Along Fine without It
By Earnest Long
Copyright 2017 Earnest Long
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Nothing like taking something out of the box or for a
few hours doing so, finally seeing the screen, adjusting a few things
so it prints, saying good-bye to your father who’ve you’ve spent
more time doing something with today than for you had done for years,
who finally leaves to your new computer, you feel exited and then
I do have a head start because I have used my father’s
computer that has exactly the same software. But that was not my own
and I only used it intermittently when visiting my parents.
My room can return now as it was with only the addition
of a computer.
I switch off the screen for a second and take out a pad.
On this, I make a note: 'Things to do with computer'.
I begin to write to it but switch the computer on again
and type it in.
When I’ve finished I add in dates and seeing this
looks clear I start another WP file and call it schedule and copy and
paste between the two.
I think of what I have to do. And some of this can be
done today even.
Next, I have a cup of tea.
My handwritten diary will be a good thing to type in. I
consider adding to this my study notes but feel disheartened when
this reminds me of the last time so long ago that I read them anyway.
After a few hours, I’ve typed up a few pages of diary
and look at my work. Very nice, lovely headings, good graphics, all
I take my handwritten diary notes but don’t have
enough room on the desk for them. This really is not good enough. I
open my file I mentioned before I write, 'Buy paper files' and to my
schedule, I add 'Computer/paper filing system'. If however my diary
is on computer, why do I need it on paper? This perplexes me and I
have no solution for it.
Opening my spreadsheet program I look
at what you would think was familiar if it didn’t look a little
strange to me still. What should I type in? How about expenses,
starting with this computer but then dad paid for it so whilst I
consider phoning him up to ask it is not really my expense.
A few hours later, and a sense of familiarity is
In a flash of inspiration however, I
write on my pad 'computer' and next to it 'x hours'. I open a file,
type this in, and then add, 'Wrote WP file, y hours'. Beneath that, I
write 'spreadsheet, z hours'. On top of one column I write 'NAME' (I
couldn’t think of anything better) and the other 'HRS'. ‘X, Y,
Z,’ – they tell me how I spent the last few hours but then I
wonder how any of this is different from my pad or a back of an
envelope. Actually, I do feel it is different and it leaves me
feeling a little dazzled. I look at the pad and then the screen; hold
up my written notes so I can see them almost both together. Somehow,
I can see myself in an old faded photograph of long ago, as if
transported in a dream, a dream I had as an infant. Or someone I
can’t see or hear is telling this same child some words of wisdom
that sound like some muffled conversation of adults when he has gone
to bed. There are muffled words and some sort of exclamations. This
is though he does not really know the matter of which they speak. But
this as if that could matter when he is not able quite to hear and
does not rise from his bed to hover on the stairs and listen in like
his brother did now he remembers wanted to know what they, his
parents and grandparents were saying. His brother returns to bed
after what seems to be an hour downstairs and says he was beaten,
giving the detail that his father did the beating and not his
grandfather who threatened him with the belt tomorrow. Yet looking at
these figures on screen I sense that I have seen something, gone into
the half-light of those stairs lit by the light from the front room
and seen the shadows of the grown-ups on the grey floor of the hall.
And sometimes in my wildest dreams, I hear some words clearly spoken
as if intended for me. Then, there is laughter. It is a cynical,
disparaging mirth. Now in my dream I am a teen, if these are dreams.
I see a folded paper, symbols, words that have a meaning, a smile to
greet me. And I cannot doubt that this smile is genuine. Though, by
the passage of time, her words may not be so well remembered by me.
Nor do her feelings change so quickly now. As a teen, I would walk in
the park, talk to her, and not worry much as to future. Nor would I
worry about what anyone expected of me or would want me to say. This
is when you could just put words together. And in doing this, you
could be with someone for an hour or two/ Then, I suppose you would
talk. Words are symbols that stand for something else. To talk
rubbish is not to realize the meaning of the symbol.
The computer tells me something as these figures, x and
the rest do. Numbers tell a different story. When Lady Macbeth wrings
her hands, we know she is in anguish, sleep walking, and her distress
shows it bounds. Books have been written about numbers. Numbers are
more precise, numbers mean things words can’t show and numbers
The ghost of my dream returns for I had supper and slept
poorly since I typed in these numbers. Perhaps it was a dream of
yesteryear, does not quite tell the truth, and does not exist in the
bright light of day. Elation fills me.
What had passed on a day like this? What can I remember
of the day and not the dark hours of night? Many hours I spent
reading in my parent’s house on a summer evening, or when the sky
was high, I had pulled the curtain to avoid the glare, when my mother
told me to go out in the garden and enjoy summer whilst I could. Or
the long winter’s evenings when I watched television and my father
read the paper, these winter evenings that were not upon us yet this
time of year.
