There I was, minding my own business, trying to sort something out via email when it would have been easier to call, and bang, everything was in a tiny font, plus my contacts, the funky little web clipper things and sharingy things on my task bar, everything I rely on to make me feel protected and wanted on the internet, had disappeared. I don’t know how this happened, and will probably go to my grave without understanding it. Not having a teenager to hand, I began trying to fix it.  I wondered for a moment if I had also deleted Facebook by accident, but no such luck. I was still there, too, smiling, or trying to. An hour or so of huffing and very nearly crying later I think I had sorted it. But it made me think. All those drafts of poems in that trunk in the loft. All those web pages I save and don’t look at. All those books of poems on my shelves (some of them: ditto). All this, this, this stuff. What if it really did disappear? What if I really did lose it? How much would I miss it? Would I even notice?

A very tangible example of this happened a week or so previously. There I was at the airport etc. and suddenly my bag was under intense scrutiny from the security people. Politely but without a moment’s hesitation they removed a penknife that I had left at the bottom of my rucksack. Handing me some instructions as to how I could retrieve it after my return journey, they proceeded to remove various items of face cream, body lotion, and other ‘banned liquids’ lurking in my wash bag. ‘If you could go through the rest, Sir, and decide which ones you want to keep.’ I asked if this was goodbye for the others. ‘I’m afraid it is, Sir, yes.’ It was such a silly thing to even notice, but I felt my life flash before my eyes. When it came down to it, what would I absolutely need to keep. My favourite moisturiser? The insect cream that saved my life one summer holiday? The posh shampoo I nicked from a hotel in Bath?  To make my flight home legal I would need to shed them all. (Call me boring, but in the end I went for toothpaste and deodorant.) All of which means I am much more of a hoarder than I thought. But once those bottles were gone I didn’t even think of them. I wondered, what does that tell me about my need to hold onto possessions, shampoo of all things, when I barely even have any hair…

By coincidence I recently found the same to be true of old emails. For reasons that are too long to go into here, I decided the other day to switch email addresses. Again, without a teenager to hand, I managed to download my contacts all by myself without crying, only to discover that my old emails would have to remain in the my old inbox. A week or so later I am very happily using my new inbox without having once felt the need to go back and look at that admiring thing X said about a poem of mine in 2013. I have let it go, you see. Or rather, I was forced to. It is doing me a lot of good.


  1. This is good, very good.
    I do draw the line at books, though: I look at them , and remember what they are about. Without that, a memory palace in actual, what would I have to hook memory on?
    I also secretly long to lose facebook, email.
    I often think back to those copious writers – all before these times. And the ones who do ‘get on with things’ more often than not use no more than at most an electric typewriter (les murray). Edwin Morgan, for all his innovations, never used a computer!


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