Friday 21 December 2012

A piece about a piece

Giles Emerson on Wwword 201212

Having spent many years interviewing other people I found myself at the ‘receiving end’, just the other day. Someone actually wanted to interview me about my work as a – wait for it – “writer of anything!”

The night before this extraordinary experience, arriving home at a little before the dear little sparrows awoke, I’d returned from Scotland, via a nine-hour-in-one-go drive from the Western Highlands. And that morning I’d waved my talented photographer-brother, Charles Emerson, away so that he could rejoin his family in Bristol. The Scottish, short weekend, had involved two days of driving and one-day of hard work and a lot of jabber from me – but then I don’t get out much.

I was absolutely blathered with tiredness and somewhat annoyed to boot because my Broadband had failed big-time, courtesy of that corporation of Britishness that underpins much of the UK’s telecoms.

So I snuck to a neighbour’s house with my laptop and gratefully set up in their kitchen for said interview.

Once the extremely attractive woman in New York, Lucy Sisman, and I were up and communicating (grainily but in lickerty spit audio), I suddenly found myself the gamekeeper turned poacher.

I was being full-on interrogated by a very sharp mind. I felt myself dither and pother away in the way people who should really be in bed or sucking out the contents of a bottle of wine, sometimes do just smoffle along. Yap, yap, yap.

Here I was talking about my work as a professional communicator for government and business and a self-styled ‘hired pen’ (what unutterable plonkerishness – you can see the likeness between me and Clint Eastwood on; and all I could muster were near-fatal banalities. But the blessed Lucy is sharp enough to catch the thread of a story. And she makes it all sound quite interesting. Honestly.

This said, I wished I could have said something like…er…The great thing about writing is that it is very difficult indeed. The marvellous thing about words is that one placed in an appropriate sentence can change the world, suddenly, in the eye of a beholding reader….Or…

You see I really didn’t want to be the subject; I wanted the subject to be words. But then, with joyful hindsight, what I have learned is that here is a website that does nothing but celebrate words. And it’s very moreish. Visit and learn about a planet of possibilities.

Monday 17 December 2012

How to cope with major communications problems

Giles Emerson 121212

I’m offline at the moment and have been in that strangely isolating state for about 24 hours. I’m writing to you from this island of non-connection to the outside world and wondering whether I am being liberated from the usual mesh and mash of online technology, or just screwed by the system.

The truth is very much the latter. I’m being screwed, despite or perhaps because of a little over five hours on the phone, blessedly still connected, with fully pregnant waits between calls, to the mighty and over-systematised British Telecom. Hail thee provider of all my daily services, bringer of bread to the mouth of my babes; hail thee great one, to whom I am grateful for the continuance of the lifeblood of my business and thereunto for the untold small and large joys of my life deriving from the drops of credit and creditability that flow through the thy powerful portals of communication. Yea! Etc.

Here am I, very little I, unable to conduct normal business because so much of it depends on sending messages and finished pieces of work down the line to my beloved clients. Yet here, oddly am I also, an emerging moth perhaps discovering freedom and the light wing of aloneness (coyly discounting the fact that I can, of course, use my mobile to check emails if worst comes to worst).

On the one hand, you see, I have to count to ten every time I try to make another call, ineluctably dodging and weaving through the various menus offered by BT’s electronic gatekeepers of Business Customer Support; inevitably listening to the repeated recorded message telling me how valuable my call is to BT and that lines are very busy; quizzically listening to the message bobbing and re-bobbing in the silent flow that says “if you have a problem with broadband, why not try our online service at” – that little slash word so suggestive of the nearby bathroom cupboard; inscrutably awaiting that surprising moment, often after more than 20 minutes on hold (provided I’ve not simply been cut dead after the same amount of time and have had to start the whole process again) when someone real answers.

Then I stutter into an explanation of why I, little I, long way off I, one of millions I, many ‘I’s doing the same thing, am trying to talk to you, real human you in your chair, with your earphones cuddling your furrowed and concerned brow. How easy then, with all the initial frustration tampered down, just to say, “I wanted to wish you merry Christmas” rather than to start again on the whole long, immensely boring telephonic saga of what has gone wrong, and to recount, again, the numbers and even first names of the previous customer support operatives I have spoken to and what I said and what they promised to do about it; and how many times just this morning, over a three-hour period I have been told that a manager will get back to me. But he hasn’t, once.

And on the other hand, how tempting it is to leave it all behind and walk off into the dark but even-saddled night of isolation, two obliquely-parted fingers lifting to the breeze. No regrets, just a slow walk to Christmas, all obligations shorn from the otherwise heavy burden of guilt and anxiety that surrounds this season, courtesy of rush and bustle coupled with the pre-empted hope of diving toward sweet evening tide with its cosiness of friends and laughter. Ah yes, isn’t this more tempting than the need to send this piece of work, this article, this report, this letter, this urgent list of names, this addendum to the accounts, this response to you and them and to the world, all slipping over themselves as priorities change and the door to connectivity remains barred. Tempting…

But to stay out of the battle, not to play the cross-man, be the cross-man on the phone demanding rights and repairs, is only possible for a flicker of time and space; perhaps for just long enough to splurge this homage to you, world, my old friend and the things that belong to you, and all the good things that we are and could be were it not for the puddle-strewn, systemically auto-jammed, fat-glistened oesophagus of communications that we little men do peep myopically along in search of the pill we feel we have swallowed already, far too many times.