The summer skies outside my window were fading slightly,
the light had a dull, worn look to it, and my bed is smoothed exactly
as it was at 9 am that morning, the towel from this morning's shower
on the radiator. All was as I had left it. The view from my window
was indifferent and I did not look out.
I wrote up my diary now, an inconsequential description
of going to the shops that I must I though because I had typed have
written more than once though I couldn’t find when I had mentioned
exactly the same thing even going back through the pages since the
start of the year.
I made another note “Diary, q
hours” and planned a time that evening when I would type it up onto
Opening the WP package I made a table
with rows for date, start time, end time and what I had done. I
printed this off and wrote in the times on it from my notes, some of
them I could not locate already and some periods of the day were not
accounted for. I thought of a name for table and wrote it in along
the top in capital letters: THINGS DONE. I transferred all that I
could find that was not on spreadsheet and view my totals. ‘Writing
Diary’ as I called my scribbling took less than hour, whilst typing
diaries gave a different figure of a few hours. I wandered what I
would do when I typed it up straight away but left it at that for
now. Perhaps writing a diary is different and typing my handwritten
notes would be outdated. I edited the table and added a column for
‘things to do’. And I wrote what I would do the next day, having
as I did to print out two sheets to fill it in. Finding this
unsatisfactory when I filled in my spreadsheet, I produced two files
for each with differently labelled columns. After this, I again felt
“You asked for a computer,” my father said
resignedly. “Now, make use of it.”
Really, I wanted this machine more than anything else I
did right now. He had brought some paper, I could tell taken straight
from his home and not even put in a wrapper.
“That’s your paper!” he exclaimed though I could
not remember asking for any.
“Don’t waste it!"
He said this wearily as his parting remark.
I added, 'Don’t waste paper' to the things to do list.
After that, I wrote “Chat, 4.15 pm, 5 pm” for the time he had
stayed. I wasn’t sure ‘Chat’ was the right word.
Looking round for something to do, I read for a few
hours until I could have my supper – the hour now being right for
Studying the next morning, I wrote up an essay on what I
had learned and went to the park. I wrote when I got back as the
chill of the evening was setting in ‘Park, 4pm, 6 pm’ and ‘Read
paper, 7 pm, 8pm.’
Eating lunch with a friend, I asked her if she had a
home computer. She replied politely that she had thought of doing so
I nevertheless pursued the matter and asking her if she knew about
computers. Receiving an answer in the affirmative, I asked her if she
knew what I was describing.
“I know how a spreadsheet works.” was her only
remark before I felt obliged to drop it.
For the rest we chatted about the stuff in the paper.
After we finished we kissed affectionately for a few minutes. And I
felt much better when I went back to my room than I had done on other
I picked up and read a novel for a few hours finding the
‘You have to work if you want money
for a girlfriend,’ is the old adage. Thus enamored my computer was
the way to restart my studies assiduously and have some gauge of the
hours spent studying.
The application of learning to type faster to take less
time on typing whilst typing up notes before I could type that fast
and well left me again dejected. Well-formatted typed up notes were
an improvement however on handwritten ones. And whilst I learned to
format my notes better, this could not be tested now I was too tired
to see if the reading of them was improved. The euphoria of starting
this task had ended in disappointment.
For the rest of the day I watched TV and flipped the
channels writing as the last thing I did before I went to bed: ‘WTV,
Morning is a good time to start things but start in a
good way by going out and buying breakfast. On returning, I switched
on my computer and printed my two forms. Having done so, I studied
all morning reading page after page of a thick tome. Black ink like
some old fashioned antique in my grandparents' house filled my senses
again like as a young child when I looked forward to visiting them.
For years, my parents had sent me to school on a cup of tea, my
mother not wanting to cook. I had passed all my exams. But some
things you can change if they make more sense to you now, they will
work now and change your circumstances now if the past cannot be.
A week passed and I could know as I returned on that
Monday afternoon that I had a week to type up and view. From the
park, I had bought a snack for the afternoon with my spare money. My
chat with M, who though she had kissed me again, let me recognize for
myself that we could only be friends because I did perhaps lack
something of some sort. This was a conversational piece, topics of
conversation and an ability to interest to her in that way. Coming
back, however, I did not feel deflated but had some task still to do
that day and for some time to come.
