunity to think. My trusty digital recorder was in my pocket of course - I still tend to call it a Dictaphone - and, every so often as the Muse dictated, I recorded a choice phrase or snippet of possible text. It was while doing so that I found myself thanking the Lords of Silicon for the wondrous gift of digital media. You see, until they made it possible for us to have digital recorders and mobile phones and PDAs etc. I always felt very self-conscious about speaking into a Dictaphone. I always worried that people would think I was talking to myself.

It used to be the case that I could spot a loony a mile off. Back in the 1980s, before Bluetooth and Wireless and Hands-free, the only people you ever saw talking to themselves were loonies. Sorry if that sounds insensitive but it's true. And, walking down the street in my police uniform, I was a loony magnet. It was as if a huge neon sign above my head said 'Mad? Come and talk to me!' and, over the years, I endured many lengthy, passionate lectures about Margaret Thatcher being an alien, the gas 'they' keep us sedated with (given off by rice, pasta and potatoes, apparently) and something called 'the beams'. After a while, and for the sake of my own sanity, I soon learned to avoid such confrontations.

Me avoiding the beams

One regular was Tommy 'the beams' man. Tommy had the most extraordinarily well-constructed delusion I've ever come across. Whenever I met him, he was wearing a tin-foil hat; well, more of a skull-cap really. He'd moulded it around his head to deflect 'the beams'. The story, as I recall (Chris - you may be able to correct my faulty memory here), was that somewhere in the depths of England, there was a big house where a scientist (mad presumably) had built a beams machine in his laboratory. When it was fired, it modified the behaviour of whoever the beams shone on. Tommy believed that the scientist had died or was in some indisposed (one time he told me he'd broken his leg in a skiing accident) and was unable to tend the machine. Meanwhile, some kids had broken into the scientist's house and had been playing around with the beams machine. Consequently, it was now firing randomly and whoever it hit became incredibly aggressive. He blamed the beams machine for the Miners' Strike, the Falklands War, the deposing of the Shah of Iran and the death of John Lennon. Luckily, he was safe because of his special foil helmet. It was all quite extraordinary.

Tommy was a loony in the sense that Monty Python and The Goodies used the term; a mild-mannered, strangely eccentric, lovable and harmless delusional. It's politically incorrect to use the term these days but I use it here with some affection, not as a term of abuse. Tommy was of a breed we don't seem to see any more. Or, at least, I can no longer spot them. Walk along Oxford Street today and almost everyone appears to be talking to themselves. I can't tell the Tommys from the Bluetoothers. And I'm in the same boat. If anyone saw me wandering around the fields behind my house this afternoon talking to myself, they might have said, 'Aw ... What a shame.' Please rest assured that I was making some notes and comments for the new book. I swear on the life of my chess-playing rhino, Kevin.

P.s. As a complete aside, did you know that 'Bluetooth' is named after a tenth-century king, Harald 'Bluetooth' Blaatand, king of Denmark and Norway, who united the Scandinavian tribes into a single kingdom. The implication is that Bluetooth does the same with communications protocols, uniting them into one universal standard. The Bluetooth logo is based upon a merging of two Germanic runes analogous to the modern Latin letters H and B, in Harald's honour. See? Always learning.

8 comments:

chris hale said...

Do you recall this phrase, Stevyn?

'What do you know about dilated pupils...in the daytime?'

Stevyn Colgan said...

Chris - Eek! I'd forgotten that one!

Debby said...

I could never use a the bluetooth technology. I'd be too self conscious about appearing as a loonie. On the same token, when I'm standing in front of the cheese display in a grocery store making my selection, and someone comes up and begins talking, I invariably answer. Usually something bright like 'Pardon me?' or 'Are you speaking to me?' They never answer, and the dawn slowly breaks as I realize that they've got one of those things in their ears. I wind up feeling like a loonie anyway.

Persephone said...

I've been talking to myself for years -- it's my only way of ensuring myself of a pleasant and intelligent conversation. I have been considering getting myself a fake earpiece so people will stop crossing the street as I approach...

Mari said...

Harald was my second favorite Danish King, after Gorm the Old.

chris hale said...

We had another 'beam' man at Hammersmith; he wore a construction worker's hat lined with tin foil. Then there was Her Majesty; a lady caller who looked like...um...Her Majesty, and expcted to be addressed as such. Then there was the gentleman who felt the need to ask my permission every time he wanted to touch the table in the Charge Room, and then proceeded to bellow down a roll of lino that had been left in a corner of the room...ah, those heady days! Those salad days when I was green in judgement, etc. etc.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Debbie - I use it all the time in the car. Haven't quite built up the nerve to walk along the street with my earpiece on yet.

Persephone - The earpieces don't protect you from street canvassers or charity people. It's still best to hold your phone and fake a call.

Mari - Hello! Always a pleasure to meet a fellow Nordic Royalty fan.

Chris - Maybe they're all right and it's us not taking enough precautions? Where'd I put that Bacofoil ...

Planet Me said...

I too have such a device

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mark-reed/357988441/

My very own tinfoil hat

maybe we should meet up for a drink? comapre conspiracies?