It was not a Thursday at all (Reality is frequently inaccurate), but it was March 11th and something within me jangled, deep inside my DNA… A memory of something, something important. Now, I don’t have a brain as big as a planet and so sometimes, no… OFTEN, I forget things. What was it… Which airport did I have to not turn up at, or which airport would look out of place around me if I had managed to get there (which if you were to ask my eldest daughter absolutely never happened!). Nope.. I was not on airport duty today, pretty places that they are. Maybe instead there was a bill that I needed to pay, it would indeed be a strange month where that bloody BMW (Break My Wallet) did not cost me a left testicle for some part that seems to work without exception on all other cars made… ever, but not the BMW. Currently half of my procreative potential is being put down as collateral against a particulate filter, the sole job of which it seems is to stick its hand into my bleeding pocket and extract a Fender Precision sized wad of cash from my wallet. So…Huge garage bills? probably but I’m saying no on this occasion (I’d far rather be happy than right any day). In the same breath I wasn’t actually lying in a field in innsbruck, dead drunk and dreaming the whole episode and nor was I a puddle thinking that this is an interesting world I find myself in; so what was it? It was probably nothing, don’t panic. My thoughts drifted back to work and to my workload for today, it was composed mainly of a deadline which was not going to be hit. It was then that it hit me…
Deadlines….“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” It is of course well noted that the only thing that moves faster than time approaching a deadline is of course light, and in turn nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.” I realise that there is the potential here for a paradox if say we have bad news about a deadline? Would it be faster or slower than the speed of light? and what would happen if we turned the lights off? or replaced them with those energy saving bulbs? (you know, the ones that results in you carrying a torch into the room just so that you can find the thing you were actually looking for). I think I may have digressed a little.
March 13th… A quick check of my calendar and the internet confirmed it for me. It was that time of year again when Hitchhikers across the world try to think of some new way of saying Happy Birthday to a man who has been merely resting for nearly 15 years. I thought that this year it would be the least I could do to just blog a little for the great man as my output of late has not been high and what better to end my writers block (or lack of time more like) than a short entry about Douglas.
To put a bit of a twist on this I thought that it might be a nice idea to see just how far I can take his quotes, so I will drop them in at random points and let the public see if they can discover the joins. So without further ado, Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.
But of course, I’ve cheated. The more astute of you will have noticed I’ve been dropping them in left right and centre already, in fact most of that previous paragraph was just an excuse to get away with the ineffable quote. At this point you’re probably thinking “Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now”. My response would be “you’re turning into a penguin. Stop it.”
I distinctly remember the first words of Douglas that I ever read, Yes I had seen and heard H2G2 on the TV and radio but my first introduction to the real mind of the man was the opening of “Mostly Harmless”, the fifth book in the hitchhikers ‘trilogy’. The phrases were spread across 4 double pages and the act of turning the pages made the words ring in my head as I transitioned from one to the next
“Anything that happens, happens.”
“Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen.”
“Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again”
“It doesn’t necessarily do it in chronological order, though.”
And with that final line I knew that I was hooked for life, it was the humour that had lurked deep in my brain for all those years and for the first time in my life a brain from another monkey using only twig technology had used the words, the phrases, the cadence and the delivery of an assortment of words that seemed naturally formed to my mind. To this day I still find the opening chapter to “Mostly Harmless” to be the most perfectly crafted piece of humour I have ever read. Its very geeky yes, I first read this at a time when I was not involved with technology so I guess that shows how my inner geek was a potential force waiting for its turn to express itself in my life.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen as is often the case. Life continued and I felt richer for the words of Douglas. I moved onto probably my favourite works which were the Dirk Gently series of books, I could identify with the main character not as myself but as a friend of mine from school. I am still friends with this person on Facebook but I interact little with them, purposely so. I like to imagine that that their life turned out exactly as Dirks did, any less would be a crushing disappointment and so I am happy to suspend my belief, happy to continue believing that ‘Dirk’ did indeed dress in that mac, drive an old Jaguar that was hopelessly broken and based many critical decisions on an IChing calculator with a blue button marked red. I’m also happy to believe that ‘Dirk’ could not surface in the morning without his fingers tracing a path through a shit pit floor to search for that first cigarette of the day. I’m content with the view that he really did study at St Cedds, Cambridge, denying all knowledge of exam results whilst feeding himself well on others beliefs that the better he was fed the more likely he would sleep talk accurate exam answers. And moreover I would be crushingly disappointed if I were to discover that he never had a stand off with his ‘Elena’ (the cleaner) about cleaning the fridge, that lurked; a standoff that would eventually lead to the destruction of his house by an eagle trapped in the kitchen resuming its previous incarnate shape of an RAF Fighter jet.
There was a line from the Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul which for a long time was the motto of my life, “Fifteen seconds later he left the house, Five hours late, but moving fast”. On occasion even the time of five hours was well and truly exceeded to which my old boss in the West Midlands would testify. This is no longer the case, I seem to have gotten earlier… at least comparatively early if not actually on time.
Its not the only phrase that has stuck with me though, others that I still on occasion use include
“Tell it to the monk”
“You live and learn, at any rate, you live!”
This phrase I would love to be able to use, although I think I would need a change in career in order to pull this one off!
“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”
The latest addition to my armoury is an old one but never more true I think than in these days of high and constant technology in every single sphere of our lives.
“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.”
I loved the BBC adaptation of Dirk Gently, I remember chatting online to Douglas’s daughter Polly around the time of his 60th Birthday party which sadly due to a bout of flu I was unable to attend. Polly told me that ‘he was just her dad’ and that she was just too young to appreciate his works at the time and that it was only now (then) that she could start to appreciate them. She was however a fan of the BBC adaptation and she felt sure that her Dad would also have loved it. She knew him better than most. Personally I think that he would have too although…. An Austin Princess? Really?
And then there was, “Last Chance to See”, a dated book… not in terms of the writing style but dated in terms of the length of the near and past extinction lists that was discussed. This was a book dealing with the most troubling of issues in our world, that of our impact upon the environment and yet it was humorous and almost hopeful. Perhaps this was a mistake? The situation has certainly not improved in any way shape or form, maybe his wife was on the money?
“He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher… or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.”
So, how has this tribute worked out for me, well… It was not what I was intending to write but in the words of Dirk Gently (when following random cars in order to get a sense of direction):-
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
Oh, and for those of you who are interested, how many references did I manage to get in? The answer is of course…..
“A nice number that you can take home and introduce to your family.”