To know now that I a lot of time
chatting, when not studying or reading, to the man who lived
downstairs and whom I met in the shared area of the house. He was a
man with a bad back who could not find work. And he listened always
to what I said, had an interest in history and reserved any political
opinion however. Also, he spoke of pretty girls he saw whilst out as
if they might fall for a man is his forties with a balding pate, and
conservative dress sense made only passable by a choice of a designer
shirt. He gave me quite a lot of advice on women, such as it was
though I do not fully recall. One thing he did say was that woman
liked to be treated to flowers, to avoid women with husbands and he
said as well how I might tell if they had one. To my chagrin he said
women who were older and looked like that had a few bob were quite
likely to married. Once he talked about a girl he had nearly married,
but she had been seeing someone else the whole time. He answered
patiently all my questions and I marveled at his ability not to have
to start any conversations himself. Also, he spoke of his interest in
history that went something along the lines of how social
disadvantage was a bad thing as he movingly spoke of conditions in
the industrial revolution and then giving an economic history of
department stores. I couldn’t match in particulars though I did try
and talk about what interested me on my trips to the library of which
he was intensely attentive. Talking about books is good I thought to
increase your scope of reading and your understanding of them but he
rarely asked any questions and bored quickly. His own books were a
mystery and whilst he owned many, he did not seem to have read them.
Maintaining he had read them all he would disappear for a few hours
and come down ready to converse on this or that obscure and not quite
fashionable matter. A problem with all these conversations was that
during all of them the TV was on and I could not pay attention to
both at the same time so felt cheated of if not one than the other.
My spreadsheet this first week to my surprise put my
time for ‘chat’ at such a large number of hours that I spent most
of my everyday downstairs on the ground floor when I could do better
if I stayed in my room. I had stayed in my room and read for some
time in the past mainly because I knew I had not one friend or
acquaintance that would mean I ever left my room. After six months or
so of this, I had no girlfriend and a slightly better understanding
of some hobbies and studies.
Perhaps, the TV being on all the time accounted for most
of this. But clearly, the TV on most of the week against the dozen
hours spent on studying and reading my novel meant that I would have
to change it. Though now, I considered I knew this without a
On the page in front of me, I wrote (and later typed up
as a Task list to edit):
Read novel Write essays nobody will read
Read newspaper Watch TV
Have a breakfast
Stay in room and read
Go out occasionally
Study to get skills
Read more to get better conversation
Exercise to improve looks
Better looks, conversation, and skills will get me a job
Also, better looks, conversation and job will get me
On my visit to the library, I spoke to a young librarian
because I wanted a book on statistics to use my data from the
spreadsheet. Seeing her pack some books on the shelves near the
section she had shown me, I spoke to her a bit about what I had done.
She was young and whilst I had seen her before in the summer holidays
helping from school, her familiarity with her work and her keenness
to learn by her regular trips up to the desk to ask questions showed
she had chosen this as a career move to my eyes. She was in fact
studying a non-library course at college she revealed so my
preconceptions may have been all wrong. I knew that I could not
prejudge someone by what I could see of them and nor what little I
knew of them. So, I asked her if she knew about stats and she told me
indeed she did though seemed mute when I asked her if she had done a
course in it. Having found the newest book on the shelf and ignoring
the rest, I took a few books that I wanted for revision and bade my
leave having talked for quite long enough.
For the next few weeks, I studied stats at my desk most
days and by the end of this period felt confident to use it. For the
most part the book reinforced my understanding and I was grateful for
such a well-written book. Whilst this may not make sense and I do not
know if it does for you dear reader, a positive relationship is one
where if the one thing increases then so does something else. And
this is shown on a line graph because the line will go up and down
between each point the same as for something else it's positively
related to. If it’s negatively related then one line goes up when
the other falls. Thus, an increase in one is associated with a
decrease in another for negative relationships and in positive
relationships, they both increase. One may cause the increase or
decrease in the other but you do not know which one or if a third
factor causes both.
For the first month,
Watching TV is negatively related to chat weekends but
Reading novels is positively related to chat week to
week but negatively weekends
Positive to study is reading the paper
Reading novels is negatively related to study
I felt euphoric that I had actually worked this out –
I has set out to do something and seen the result. What it told me
was that I should study and read the paper weekdays, read novels
towards the weekend, and that I did more in the morning than the
afternoon on those days I had breakfast whilst the reverse was true
on those days that I didn’t.
In all I has spent a few score hours
analyzing the data to come up with this. Over the next few weeks, I
would spend a few score more. Not all the relationships were
maintained if any but when I divided up what my goals were (reading,
study, going out to the cinema) against what my avoidance goals were
(chat, watching TV…) the relationship was always negative.
