Well, thank the Lord for audiobooks, that’s all I can say.
I’m laid up with a heavy cold just now (the usual symptoms: sore throat, general grottiness and enough mucus to fill the set of Aliens vs. Predators). So I get up and potter about for an hour, feel tired, then crash out, listen to an audiobook and gradually fall asleep, only to repeat the cycle when I wake up. Suddenly I have a vision of what life in the retirement home might be like – and, you know, it’s really not that bad!
The audiobook I’ve been listening to recently is Scottish author Iain Banks’ fantastic science fiction novel, Look To Windward. I don’t know if you’ve come across it, but it’s a funny, sad, elegiac exploration of the effect war can have on people and how they cope with it, with some astonishing environments and a whole bunch of weird and wacky aliens thrown into the mix. It may turn out to be Banks’ best novel, a remarkable balance between levity and profundity. (Some years ago I wrote a piece for Powys County Library Service’s splendid online magazine Shelf Life on Iain Banks, with thumbnail reviews of all his novels published up to 2000, which you can access here, if you’re curious http://www.powys.gov.uk/index.php?id=1114&L=0. Follow the links on the right for the reviewettes.)
The reason I mention all this is that – unusually – the novel has got me thinking. You see, in Banks’ utopian future, humans can have their personalities “backed up”, so that if they are killed, a clone can be grown and their personality reinstated. But, I can’t help thinking, surely the “me” that had carried on after the last backup was taken – even if it’s only a few hours – would be the real me; the backup wouldn’t be “me”; and if I was killed, the clone still wouldn’t be me. It’d be someone else – wouldn’t it? Even if it was someone else with my memories, looks and personality.
And that in turn got me thinking. Because, here I am, in early middle age, with an unbroken chain of memories stretching back a lifetime; but I’m obviously not “the same person” I was 20 years ago. Or 15. Or 10… In fact, every time I fall asleep (roughly 3 or 4 times day just now), when I wake up I’m in effect being rebooted from scratch with a shedload of downloaded memories, and I carry on from there. So why do I find the thought of being restored from a backup, which is obviously supposed to be consolatory, so troubling? Especially given that it’s not even possible right now!
As you will see from the pictures, in my lucid moments I am still knitting, mostly while watching a bunch of wussy millionaire show ponies cheating their way through the soccer world cup. I’m picking up a head of steam down the sleeve now, and another fortnight should (hopefully) see the gansey finished. I’m onto the main pattern down the sleeve, past the trellis, and am so cocky I almost don’t need the pattern chart – a sure recipe for disaster. As before, I’ve switched from decreasing 1 in 4 on the gusset to 1 in 5 down the sleeve. It looks like this gansey will end up using just over 11 balls of 100g 5-ply; I normally expect to use about 12, so buy 13 just to be on the safe side, but this one is both a little shorter in the body than usual, and the sleeves are definitely narrower, which probably accounts for the difference.
Meanwhile, as TS Eliot almost said in The Waste Land, “Gentile or Jew / O you who turn the wheel and look to windward / Consider Gordon who was once handsome and tall as you…”