Unfortunately, after a few months of
this I did not have a girlfriend or a job. Why might this be? First,
the hours spent on my goals were not so great. I had learnt a lot
about the computer for this project, really a surprising amount, but
book learning was not so much in total. Nor was reading novels and I
had not read many novels if you want to take number of novels as
measure. Though, I had not recorded them and could not remember now
all the titles. My studies however were encouraging and I had done
more over the time than at the start. Reading novels if anything was
worse than before.
I went to the library to return my book on stats, met C
again, and told her that I had found the book useful. But I spoke
again quickly when I seemed to get nothing except surprise for
revealing this fact. I told her of my positive and negative
relationships and she nodded and said that no, she did not plan to do
that herself but she was interested to hear that I had done it.
Instead, she talked about her hobbies, going to college and wanting
to find a job in her chosen field when she left. This was although
she wasn’t that bothered if the chances of finding work in it that
she explained to me were slim. I may be wrong on this when I did not
actually ask her this question directly.
“How do you do?”
“All right,” said the girl laughing.
“You expect me to give you lessons?
“I have a life. And I've recorded what you want on
your form, what else do you expect me to do?”
“Has it been explained to you that I have spent some
time looking at your file and will do again for this project?”
“I could probably tell you it all.”
“Can you, what do you think you do with your time?”
“I know exactly.”
“Do you know how much time you actually spent in the
library compared to how much time you spent in the bathroom?”
She told the exact hours and we both looked at each
other rather sheepishly.
“You’ve been using the university computer to do
“I don’t really expect you to understand…I’ve
looked at the data… what I recorded myself on your form… a bit of
paper… I went to my lectures or most of them…not like I did
“Do you think you’ll ever achieve anything with your
“I don’t see why not, I study, I attend lectures,
another few years and I’ll have my degree. Then, I won't be at
university anymore and I’ll see. I don’t need a ticking off.”
“Alright then, we’ll co-operate than shall we?”
“I actually expect co-operation, I don’t care if you
know I watch TV all morning, if I have terrestrial channels or cable
or satellite, what I watch on TV if you can work that out, what time
I go to bed, how many days I go out a week, what time I get up at
weekends. But I came here to learn.”
“You’re getting quite carried away with yourself
“That’s like my life I was telling you about, what I
want from you is advice, which was why I did it, I don’t expect
“All right then, can you remember what you read at the
start of the week?”
She seemed uncomfortable.
“You only read novels at weekends when you see all
your friends, could you tell me why that is?”
“Are you saying I watch too much TV and only see my
friends at weekends?”
“I’m not going to get into silly arguments about
watching the TV.”
The girl seemed to be sulking and muttered something
under her breadth that the tutor perfectly understood though it was
hard to imagine how he could have heard what she said.
“What you do here is no concern of mine…”
“I’ve passed my exams and attended lectures. What
good are stats that say anything else? That proves my point that they
only measure things and don’t give the real me, that don’t say I
have a future ahead of me because I’m young and had worked towards
it, by coming here of course. Also, I’m going to walk out of here
and have a good life and a career, be way ahead of anyone else I met
at school who didn’t go to university and even if so many go now.
Who cares? All I wanted was a bit of advice….”
“Let us look at the data.”
“How many friends do I have?”
“I’ll ask the questions.”
“No you won’t. What days do I go out?”
The tutor tried to find it in her notes.
“See you don’t even know.”
“I have that somewhere here.”
“Don’t look on your computer.”
“Perhaps if you come back next week…”
“I want advice now, not in a week’s time.”
“What advice do you think I can give you?”
She began to walk out and then staying said, “You’re
my tutor, of course you can give advice. You can because you have the
solution, that’s why.”
“Alright, if you want solutions, then here are some.
What time do you write your essays, what time do get up in the
mornings, how many times do you wake up late because you have a
But she had walked out.
Having written my diaries up finally, I designed an
application using other software on my computer and pasted in each
day’s diary entry into my computer. Underneath I typed in the
things I had mentioned for that day. When I spoke about a novel I had
read, I typed it in below the diary entry that appeared on the screen
and moved onto the next one. Here I might type study or some topic of
interest I had mentioned such as computers. Not all were directly the
same the things. I wondered if I wouldn’t find that for each day, I
did mention exactly what I did that day or more or less. So I wasn’t
wasting my time if my personal journal was not the same as my time
management data. To my surprise, I found the reverse of what I had
thought. This was comparing the data from the form I had recorded my
time use in hours with my personal journal. It said that when I did
something, I mentioned it less week to week and when I mentioned
something in my diary more I did it less.
“Doers are not thinkers.”